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APC Microbiome Ireland SFI Research Centre unveil 2021 - 2026 Strategic Vision Document

APC Microbiome Ireland SFI Research Centre today, Friday 4 June, unveiled their 2021 - 2026 Strategic Vision Document. The virtual event featured contributions from An Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD.

APC Microbiome Ireland SFI Research Centre unveil 2021 - 2026 Strategic Vision Document
Director of APC Microbiome Ireland SFI Research Centre Professor Paul Ross, An Taoiseach Micheál Martin TD and Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD who today launched the 2021 - 2026 APC Microbiome Strategic Vision

At the launch, APC Director Prof Paul Ross outlined a vision for “a new dedicated building which will be a hive of innovation to position Ireland at the forefront of precision nutrition and medicine and a portfolio of thriving high-potential APC spin-out companies across a range of microbiome fields.” Prof Ross also outlined targets for the development of functional foods, medical foods and live biotherapeutics to improve human (and animal) health, the development of microbiome solutions to microbiome-based challenges such as antimicrobial resistance (AMR), pathogen persistence and methane production in developed & developing countries and improved patient care through our microbiome research and expertise. Prof Ross says “Our people are our strength and we will continue our recruitment campaign to attract scientific stars in microbiome science. We are also on a journey with industrial partners and stakeholders to translate and exploit microbiomes with a view to developing biological solutions which will improve human, animal and planetary health .”

An Taoiseach Michaél Martin said

“Since it was founded in 2003, APC as I have known, has played a critical role in the development of Ireland’s knowledge economy and job creation in the food, agriculture, bio technology, diagnostics, veterinary and pharmaceutical sectors. Scientific discoveries in this area have contributed to progress on a host of global health challenges such as antimicrobial resistance, infectious diseases, obesity, mental health, successful aging and inflammatory diseases.”

The Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, said

“APC Microbiome Ireland, as one of the 16 SFI Research Centres, has since its foundation in 2003, been delivering excellent world-leading research, engaging with enterprise, driving innovation and most importantly training the next generation of researchers.

APC has shown that with talent and investment we here in Ireland can undertake cutting edge impactful research, competing with the very best internationally and equally contributing solutions to address society’s needs.

We all understand, now more than ever, the importance and value of research and innovation in our lives, and I particularly welcome the important education and public engagement role that APC and all SFI Research Centres undertake.”

APC Microbiome Ireland is a world leading SFI research centre, with over 300 researchers and clinicians based in headquarters University College Cork and Teagasc as well as partner institutes MTU, NUIG, UCD, NIBRT, UL and TCD. It also has strategic partnerships with companies from the food, pharma and biotech sectors. APC Microbiome Ireland nurtures a strong international network of academic, community and industry relationships and collaborates extensively with these stakeholders to explore how to harness and manipulate microbes for the good of human and planetary health.

Excerpts from other distinguished speakers:

Professor John O'Halloran, Interim President of University College Cork said

“From the outset APC Microbiome Ireland’s scientific discoveries have contributed to global health challenges and the current pandemic is case in point. APC has four SFI-funded COVID-19 research projects currently underway to predict the risk of developing severe COVID symptoms based on gut microbiome composition, using saliva to diagnose and monitor COVID-19 infections, the role of the immune system in Long COVID and developing ways to monitor COVID-19 in the air in realtime.

Modern day research centres have a mandate to demonstrate both scientific and economic impact to society. APC is remarkably high performing in this area, reporting a €5.60 return to the Irish economy for every €1 of State investment. This figure reinforces the strong business case for investment in APC research and shines a positive light on the Government’s policy of investing in national research centres of excellence and scale. 

APC Microbiome Ireland is one of Ireland’s great success stories and University College Cork is proud to be part of it’s vision for the future of Microbiome Research.”

Professor Gerry Boyle, Director of Teagasc said

Since its inception in 2003, APC Microbiome Ireland has demonstrated the crucial importance of the food-pharma interface in deepening our understanding of the microbiome.

In each of the four strategic areas of the Vision, I wish to acknowledge the contribution of my colleagues and also to underline our commitment to the future success of APC.

The response to the ‘Grand Challenge’ of requires a commitment to producing the scientific leaders of the future who are imbued with a solutions focus to their work. A diversity of approaches to undertaking research is needed to provide the necessary solutions.

In our pursuit of solutions we are wholly committed to striving after scientific excellence.

In our most recent review of peer-reviewed scientific publications, the average number of papers per Teagasc PI is 6.3 and in the 5-year period up to 2020 there has been a 50% increase in scientific publications.

And I’m also pleased to state that, for several years now, three of our top 10 publishers are also senior researchers within APC; two of whom are APC PIs.

Through the SFI endorsement of scientists as entrepreneurs, we’re also committed to establish investor-ready spin out companies to leverage the stock of scientific knowledge. The establishment of the Seqbiome spin out, as a Teagasc-UCC partnership, is one recent example of entrepreneurship.

The fourth strategic area of the Vision which extols the importance of ‘public engagement’ chimes perfectly with our ethos that unless science serves the needs of society it is not performing. 

