European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Taoiseach, Micheál Martin TD Announce Ireland’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan in Grangegorman

16 Jul, 2021

On Friday, 16 July 2021, Taoiseach Micheál Martin TD met European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in TU Dublin Grangegorman to highlight the NextGenerationEU recovery package and Ireland’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan.

President of TU Dublin Professor David FitzPatrick and Director of Campus Planning Dr Paul Horan welcomed the Taoiseach Micheál Martin TD and President Ursula von der Leyen to Grangegorman, providing a brief overview of the Grangegorman development as well explaining the site's unique history. 

On arrival to the Central Quad, President Ursula von der Leyen was greeted by EU Commissioner Mairead McGuinness, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe,  Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath and Thomas Byrne, Minister of State for European Affairs

Donning TU Dublin labcoats, Professor Mary Hunt, Head of the School of Biological Sciences and Health, invited the delegation to meet with TU Dublin researchers Dr Catherine Barry-Ryan from the School of Food Science & Environmental Health and colleague Dr Lubna Ahmed from ESHI, who spoke about two EU funded projects, AleHoop and Up4Health. Two ESHI PhD students Hitika Shah and Maame Manful also gave a quick demonstration. 

  • ALEHOOP - Current protein sources are becoming unsustainable from an economic and environmental perspective. Moreover, demand for alternative low-cost substitutes is increasing in the food and agricultural sectors. ALEHOOP aims to address these challenges by extracting low-cost dietary proteins from algae-based and plant residual biomass. This is done using macroalgae and legume-based bio-refineries. The resulting proteins could be used in human food, including healthy snack bars, sports drinks and meat substitutes, and animal feed for chickens, pigs and fish.
  • Up4Health is a €4m SME-led project focusing on the circular economy. Up4Health aims to deliver a sustainable and cost-effective production process to extract and upcycle valuable ingredients from olive, grape and nut by-products. These ingredients will be integrated into functional foods, nutraceutical supplements and cosmetics, among others.

Dr Niamh Gilmartin and Dr Steve Meaney of the School of Biological & Health Sciences and ESHI at TU Dublin also spoke to the delegation about AptaGold, which will provide an innovative saliva-based, instrument-free approach for detecting COVID-19. 

Current Covid diagnostic tools are expensive as they rely on genetic approaches and require equipment, reagents and trained diagnostic staff. AptaGold meets the need for a cheap, on the spot and sample-to-result screening option using an easily obtainable saliva sample. It is a different approach to PCR and rapid antigen testing.

AptaGold is based on mixing patient saliva samples with specially selected DNA strands called aptamers. These strands are linked to tiny gold particles. If COVID-19 virus proteins are present, these particles bunch up, leading to a visible colour change in minutes. In addition, aptamers can be produced at a much lower cost than antibodies, so production can be easily scaled up. AptaGold is funded by Science Foundation Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and the IDA.

Finally, Professor FitzPatrick introduced the visiting contingent to Sean Smith and Tara McElligott, two founders of Micron Agritech - a TU Dublin Hothouse spin-out set to revolutionise animal health testing. Micron Agritech illustrates how digital technology can help tackle common animal health problems while decreasing the use of unnecessary medication and showcases the University's strong ethos of providing support to students to establish start-up companies.

Micron Agritech is set to launch its first product, Micron Kit, a rapid, on-site parasite detection test. The company has been working over the past 18 months to validate their technology and are now poised to start selling in 2022. 

The event concluded with a press conference in the Central Quad atrium, which was attended by international and national media.