A new research center in Ireland has set its sights on becoming a global hub of research and development for the medical 3D printing industry. Ireland has established itself as a pillar of the European medical research community in recent years and a proactive approach from the government seems to be paying dividends.
The Cúram center in Galway, Ireland, is working on 3D printed muscle and tendon fibers that could help athletes recover from career-threatening and debilitating injuries in less than a decade. Inevitably, if it can prove the technology with athletes then it can open up this treatment to the general public if it can bring the costs under control.
The €68 million ($76M) Cúram center is based at the National University of Ireland in Galway and it is not simply focused on 3D printed muscles. It is also working on other potential medical breakthroughs that could have a real impact on a number of chronic diseases.
More than 250 researchers will work at Cúram and will work on cures or management techniques for Parkinsons Disease, heart disease and other critical illnesses, so this is a significant R&D center and we can expect to see some serious results in the years ahead.
“Working with industry partners and clinicians, we will better understand the ‘hostile environment’ of the body and advance medical devices to the next stage where they mimic the body’s biology. We want to launch devices which are more effective for the individual patient, but more affordable to lessen the burden on healthcare systems worldwide,” said Prof Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of Cúram.
Prof Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of Cúram
“In the long-term we may have minimally invasive injections instead of operations for back pain, electrodes which degrade within the body over time, or 3D printed muscles and tendons. This will not happen overnight, but the unparalleled combination of scientific, industry and clinical and regulatory expertise which Cúram facilitates will get us there in the coming years,” he added.
One of these is a method to staunch heavy bleeding that could be a lifesaver in a surgical setting. It can also help surgeons effectively chemically cauterize wounds as they work, which can dramatically reduce the time the patient spends on the operating table. It could be ready to go in as little as 18 months.
“We are working with an industry partner and we’ve just finished a clinical trial in that space where we show that the formulation we are working with stops bleeding instantaneously so it reduces the surgical time and the patient time on the table,” said Pandit.
It is working on a diverse range of products, too, including a diabetes treatment that eliminates the constant injections. It also has a substance that could help repair damaged spinal discs in development, which is impressive for a facility that only officially opened this week.
Ireland’s Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Mary Mitchell O’Connor did the honors with the scissors the grand opening. Science Foundation Ireland has pledged $55 million over six years to support the center, the EU Horizon 2020 program has provided another $21 million of support and Irish businesses have joined forces to provide another $5 million.
Despite its diminutive size, Ireland is a global powerhouse when it comes to the tech industries. Apple, Facebook, Google and more have their European centers in Ireland thanks to its generous corporate tax structure and proactive approach to doing business.
It is clearly a government strategy to position the country as a major player in the world of medical research and it knows that centers like Cúram will bring investment and the top research talent into the country. "Cúram will play a key role in ensuring that world-class skills will be available to companies in Ireland, by providing access to unparalleled scientific expertise and innovation," said Mitchell O’Connor.
More than 400 companies are working in medtech in Ireland. They employ more than 29,000 people and contribute more than $15 billion to the economy. This is good for Ireland, it’s good for the medical community and it will help drive 3D printing forward, too.