SiriusXT, a spin-out company from University College Dublin (UCD), has been awarded over €4.5 million in funding from the European Innovation Council, enabling them to help in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
The grant has been awarded on behalf of the European Innovation Council’s Accelerator Pilot programme, part of the EU’s research and innovation programme ‘Horizon 2020’. As a result, SiriusXT will be able to contribute to the EU’s efforts in researching coronavirus and other diseases.
This announcement of funding for the UCD-based project is the second in the past week. The news follows yesterday’s report in The College Tribune that ‘I-Form’, the SFI Research Centre for Advanced Manufacturing headquartered at UCD, secured additional funding for two of its projects in response to the pandemic.
SiriusXT’s ‘LiCENT’ project has been responsible for the development of a commercial microscope which aims to revolutionise access to cell imagery and aid the work of disease researchers worldwide.
The CEO and co-founder of SiriusXT Tony McEnroe said “Our success with our project called LiCENT will allow the company to pilot our soft x-ray microscope at leading labs and centres accords Europe which are focusing on coronavirus research, before we launch a commercial product at the end of 2021. The EIC Accelerator Pilot support is crucial in funding the risky and costly phase in launching a high-tech product in transitioning from a working prototype to a full commercial product.”
Over the last several years in UCD, SiriusXT has developed a miniaturised soft x-ray source, allowing it to build the first commercial, lab-scale, microscope of its kind. It is said to have revolutionised the cell imaging market, and the company is now set to pilot its soft x-ray microscope in virology and disease research labs across the European Union.
The company’s pioneering project has been to attempt to solve the problems faced by scientists in their attempts to study the changes in cell structure. Changes in a cell’s shape and in its internal organelle are important influencers on the cell signaling mechanisms that underpin disease causation. 3D imaging of these cell structures is reportedly playing an increasingly important role in helping scientists understand diseases.
The technology enabling the study of these cells requires the illumination required for a soft x-ray microscope, currently only available at four football stadium-sized facilities, resulting in scientists facing wait times of up to twelve months to get access this equipment. SiriusXT’s microscope aims to revolutionise this process.
SiriusXT was co-founded in 2015 by Dr Kenneth Fahy, Dr Paul Sheridan, Dr Fergal O’Reilly and Tony McEnroe. A spin-out company from the UCD school of Physics, it has been supported since its inception by the university’s research and innovation unit NovaUCD. In 2015, it was awarded ‘Best Early Stage Start-Up’ by InterTradeIreland and was the inaugural winner of Enterprise Ireland’s ‘HPSU Founder of the Year’ in 2017. SiriusXT has now raised over €10 million in grant and equity funding. It is one of 36 companies across Europe which are being funded by the programme to combat the pandemic.
Gemma Farrell – Reporter