Ross O Neill wins Enterprise Ireland 'One to Watch' Award 2010

Minister Conor Lenihan TD today announced that Dr. Ross O’Neill, researcher at the Hamilton Institute, who is developing  a  revolutionary  treatment  for Tinnitus, is the winner of the Enterprise Ireland 'One to Watch' Award 2010. “This is an excellent example of the commercialisation of research” the Minister stated.

Ross O Neill wins Enterprise Ireland ‘One to Watch’ Award 2010Tinnitus is a distressing condition commonly known as "ringing in the ears" which affects up to 1 in 7 people. There is currently no known cure for the condition but Dr. O'Neill and his collaborator Mr. Brendan Conlon, a Surgical Ear Nose & Throat Consultant in St. James Hospital Dublin, are confident that the technology, which is called ‘Mute Button' will change that.

Minister  Lenihan  presented  the  award  to  Dr. O'Neill at the Enterprise Ireland  Applied  Research  Forum  in  front  of  250  academic researchers gathered  to  look  at ways to increase the amount of commercially valuable research  that  is  transferred  from  third  level institutions into Irish industry.

Presenting  the  award  Minister  Lenihan  said: "This award recognises the commercial  potential  of Government supported projects, through Enterprise Ireland,  that  have the capacity to make a major social or economic impact once brought to the market-place.

Dr.  O’Neill’s development has the potential to dramatically improve the lives of millions of people living with Tinnitus. His work with fellow researchers in the Hamilton Institute at NUI Maynooth and his collaboration with clinicians and industry in the area is now being commercialised. “This is an excellent example of the Irish technology transfer system in action” the Minister concluded.

Tinnitus is the perception of sound in the ears or head where no external source is present. It can be heard as ringing, hissing, static, screeching, whooshing, roaring, pulsing, buzzing, or even music. A  recent  study  for  the  Irish Tinnitus Association by Pat Naughton PhD found  that  at  any  one  time,  15,000 to 20,000 people Irish people have persistent tinnitus where it has a negative effect on their quality of life and can lead to anxiety, insomnia, and depression.

While it is more prevalent in older people, tinnitus is the most commonly reported injury arising from the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq and is experienced temporarily by 75% of 18 to 30 year-olds who go to nightclubs and concerts.

The initial research involved was funded by Science Foundation Ireland and the National Digital Research Centre is also funding the project.

Accepting the award, Dr. O'Neill, who is currently a Research Fellow based in the Hamilton Institute, NUI Maynooth said: 'I am delighted to accept this award on behalf of the team who have contributed to the development of this treatment for tinnitus. The clinical trials of our MuteButton technology will be happening soon. This is one of the final steps in getting this product to the marketplace. I look forward to making MuteButton available as a product to help the millions of tinnitus sufferers out there".

It is anticipated that a spin-out company to commercialise MuteButton will be established later this year.

NUI Maynooth signed 9 licence deals and spun out three companies last year.