APC at interface of food and medicine

APC at interface of food and medicine
Professor Paul Ross, director of APC Microbiome Ireland, UCC, says the microbiome is the hottest area of research in biological science.

Prof Paul Ross says demand is soaring globally for APC Microbiome’s research on food and gut health.

Gut microbiota plays a crucial role in human health and wellbeing and has become one of the most dynamic, complex, and exciting areas of research in both food and pharmaceutical arenas.

Not only a target for treatment and prevention of disease, the microbiota is a repository for functional food ingredients and even new drugs and is also emerging as a very valuable source of novel biomarkers of human disease risk.

Over the last decade, APC Microbiome Ireland, has established itself as one of the leading global centres in gut microbiota research, forging important relationships with major companies around the world.

“We work with a range of American companies, in a variety of industry sectors including pharmaceutical, biotech, food, medicine, and veterinary,” said Professor Paul Ross, director of APC Microbiome Ireland.

“Microbiome science is at the interface of all these, giving rise to our tagline — ‘interfacing food and medicine’.

Microbiome is a very hot area in which many of the innovative food and pharmaceutical companies are now showing a deep interest.

“I would say it represents the hottest area in biological science given that the food we eat is acted upon by trillions of microbes in our intestine which have a huge influence upon our health.

"Indeed, many of the large US companies are becoming very sophisticated in this area, and they are developing their own microbiome strategies.”


APC was formed in 2003,with funding from Science Foundation Ireland and in conjunction with key industry partners, and represents a collaboration between University College Cork, the Government agri-food research laboratory Teagasc, along with Cork University Hospital, Cork Institute of technology, and NUI Galway.

The APC Microbiome team has made several landmark discoveries and has published over 2,500 research articles in peer-reviewed journals.

“We were there at the start of the microbiome research boom, and celebrated our 15th anniversary recently, although our research started in this area almost a decade before that.”

APC has a 300 — strong team of microbiologists, immunologists, food scientists, gastro-enterologists, psychiatrists pharmacologists, nutritionists, and biochemists working together to understand the complex environment of the gastrointestinal tract and its microbial community.

Its international mix of staff from 25 countries include undergraduate students, research assistants, PhD students, MD fellows, postdoctoral fellows, independent investigators, and administrative staff.

APC at interface of food and medicine

APC has a unique blend of clinicians, clinician — scientists and basic scientists, facilitating truly translational research from ‘bench to bedside.’

Nine APC Microbiome Ireland investigators were this year named Highly Cited Researchers, according to the Web of Science Group at Clarivate.

The list recognises researchers whose citation records position them in the very highest strata of research influence and impact and includes 23 Nobel laureates.

All the named researchers work in the area of food, microbiome and health and are based in UCC and Teagasc.

APC has so far developed and trained more than 600 alumni who have advanced to positions in academia, industry and the healthcare sector across the globe.


“Much of the work we have done has attracted a great deal of attention from the USA, and indeed quite a few APC principal investigators perform research in collaboration with American companies, as well as being on their scientific advisory boards and consulting with them on an ongoing basis.

APC has worked with many major US companies, such as Janssen, Proctor & Gamble, Abbvie and Dupont.

Looking to the future, Prof Ross sees microbiome science transforming most areas of biology.

“APC Microbiome Ireland is tackling some of the greatest challenges facing human medicine and food production, including human infection and particularly the design of microbiome solutions in the fight against antibiotic resistance, inflammation, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, stress, neuro-developmental disorders, diseases of age and cancer.”


Scientists from APC Microbiome Ireland in UCC called for action against the global threat of antibiotic resistance on World Microbiome Day, June 27, 2019.

While antibiotics have been the weapon of choice for treating bacterial infections for the last 80 years, saving an estimated 200 million lives since their discovery — in the never-ending battle of Game of Microbes, we have over- relied on antibiotic medicines and now we are paying the price.

In Game of Thrones, each time the armies of the Seven Kingdoms meet on the battlefield they reveal their weapons to their opponent.

Even if your army is victorious, your enemy leaves the battlefield with new knowledge of your weaponry.

APC at interface of food and medicine

Your enemy can then adapt their defensive strategy to become stronger against you next time.

The same is true of bacterial infections; each time bacteria are exposed to antibiotics they adapt and over time become resistant.

They are no longer effective at treating infections that they were designed to treat.

Antibiotic resistance is one of the most serious threats to humanity right now.


Initiated last year by APC Microbiome Ireland, World Microbiome Day encourages public dialogue on the crucial importance of microbiomes to human, animal and environmental health.

Like the characters in Game of Thrones, some of the micro-organisms are good, some are bad, and all of them are involved in a battle for the upperhand.

As committed as the Guards of the Night’s Watch, scientists and researchers at APC, in addition to health professionals and policymakers are desperately trying to protect the ancient wall that is our microbiome.

But the incessant growth of resistant bacteria, called superbugs, is reminiscent of the return of the White Walkers, breaking through the wall in to the Seven Kingdoms.

APC in numbers

Founded in 2003, APC is a global leader in microbiome research, a fact detailed in its report ‘Mining Microbes for Mankind — 15 years of Impact’, produced with Cork University Business School. Key findings:

  • For every €1 investment by SFI, APC has attracted another €1.84 of inward investment for APC research.

  • APC helps to generate €1.2m for the economy each week, including expenditure and taxation impact.

  • In analysis of the multiplier effect of investment, the report showed a return of €5.60 return to the economy for every €1 state investment in APC.

  • APC scientific discoveries have contributed to global health challenges such as anti-microbial resistance, obesity, mental health, successful ageing and inflammatory diseases.

  • In the last five years, 56 collaborative projects with industry have secured over €30m in R&D funding from industry for APC research.

  • APC has produced 2,500+ publications, which have been cited 80,873 times, equating to an average 32 citations per paper. About 40% of the publications have been from international collaborations.

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