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Mary Hanafin, TD, opened world-class €20m National Institute for Cellular Biotechnology Institute at DCU

DCU's €20m National Institute for Cellular Biotechnology (NICB) was officially opened by Mary Hanafin, TD, Minister for Education and Science.

The NICB has received over €34.4 research funding from the HEA under the PRTLI Cycle 3 scheme, and has also received funding from SFI, Atlantic Philanthropies, Enterprise Ireland and the Health Research Board. The NICB occupies a unique niche in Ireland's R&D sector in the Irish third-level biomedical sector, applying molecular cell biology research to solving biomedical problems.

The centre, under the Directorship of Professor Martin Clynes, collaborates with a number of Dublin hospitals in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, diabetes, eye disease and microbial diseases.

The NICB's first cancer drug treatment discovery has been taken into clinical trial with Professor John Crown in St Vincent's Hospital, Dublin. A team of researchers involved in research into resistance to chemotherapy drugs have identified a common arthritis drug, Sulindac, which can inhibit an important cancer resistance factor. Having successfuly completed Phase I of its clinical evaluation, Phase II is currently underway, examining the role of Sulindac in the improvement of the treatment of malignant melanoma. The trial represents the close partnership of scientists in the NICB, clinical researchers and clinicians, the All-Ireland Cooperative Oncology Group and the pharmaceutical industry.

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"Although still in the early stages, this unique partnership is a model for the evolution of rational cancer treatment to improve treatments for Irish cancer patients", said Professor Martin Clynes.

Another research project includes the identification of molecular markers which are present in the blood which are indicative of the presence of a cancer and how the cancer is progressing. This new approach, if translated to the clinic, would mean that a standard blood test would allow the clinician to make early diagnosis of cancer even before the onset of systems. Cancers being investigated include breast, lung, pancreatic, renal and skin cancers.

The treatment of corneal blindness is the subject of another research project carried out by the NICB, the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital, the Irish Blood Transfusion Service and the Blond McIndoe Centre, in the UK. They are examining the molecular markers of corneal stem cells which can be 'grown' in the lab and used to treat a number of corneal diseases and injuries.

The NICB is also involved in a revolutionary new treatment for diabetes which will involve the harvesting of 'islets' from donors and transplanting them directly into the veins patients. These islets then produce insulin normally, bringing about an effective cure to the patients.

As a result of its expertise in mammalian cell culture technology, NICB is also involved in close collaboration with industry, including an SFI-funded €4m collaborative project with Wyeth Biopharma.

Shane Kenny | alfa
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