Updated: Aug 28, 2020
Disruptive technologies; innovations that dramatically alter the way in which business, industries and markets function. Ireland continues its role as a major contributor to the development of disruptive technology, as evidenced by €500 million in investments for a range of potentially ground-breaking projects.
Disrupting cell manufacturing for gene therapy
Cellix and its consortium partners in Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and the National University of Ireland Galway’s (NUIG) Regenerative Medicine Institute were announced as one of the 27 projects to be awarded a share of the €75m in state funding as part of the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund.
Cellix will lead a €5M consortium with its partners at TCD and NUIG to develop a Microfluidic Gene Transfection Cell Analysis and Sorting Platform (GTCASP).
This project stemmed from work carried out over 2017 and 2018, when Cellix harnessed collaborations with international partners, supported by European Commission funding, to develop a novel, label-free, cell analysis and sorting platform based on expertise and technology developed in Cellix over more than a decade. Cellix’s technology can now be used to identify, analyse and sort cells without compromising their biological function, avoiding the use of fluorescent dyes or other potentially disruptive labels. Since then Cellix has identified several challenges in cell manufacturing for gene therapy where the technology could dramatically improve processes, particularly transfection efficiencies. The DTIF funding will allow the technology already developed by Cellix to be integrated into a new platform and validated for transfection capabilities.
The “platform” will comprise a microfluidic chip through which cells from patients or donors will be characterised, sorted and can be subsequently genetically modified and sorted again. The GTCASP offers a fully automated, closed system in cell manufacturing for gene therapy. The vision for the project is for the developed platform to become a standard in the area of gene therapy. This will strengthen Irelands reputation in the area of cell manufacturing, particularly for uses in gene therapy, and increase our reputation as a driver of innovation and growth.
What is disruptive technology and why is it important?
Disruptive innovations are those that drive significant change in businesses, industries and markets. Projects that result in disruptive technology are often high-risk. However, if they prove successful have the potential to fundamentally reshape how areas of business function. Disruptive innovations often include pioneering technologies and new business models. A recent example being the decision by Netflix to move from DVD rental by post to on-demand streaming of video content to its users. This change forced its competitors to adjust or disappear.
Despite the word disruptive having some negative connotations, disruptive technologies themselves can result in the creation of whole new markets for business to be conducted in, bringing wide ranging benefits. These technologies are often disrupting due to their originality and usefulness, creating new opportunities within markets and creating new value networks. In Irelands case, the development of new disruptive technologies will be essential to drive the creation of new jobs in the future. Thankfully, the Irish Government has recently taken steps to ensure that Irish businesses, along with Irish research and academic groups, are at the forefront in the development of these potentially game-changing technologies through the establishment of the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund.
€500m Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund (DTIF).
The DTIF accounts for €500m in funding to be granted over 10 years for Irish industry, academics, SMEs, entrepreneurs and combinations thereof. The aim of the fund is to stimulate research and industry collaboration in developing transformative technologies.
The first 27 projects to receive funding from the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund were recently announced by The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation. In total, the first 27 projects announced under the first round of funding will be granted a combined €75m in funding.
The DTIF will co-fund projects up until 2027 to allow for the development of state-of-the-art, disruptive technologies in Ireland. The projects that have received financing are backed to "develop, deploy and commercialise disruptive technologies to transform business” according to the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation. The fund will allow the development of innovative and disruptive solutions that will allow Irelands reputation to grow as a leader in technological innovation.
A wide range of projects have been selected to receive funding. The projects granted funding span a variety of areas including healthcare, ICT, food, medical devices and therapeutics, energy, climate and sustainability. Examples include innovative disease diagnostic methods and the creation of AI driven 3D content. A full list of the projects awarded funding during the first round can be found here.
Significantly changing the way we work and live.
Many of the proposals granted funding involve collaboration between industry, research bodies and SMEs. The collaboration between larger industry bodies and smaller SMEs or research teams could provide some important benefits for the projects. A recent letter in the prestigious science journal nature highlighted the importance of small teams, as it showed that smaller teams disrupt science and technology with new ideas and opportunities more effectively than larger teams, who are more likely to simply develop upon existing technologies. Thus, the importance of the involvement of SMEs and academic research groups for projects funded by the DTIF cannot be understated, due to the importance of smaller teams in driving innovation and producing disruption.
At the announcement for the successful projects in the first round of funding, Heather Humphries, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation noted that "Disruptive technologies are going to significantly change the way we work and live" and that “The Fund is about ensuring that Ireland can stay ahead of the curve”.
A quick overview on Cellix and our new ventures:
Find out more about our cell analysis technology here.