Pioneering drugs delivery system wins innovation award

Dr Helen McCarthy and David Tabaczynski, left, of Phion Therapeutics with Gavin Kennedy from Bank of Ireland
Dr Helen McCarthy and David Tabaczynski, left, of Phion Therapeutics with Gavin Kennedy from Bank of Ireland

Technology that is set to transform the way drugs are delivered to cancer patients with the potential for much improved outcomes has been named overall winner at the Invent Awards from Connect at Catalyst Inc.

Designed to highlight innovation and identify breakthrough technology, the event took place on Thursday night at the Waterfront Conference Centre in Belfast sponsored by the Bank of Ireland.

Phion Therapeutics has been developed by Dr Helen McCarthy over 11 years extensive research involving protein fragments called peptides that could have a significant impact on the pharmaceutical industry and revolutionise how drugs are delivered to parts of the human body.

The award brings a £13,000 cash prize and a sought after place on the NI Tech Mission to California in January 2018.

“Phion has been able to concentrate various anionic drugs into tumours while preventing delivery to normal or healthy tissue and cells,” said Dr McCarthy who is based at the School of Pharmacy, Queen’s University Belfast.

“This is potentially revolutionary for the treatment of cancer. The list of potential applications is almost limitless.

“As Phion engages with more pharmaceutical companies, we expect to discover even more drug classes that could be applied to our technology.”

Together with Boston based entreprenuer David Tabaczynski and the Queen’s business incubation centre QUBIS, Prof McCarthy set out to prepare her technology into the commercial application earlier this year.

Gavin Kennedy, Bank of Ireland UK’s Head of Business Banking NI said: “Many of us dream about making a difference, of having an everlasting positive impact on people whilst making some money along the way.

“INVENT 2017 winner Helen’s innovation has the potential to do just that.

“Once again, the participants and winners showcased the high calibre talent and commercial potential of Northern Ireland’s ever growing, vibrant entrepreneurial community.

“Bank of Ireland UK is delighted and proud to continue to support them in their ambition to be the SME’s of the future.”

Invent offers an opportunity for the innovators of Northern Ireland to come forward and be recognised as the next ‘big thing’ and this year attracted a record breaking 144 entries across six categories.

“The Invent Awards is the leading night of innovation in Northern Ireland,” said Connect director Steve Orr.

“The competition continues to grow each year, proving that Northern Ireland is bursting with innovation.

“It has been incredible to feel the energy and enthusiasm in the room tonight.”