Dr Le Roy Dowey
Business Development Manager, School of Biomedical Sciences, Ulster University
A leading university calls for industry partnerships to create a real impact in the life and health sciences sector in Ireland.
Ranking in the top five UK universities for research power in Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy (Times Higher Education), Ulster University has created an environment that supports world-leading and internationally excellent research.
Dr Le Roy Dowey, Business Development Manager for Biomedical Sciences at Ulster University is working on how best to combine the university’s research expertise with industry collaborations to improve healthcare for people in Ireland.
“REF 2021 has set the stage for the level at which life and health sciences research is at in the university. We’ve got excellent facilities, very exciting projects and a thriving researcher community.”
“We have the potential to be the go-to development partner for the bio sector. The university creates the perfect environment for us all to exchange ideas and develop innovative solutions that address challenges in the sector.”
Recent projects have included the development of BloodTrackR which allows blood to be collected by a patient themselves at home, as well as work with the Irish advanced wound care company, Jenarron Therapeutics, on a pain-relieving gel for pain free wound cleaning.
Belfast-based SonoTarg, a recent university spin out company, is working on sonodynamic therapy for targeted cancer treatment. The university has also cooperated with Athlas Therapeutics on the development of a novel inhibitor to treat chronic inflammation and long-term conditions without compromising the immune system.
“We have fantastic research going on and we’re busy engaging with industry, plus a number of spin-out companies formed as new SMEs,” explains Dowey. “But the challenge we face at this stage is, where do we go to next?”
The university creates the perfect environment for us all to exchange ideas and develop innovative solutions that address challenges in the sector.
Over the next few years, the university is poised to make unprecedented investments in the life and health sciences sector, with two headline projects; the Personalised Medicine Centre and the Centre for Food and Drug Discovery.
“We recognise the industry’s needs for expertise and access to cutting edge equipment driven by our academics with years of know-how. Our latest projects open the door to industry partners with access to equipment and academic expertise, allowing us to deliver on projects via a rapid and agile delivery system,” explains Dowey.
The Personalised Medicine Centre aims to develop treatments and clinical tools that take into account a person’s individual genetic and molecular signatures to create a new generation of treatments and robust diagnostics to inform clinical decision-making across a range of chronic and degenerative diseases.
The Centre for Food and Drug Discovery will enable the university to capitalise on a £27 billion market for bioactives, with food playing a central role in preventative health care.
“Each project is focused on innovation and industry engagement and is a one-stop-shop, from target and candidate selection to running clinical trials, for everything the industry needs for project delivery,” says Dowey.
The university is gearing up to transfer its extensive research knowledge to up-skill companies. Dowey adds: “We’re expanding our course offerings with bespoke CPD courses for organisations on topics such as data analytics, and providing support, particularly to SMEs businesses, to help them meet regulatory conditions.”
Creating a network
“Engagement across the entire life and health sciences community is vital,” says Dowey. “This investment will allow us not just to signpost industry to solutions, but to introduce the business partners entering the Northern Ireland life and health sciences ecosystem to our very close-knit community.”
This will involve helping companies engage with Invest Northern Ireland, Health Innovation Research Alliance Northern Ireland (HIRANI), Ulster University’s partners, such as Catalyst, Queen’s University Belfast, and leading NI industries (Almac, Norbrook, Randox etc.) and the various Health and Social Care Trusts.
With its latest investment projects, the university is set to provide unparalleled resources to industry partners in the life and health sciences sector on the island of Ireland.