SFI launches €11.9m precision oncology research collaboration

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Charity, industry, university sectors combine to improve patient outcomes

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26 November 2019 | 0

The Science Foundation Ireland Strategic Partnership Programme is supporting an €11.9 million research collaboration with Precision Oncology Ireland – a consortium of five Irish universities, six Irish cancer research charities, and ten companies aiming to develop new diagnostics and therapeutics for the personalised treatment of cancer.

Precision medicine uses data about a person’s genes (genomics) and information on their cancer to understand the unique pathways of a disease or treatment response in that person. With this, doctors can prescribe the right treatments more quickly, saving the wasted resources and time the trial and error method incurs, while improving response rates.

Commenting on the importance of this research, cancer survivor and patient advocate Ramon Whelan said: “I’m delighted to see researchers, charities and industry coming together in Ireland to focus as a group on the problems in cancer treatments. Cancer patients want to become more involved in their own treatment decisions, and more personalised diagnostics and treatments are essential for this to happen.”

In Ireland, more than 40,000 people are diagnosed with cancer each year. Precision approaches to oncology give hope of improving cancer patients response rates and survival, reducing side-effects from therapy, and shortening hospital stays, balancing out any increased cost to the healthcare system.

The initiative is supported by a €5 million government investment through the SFI that was matched by a €6.9 million investment from charity and industry partners from Precision Oncology Ireland. This marks the first time that researchers, charities and industry have joined forces in this way.

Director of Precision Oncology Ireland Prof Walter Kolch said: “Precision Oncology Ireland is a vision come true. It unites the top cancer research experts in Ireland, the leading cancer charities, and companies at the cutting edge of diagnostics and drug discovery. We believe that this unique consortium lays out the blueprint for how cancer research and cancer care will look in Ireland in the 21st century.” 

“In Precision Oncology Ireland, we will use cutting-edge technologies to generate unique genetic and molecular profiles for each patient’s cancer. Our key competitive advantage lies in the innovative computational methods we use to make sense of these profiles, and decipher what drives each individual cancer. The results of this programme will be better diagnostics, personalised cancer treatment, and faster drug discovery and development.”

Prof Kolch added: “A significant proportion of our funding is down to the generosity of the Irish public in donating and fundraising, via the participation of six of the leading cancer charities in Ireland, the first time they have come together to support a programme of this scale. We want to ensure that their hard work delivers results for cancer patients in Ireland.”

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