2014 Press Releases

INFANT continues to grow

14 Mar 2014
The new research programme will see Waters Corporation make a meaningful investment into the Science Foundation Ireland funded INFANT Centre at UCC with a view to ultimately bringing ground-breaking innovations from Irish research to patients in need worldwide.

Speaking from Washington, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny announced that the Irish Centre for Fetal and Neonatal Translational Research (INFANT) has signed a research partnership with US-based Waters Corporation.

Attending an event hosted by the Irish Science Foundation Ireland to celebrate links between Irish science and US industry as part of the St Patrick’s Day Festival, the Taoiseach welcomed the significant announcement for all parties.

The partnership will further enhance the growing reputation of INFANT as a world-leading perinatal research centre, while it enables Waters Corporation to reinforce its role within the obstetrics healthcare arena. The new research programme will see Waters make a meaningful investment into the Science Foundation Ireland funded INFANT Centre at UCC with a view to ultimately bringing ground-breaking innovations from Irish research to patients in need worldwide. In addition to the goal of impacting health sciences, the partnership with INFANT extends Waters' Irish footprint beyond its 264 employees and Wexford manufacturing plant.

Welcoming the announcement, the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, TD said, “This partnership is further evidence of the great progress Ireland has made in developing partnerships between industry and academia to deliver excellence in research and innovation. This new research programme has potential to make a real difference to the health of mothers and babies. I congratulate both INFANT and the Waters Corporation on this endeavour and have no doubt we will hear more about the progress of this project as it develops.”

The partnership will address a global unmet clinical need by developing a predictive screening test for spontaneous preterm birth (PTB), which is one of the biggest causes of neonatal mortality and morbidity. The incidence rates for PTB are on the increase. The INFANT research directed by Professor Louise Kenny will develop a blood-based biomarker test which effectively can “predict the future” by indicating in the first fifteen weeks whether the pregnant mum is likely to develop PTB later in the pregnancy, thus allowing an informed healthcare management plan for that woman, and providing improved outcomes for both mum and baby.

As well as Directing the INFANT Centre, Prof Kenny is a Consultant Obstetrician who manages a high-risk pregnancy clinic at Cork University Maternity Hospital and has been researching in this field for over 15 years. Professor Kenny said “SFI’s vision in funding INFANT will allow the realisation of enormous innovation in obstetrics care for future generations, and this is an area in which Irish science is truly world-leading as the uptake rate for this screening test will be on a global basis.”

Director General, Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, Professor Mark Ferguson said, “Ireland is building a significant international reputation for research excellence with impact through the investment by SFI in a range of programmes including the SFI Research Centres. This project underlines INFANT’s status as a world-leading perinatal research centre. It is one of many collaborations currently under way in Ireland between academia and industry. These collaborations are not only advancing scientific research but are also helping to deliver important economic and societal benefits including further job creation in areas of strategic importance for Ireland.”

Vice President of European & Asia Pacific Operations Waters Corporation, Mike Harrington said, “The chance to partner with world class researchers at the INFANT Centre focused on better understanding and diagnosing perinatal disease is an important and potentially highly impactful opportunity. Diseases are complex as demonstrated by the vast number of biomarkers that researchers are identifying using Waters' chromatography and mass spectrometry technologies. This partnership with INFANT is a strong opportunity to advance our collective diagnostic capabilities in hopes of improving patient care.”

President of UCC, Dr Michael Murphy, said, “UCC is proud to support the INFANT Research Centre as its ground-breaking project, which is poised to revolutionise the field of obstetrics, goes global. This screening test will deliver hope across the world through reducing neonatal mortality and improving health in later life, as well as relieving an immense societal and health service concern. The largest joint state/industry research investment in Irish history (€300m), announced by Science Foundation Ireland in February 2013 and in which UCC was chosen to lead four of the seven research centres involved and to co-lead a fifth, is already paying dividends through the exceptional promise the INFANT project holds.” 

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