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UCC awarded €5.4 million funding for next generation treatment for Crohn’s Disease

19 Jul 2022
Prof. Caitriona O’Driscoll Project Coordinator of GENEGUT and her team from the UCC’s School of Pharmacy and APC Microbiome Ireland. GENEGUT is a new innovative EU-funded research project changing the treatment paradigm for Crohn’s Disease patients with a new orally administered RNA-based advanced therapy (Left to right: Dr. Piotr Kowalski, Prof. Caitriona O’Driscoll, Dr. Joseph O’Shea, and Dr. Patrick O’Dwyer)

A University College Cork-led research project that seeks to revolutionise how Crohn’s disease is treated has just been awarded €5.4 million in funding by the European Union (EU).

Crohn’s disease (CD) is a chronic inflammation of the intestine where current treatment options are limited, it affects up to 3 million people across Europe and leads to health costs of over 5 billion euros per year.

Now GENEGUT, a four-year research project led by UCC's School of Pharmacy in partnership with APC Microbiome Ireland SFI Research Centre at UCC and funded by Horizon Europe, is to develop the first oral RNA-based therapy for ileal Crohn’s Disease.

CD drastically impacts the quality of life of affected patients - and that of their families, friends, and caregivers. Most significantly, however, there is no satisfactory treatment. Despite advances, there is a pressing need for novel, advanced therapies.

Over the course of four years, GENEGUT’s aim to develop a non-invasive, safe, effective, and targeted treatment will be realised in the form of a first-in-class, orally administered RNA-based therapy. This breakthrough RNA therapy will be developed using complementary technologies that selectively target inflamed intestinal cells that reside in specific regions of the small intestine.

The European Commission recently selected the GENEGUT research and innovation action for funding as one out of 84 submitted project proposals. This UCC-lead project aims to transfer the revolutionary RNA technology to treat ileal Crohn’s Disease – a potential game-changer. The expertise required to achieve this ambitious aim is as diverse as the nine partners from eight European countries that will collaborate in GENEGUT.

“The multidisciplinary team in GENEGUT will pioneer the development of the next generation of therapeutics for the treatment of Crohn’s Disease by producing a patient friendly orally administered RNA medicine. The project will span the pre-clinical to clinical space thus accelerating the clinical translation of orally available RNA therapeutics and ensuring early access of life-altering medicines for the patient. For these patients, this would be the first option to finally manage the chronic disease and lead a life of improved quality. ” – Professor Caitriona O’Driscoll, GENEGUT Project Coordinator

Through a patient-centred approach, the project, coordinated by the School of Pharmacy of University College Cork, brings together the European Federation of Crohn's & Ulcerative Colitis Associations with renowned researchers, expert clinical scientists, SMEs and large pharma companies with expertise and patented technologies in global proteomics, nanotechnologies, novel biomaterials, multicellular models, drug delivery systems and production as well as innovation management, stakeholder involvement and science communication.

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