€50m injection into health research

A Cork-based food and health research facility is to receive €50m in funding from the Government and private industry, with more than 100 jobs to be created by the investment.

The funding was jointly announced yesterday by Agriculture and Food Minister Simon Coveney and minister for state for research and innovation, Sean Sherlock.

Direct State aid will amount to €36m, with €14m coming from 12 key industry partners in the food and health sectors.

The money will go to the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre, which conducts research in food and medicine. It will allow APC to employ 109 researchers over the next six years. The APC spans University College Cork, Teagasc, and Cork Institute of Technology.

The exchequer funding comes through Science Foundation Ireland’s research centres programme, and supports research into how bacteria in the human gut impacts on health, leading to the development of future foods and medicines.

Announcing the funding, Mr Sherlock said: “A central part of the Government’s action plan for jobs is to ensure that research is better targeted at turning the good ideas of our top-class researchers into good products and high quality jobs.

“Through the SFI research centres programme, this year we are establishing seven research centres of international scale and excellence. These cutting-edge research centres, which includes the APC here in Cork, will further enhance Ireland’s economic recovery process and be a magnet of attraction for industry.”

Mr Coveney said that the ongoing commitment of private enterprise was also essential for long-term success.

“I congratulate and applaud companies such as Kerry Group, Wyeth Nutrition, Alimentary Health, Second Genome, Trino Therapeutics, and Sigmoid Pharma for investing in the success of the APC,” he said.

Mark Ferguson, director general of SFI said: “The SFI research centres programme is the largest ever State and industry co-funded research investment of its kind in Ireland.

“The potential to deliver tangible economic benefits through research excellence was critical in the selection of the initial seven centres. The APC is a world leader in the area of probiotics research and we are confident of its continued success.”

Fergus Shanahan, director of the APC, said: “Ten years ago we predicted that the microbes within the gut would be a source of new antibiotics, a source of biomarkers for risk of certain diseases, a regulator of immunity and even an influence on the brain and behaviour.

“We also predicted that this field would become one of the most relevant to human biology and to society. All of this has proven to be correct. ”

Highlighting the importance of the research carried out by the APC Centre to the future food industry, Stan McCarthy, chief executive of Kerry Group, one of the participating companies, said: “This partnership is hugely important as we build our technology centre in Naas, Co Kildare, both in developing and nurturing high quality researchers to staff that facility and in further enhancing Kerry’s ability to provide technical solutions for our customers around the world.”

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