We are pleased to have been part of the success of APC and take considerable satisfaction from knowing that our contributions are valued by our partners in areas such as our hosting of the high-throughout DNA sequencing and the provision of culture to product platforms; and in our leadership of key industry spokes.

 But we’ve also benefited hugely from our involvement with APC Microbiome Ireland for the last 17 years. The drive for scientific excellence, as part of a community that values excellence, has rubbed off . And we’ve also learned and shamelessly adapted APC’s commitment to outreach. 

I want to conclude by emphasising that we in Teagasc will do everything we can to realise the vision that has been set out before us.

  1. Pamela Byrne, Chair of APC's Governance Committee and CEO of Food Safety Authority of Ireland said
  2. Kirsten Berding Harold, Chair of APC Post Doc Association and Postdoctoral Researcher at APC Microbiome Ireland said

“Stakeholder engagement is a key pillar in the APC Microbiome Ireland Strategic Vision for 2021 - 2026. APC is a national centre, with researchers based in UCC, Teagasc, MTU, NUIG, UCD, NIBRT, UL and TCD. It also has strategic partnerships with companies from the food, pharma and biotech sectors. APC Microbiome Ireland nurtures a strong international network of academic, community and industry relationships and collaborates extensively with these stakeholders to explore how to harness and manipulate microbes for the good of human and planetary health.  APC informs policy makers at national and international level on the critical importance of microbiome-based research to address critical global grand challenges including infection, atopic disease, cancer and climate change.

Engagements that matter deeply to the APC are with people who can benefit and achieve a better quality of life from the research outputs of APC. Education and Public Engagement is very much a priority for APC and their researchers strive continuously to maintain accessible communication channels with the public. A commitment in the strategy to promote and elevate engaged research, as part of the recently launched Public and Patient Involvement Network in Ireland, will ensure that the focus of APC research will remain relevant to those who need it most and involve patients in the centre of the conversation.”

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General, Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland said

The Excellence of APC’s research can be seen in a number of statistics. 13 of APC’s Principal Investigators are included in the highly cited researchers list of 2020. APC has produced nearly 4,000 publications in it’s 15 year history and they have been cited about 174,000 times, that equates roughly to 46 citations per paper. 44% of APC’s publications are in collaboration with international researchers in over 90 countries, most of those researchers drawn from the UK or the USA. These publications have been cited at over twice the world average and 25% of APC’s publications are amongst the 10% of the most highly cited papers in the world. And that’s a testament to the quality of research that’s going on in APC and the excellence and the impactfulness of the research findings. And that impact is evident with APC’s work with industry. In the last five years 35 collaborative projects with industry securing over €20 million in financing for APCs research. Furthermore APC are very effective in their public outreach and engagement with citizens to educate them about the importance and relevance of microbiome research. In their new strategy I’m delighted to see ambitious targets, for example for a new innovation district to foster even more spinouts from the APC research. And to recruit outstanding, excellent individuals from around the world and put them in a supportive research culture where they can do even more excellent research which will have impact in Ireland and beyond, for society and for the economy. I wish them very well in the execution of this strategy and I look forward to seeing the results.”

Liz Dooley, Head of Biologics Clinical Planning & Operations, Janssen Sciences Ireland UC

and Member of APC's Governance Committee said

“At Janssen, we believe in innovation through collaboration. As we set out to change the healthcare landscape of the future, we do so in the knowledge that our success is intrinsically linked to the support of talented researchers. In Ireland, we are fortunate to have some of the very best researchers in the world based in SFI Centres like APC. It is crucial that Ireland remains at the forefront of research and development, so that the country can continue to support industry partners in producing new technologies, develop innovative pipelines and add value to existing products and services.”

APC’s Strategic Vision positions People and Culture as its first pillar – recognising that excellent researchers and a collaborative spirit are the bedrock of success in developing and maintaining a reputation as a world-leading microbiome research institute, as APC has done. On the ground we can see and feel that people and culture are indeed a priority for APC. The sterling reputation and strong track records of the Principal Investigators as well as state-of the art facilities attract international talent at every career stage to the APC, such as myself. APC has exposed me to some of the brightest scientific minds, embraced me in its creative environment, encouraged and critically appraised my research in a supportive fashion and allowed me to expand my career opportunities and broaden my horizons. There is ongoing support to provide expert training in specific areas, such as biostatistics and bioinformatics, and to cultivate science communication skills and public engagement, boosting researcher’s visibility in the public media, such as TV, the radio and newspapers. Additionally, the encouragement for professional development, provision of leadership opportunities, such as chairing the APC Symposia or serving on the committee of the APC postdoctoral association, as well as support to secure grant funding and to present at international conferences and network with scientists from all around the world are cornerstones of the training for young researchers at APC. Last but not least, the ability to engage with and learn from scientists with a large variety of expertise truly makes APC an environment in which one can become the best researcher one aspires to be. Notably, especially important for female scientist like me, gender balance is also high on the APC agenda and is a visible consideration on all fronts, from speakers and chairs at APC research symposia to career advancement opportunities.”

The event will be available on YouTube at https://bit.ly/3uNXqzE after the event.