Dr Martin O’Halloran, Director of the Lambe Translational Medical Device laboratory at NUI Galway is the only Irish scientist among fifty in Europe awarded European Research Council top-up funding, through a Proof of Concept Grant, to develop a novel hydrogel to treat chronic pain.
The Proof of Concept grants, worth €150,000 each, are part of the EU’s research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020. The top-up funding award will allow Dr O’Halloran to develop the results of his scientific hydrogel concept to file patent applications and attract capital to make the research marketable, and explore the commercial and societal potential of the product.
Chronic nerve pain can significantly worsen people’s quality of life. According to international studies, one in five adults in Europe suffers from chronic pain which amounts to 95 million people. The novel gel being developed during this project can be used to treat many different types of peripheral nerve pain. One common type of chronic pain is Trigeminal Neuralgia (TN), a prolonged debilitating condition caused by a trauma to the trigeminal nerve, resulting in sudden attacks of excruciating shooting facial pain. It is infamously called the “suicide disease” due to the high number of suicides associated with it. Dr Martin O’ Halloran will use his Proof of Concept Grant to seek to develop this novel hydrogel, which aims to provide long-lasting and drug-free treatment for this condition and other areas affected by chronic nerve pain.
Speaking about the project, Dr Martin O’ Halloran, Techrete Senior Lecturer in Medical Electronics at NUI Galway, said: “We are delighted to receive this funding for our chronic pain project, given the tremendous impact the condition has on patients in Ireland. This project concept was co-developed with Dr Alison Liddy, an engineer-chemist at NUI Galway with a particular expertise in chronic pain. Given that this project marks our fourth European Research Council grant in four years, it is a great testament to the quality and hard work of the researchers in our laboratory.”
A recently released independent review of this European Research Council innovation scheme showed that the initiative is “sound in concept and effective in practice”, helping ERC-funded scientists set up new companies, file patent applications and attract capital to make their research marketable.
The new grants were awarded to researchers working in 12 countries: Austria (2 grants), Finland (3), Germany (7), Ireland (1), Israel (8), Italy (3), Netherlands (3), Norway (1), Spain (5), Sweden (3), Switzerland (3) and the UK (11).
The grant scheme is only open to European Research Council grantees who can apply for funding in one of the three rounds of the call every year. The results of this first round of 2018, in which the European Research Council evaluated 114 applications. The budget of the 2018 competition is €20 million.
For more information about the funded projects, visit: https://erc.europa.eu/erc-proof-concept-grant-2018-project-examples and to read the independent review of the ERC innovation scheme, visit: https://erc.europa.eu/news/review_praises_erc_poc_scheme