A £1.5 million collaboration between Queen’s University Belfast and Trinity College Dublin aims to develop new treatment options for cancers with low survival rates.

Funding for the first cross-border project of its kind comes from Northern Ireland’s Department for Employment and Learning. The programme will initially create around 12 jobs and the hope is that resulting discoveries will lead to spin-off companies and increased employment at pharmaceutical companies through new drug licensing.

Researchers at Queens have identified a number of biological targets, such as suicide genes in cells, and will design, synthesise and test compounds directed at these targets with their colleagues at Trinity College.

“Queen’s has expertise in identifying potential biological targets which could react to drug compounds,” noted Professor Dennis McCance, director of the university’s Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology. “Our partners in Trinity are leaders in computational chemistry, whereby computers are used to design drugs given the structure of the target in the body.”

Putting these capabilities together would “help ease a potential bottleneck in drug discovery across the island of Ireland, leading to new treatment options for those cancers with poor survival rates”, McCance added.