Cancer treatment start-up Phion Therapeutics takes top invention award

A NEW drug delivery technology spin-out from Queen's University, lauded for its revolutionary work in the treatment of cancer, has been declared the north's top inventor.

Phion Therapeutics was developed by Dr Helen McCarthy from the School of Pharmacy at Queen's along together with David Tabaczynski, an entrepreneur from Boston.

It claimed the top prize of £13,000 and one of the sought-after spaces on a technology mission to Silicon Valley next January at last night's Invent Awards run by Catalyst Inc.

The Invent initiative, which climaxed at a 600-guest ‘Night of Innovation' in Belfast's Waterfront Hall, aims to unearth Northern Ireland's next breakthrough inventions, and this year attracted a record-breaking 144 entries across six categories.

Phion Therapeutics is the result of 11 years of 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.

“We have been able to concentrate various anionic drugs into tumours while preventing delivery to normal or healthy tissue and cells, and this is potentially revolutionary for the treatment of cancer,” Professor McCarthy said.

“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.”

Steve Orr, director of Connect at Catalyst Inc, said: “The Invent Awards is our leading night of innovation. The competition is continuing 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.”

James Leckey from Leckey Design received the prestigious 2017 Innovation Founder Award for his healthcare products for children and adults with disabilities. He founded the company in 1983 from his parent's garden shed in Lisburn and now has sales of £15 million, exporting to 30 countries.

The other five category winners, which each received £3,000 and a place on the NI Tech Mission to California, were:

:: Agri science - KegoMatic, an automated beer keg solution which is the brainchild of six electrical engineering students from Queen's University (Connor McGurk, Connor Carville, Donovan Campbell, Patrick Devlin, Bryan Murphy and Aaron Rath);

:: Electronics - Evy, a smart tracking bag created by Queen's students Niamh Tohill, Andrew Cunningham, Vincent Kearney, Nathan Steenson and Matthew Whiteside

:: Consumer internet - Seatview, founded by Graham Little, Andrew Murray and Stuart Ogg, which provides customers with a 360 degree virtual reality view from their allocated seats.

:: Enterprise software - Uleska founded by experienced entrepreneur Gary Robinson and which builds cyber security into web applications while they are being built.

:: Engineering - Hug, a wearable heat pack created by product designer Fiona Bennington.

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