The recipients of NovaUCD’s annual innovation awards, which highlight successes made in areas of knowledge transfer, consultancy, entrepreneurship and the promotion of an innovation culture, by members of the UCD research, innovation and entrepreneurial community, have been announced.

A total of seven awards, including the main 2024 NovaUCD Innovation Award, were presented by Professor Orla Feely, President, University College Dublin (UCD) during an event held in the UCD University Club.

Prof Feely, UCD president and former Engineers Ireland president, said: “The NovaUCD Innovation Awards have become a key annual event highlighting the University’s commitment to innovation and recognise the achievements of our research, innovation and entrepreneurial communities and I congratulate all who have received this year’s awards.

Delivering economic and societal impact

"I would also like to wish the awardees future success as they continue to work towards delivering economic and societal impact in Ireland, and further afield, through their commercialisation, consultancy, entrepreneurial and innovation activities.”

Professor Therese Kinsella, CEO and founder of ATXA Therapeutics.

The 2024 NovaUCD Innovation Award, which recognises excellence in innovation or of successes achieved in the commercialisation of UCD research, or other intellectual activity, over a number of years, was awarded to Professor Therese Kinsella, CEO and founder of ATXA Therapeutics. ATXA Therapeutics is a clinical-stage pharmaceutical company committed to the advancement of innovative, life-changing treatments for cardiopulmonary diseases.

The company was founded by Prof Kinsella, a biochemist and a leading expert in the field of prostanoid biology, in 2015 as a spin-out from the UCD School of Molecular and Biomedical Science based on over 20 years of research carried out by her and her team at the UCD Conway Institute.

The company’s focus is the development of its lead candidate drug NTP42 for the treatment of Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PAH). PAH is a devastating disease of the lungs and heart with an urgent unmet need for new improved therapies.

While the condition itself is classed as a rare or orphan disease, affecting 15-50 patients per million of the population, it carries an enormous health burden with an annual spend in excess of $8 billion globally on prescribed medicines alone in 2023.

Improved treatment options

Through NTP42, which has orphan drug designations from both the EMA in Europe and the FDA in the US, ATXA aims to offer improved treatment options to prescribing physicians. The company has successfully completed initial First-in-Human Phase I clinical trials for NTP42 in healthy male volunteers. Earlier this year, the company successfully completed a bridging clinical trial testing of a novel oral capsule formulation of NTP42 in men and women.

On receiving the 2024 NovaUCD Innovation Award, Prof Kinsella, CEO and founder, ATXA Therapeutics, said: “It is indeed a great honour for me to accept this Award from UCD both personally and on behalf of everyone on the ATXA team who have been part of our success journey so far.

“The company is working towards commencing Phase II clinical trials in PAH patients to demonstrate NTP42’s clinical efficiency. Depending on securing approval from the EMA and FDA regulatory agencies, as well as the necessary inward investment, the Phase II trials are due to run from 2025 through to late 2026.”

ATXA Therapeutics, headquartered at the UCD Conway Institute, has raised over €17m in funding (equity and grant) to date, and Prof Kinsella and ATXA have a patent estate of 16 granted patents, in Europe, USA, Canada, Japan, and Australia, with numerous others filed globally protecting their drugs out to the mid-2040s.

Associate professor Nan Zhang, recipient of the 2024 NovaUCD Invention of the Year Award.

Among the other award recipients are, associate professor Nan Zhang, recipient of the 2024 NovaUCD Invention of the Year Award and Professor Fiona Timmins, UCD Dean of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems, recipient of the 2024 NovaUCD Consultancy of the Year Award.

The recipient of the 2024 NovaUCD Invention of the Year Award is associate professor Nan Zhang, UCD School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering.

He received this award in recognition of a patented microfluidic system and process for the formulation of nanomedicines, which was developed by him and his research team.

The invention consists of a high-throughput microfluidic system, featuring a cartridge with a uniquely designed mixing channel, coupled with a desktop machine for conducting nanoparticle synthesis. This system is designed to accelerate formulation screening and to enhance formulation optimisation, crucial for the development of gene therapy, cell therapy, and vaccines.

Prof Nan Zhang, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has led to an unprecedented loss of lives, and the development of mRNA vaccines has underscored the critical importance of nanomedicine in today's world. I sincerely hope that our high-throughput microfluidic formulation solution will significantly accelerate the development of nanomedicines.

"Our aim is to enable patients suffering from cancer, infectious diseases, and rare conditions to have access to more effective and targeted treatments and to access the medicine as fast as possible, ultimately saving lives.

“We have established a commercialisation team focused on bringing the technology into a stage ready for external investment with the support of the NovaUCD team. Our plan is to launch a first laboratory-oriented system by mid-2025.”

Professor Fiona Timmins, UCD Dean of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems and Head of the UCD School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems.

The recipient of the 2024 NovaUCD Consultancy of the Year Award is Professor Fiona Timmins, UCD Dean of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems and Head of the UCD School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems.

Prof Timmins, who has a strong interest in consulting, is an active researcher within the field of nursing and nurse education and has a strong track record in writing for publications, both as author and as an Editor.

In recent years Prof Timmins has carried out, or is carrying out four consultancy projects, through ConsultUCD, for clients including, Irish Hospice Foundation, UniGe (the University of Genoa) and the HRB. These consulting projects result in a high level of national and international collaboration and impact that serve to increase the reputation of UCD.

There is also a high level of impact upon the nursing profession and clients that they serve, through the enablement of upskilling of nursing professionals and the provision of robust evaluations of health-related projects to inform service delivery.

Prof Timmins is also a strong advocate and supporter of ConsultUCD within her School and within the UCD College of Health and Agricultural Sciences.

On receiving the 2024 NovaUCD Consultancy of the Year Award, Prof Timmins, said: “I have had a very positive experience of collaborating with ConsultUCD.

"The support received enables the UCD School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems to deliver high level consultancy services in a professional and efficient manner.

"I am grateful to all of my colleagues involved in these projects who have worked tirelessly to ensure a quality service and outcome that supports the school’s growing reputation as a centre of excellence globally and ultimately informs improvements in health and social care which is at the core of the school’s mission.”

The other four recipients of 2024 NovaUCD Innovation Awards

  1. 2024 NovaUCD Spin-out of the Year Award: EpiCapture
  2. 2024 NovaUCD Licence of the Year Award: Go Eve
  3. 2024 NovaUCD Founder of the Year Award: John Byrne, CEO and Founder, Corlytics
  4. 2024 NovaUCD Innovation Champion of the Year Award: Professor Nick Holden, UCD School of Biosystems and Food Engineering.