Matt Cooper, co-founder and chief executive of Irish biotech company Inflazome, has won top prize in the emerging category at the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Awards.
Prof Cooper, a chemistry professor at the University of Queensland, founded Inflazome with Trinity College Dublin immunologist Prof Luke O'Neill in 2016 to develop medicines for chronic inflammatory diseases.
These range from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s to cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, inflammatory bowel disease, asthma, arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
Swiss drug giant Roche paid €380 million for the company in September in a deal that could yet be worth close to €2 billion if certain milestones are met.
Prof Cooper said he was delighted to accept the award on behalf of Inflazome, which he described as a “great Irish success story”.
Speaking via Zoom at 4.30am in Queensland, Prof Cooper said the award was great as a signifier to young people that working in science was a good career.
“What matters most in all of this is the patients who desperately need medicines for Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and depression,” he said.
Inflazome has two drugs in clinical trials: Inzomelid, for neurodegenerative diseases in the brain; and Somalix, for inflammatory diseases in the rest of the body. It is focused on blocking a key danger sensor, NLRP3, in immune cells, called inflammasomes, which, if overactive, is implicated in a wide range of chronic inflammatory conditions. The company’s drugs are designed to inhibit the function of this NLRP3.
“Developing two drugs in four years with a group of just 13 people is a fantastic achievement, and I’m so proud of the team,” Prof Cooper added.
The other finalists in the emerging category this year were Devan Hughes of Buymie; Ríona Ní Ghriallais and Conor Harkin of ProVerum; Brendan McDowell of BPerfect Cosmetics; Dr Sinéad B Bleiel of AnaBio Technologies; Gary Wickham of MagGrow; John Goulding and Joe Lennon of Workvivo; and Leonora O'Brien of Pharmapod.