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BioWill – creating a biorefinery for Willow Trees

October 21, 2022 @ 10:00 am - 11:15 am

BioWILL is an Interreg NWE funded project focusing on Integrated “Zero Waste” Biorefinery utilising all fractions of Willow feedstock for the production of high to medium based Bio-Chemicals/Materials, Renewable Energy in the form of Bio Methane production and Natural Fertilisers.

Existing biorefinery technologies focus on food waste (AgriChemWhey), algae (Abacus), forestry residue (Bioforever) for the production of biopolymers, chemicals e.g. butanol, resin acids or lignin. BioWill will focus on high value bioactive extractives (salicins) for medical applications while using the bark-free pulp for manufacturing food packaging materials with any waste and residues used for biogas and biofertilizers.

There is no extractive based cascade biorefinery within the EU, its establishment & replicability will be of significant economic benefit. Willow bark is one of the few plant materials to contain substances (salicins) which are as effective as synthetic equivalents for analgesic & anti-inflammatory properties, with fewer undesirable side effects.

Facilitator: James Gaffey

James is a Co-Director of the Circular Bioeconomy Research Group at Shannon Applied Biotechnology Centre at Munster Technology University. James is PI and Co-PI on over 10 EU and nationally-funded circular bioeconomy research projects.

Nationally, James is coordinator of the Biorefinery Glas and INFORMBIO DAFM-funded research initiatives and is a member of the SFI Farm Zero C research team. At EU-level James was scientific coordinator of Biobased Industries (BBI JU) ICT-BIOCHAIN initiative, and is PI on range of projects including BIOSWITCH, COOPID, agroBridges, MainstreamBIO, ROBIN and Co-PI on BIO4AFRICA.

He is a member of the Govt-appointed Expert Advisory Group to Ireland’s National Bioeconomy Forum, and was part of the Expert Panel for the Impact Assessment of Circular Biobased Europe Joint Undertaking (CBE JU) successor programme to BBI JU under Horizon EU.

James has worked in the field of advanced biorefining since 2009 through work with Cellulac Ltd., Competence Centre for Biorefining and Bioenergy (NUI Galway), Sustainable Biopolymers Ltd., tcbb RESOURCE, Tralee Institute of Technology and Munster Technological University.


Dr Niall Burke

Dr. Niall Burke holds the role of Scientific Project Manager and Principal Investigator with Shannon ABC at MTU. Dr. Burke received both his BSc in Physiology and his MRes in Microbiology (yeast physiology) from University College Cork. He completed his PhD in Cardiovascular Sciences at The Hatter Cardiovascular Institute of University College London, while researching the role of mitochondrial dynamics in cardiac ischaemia-reperfusion injury. Niall then worked as a postdoctoral fellow for Astrazeneca in Cambridge UK, where he was investigating the role of cell signalling kinases in drug-induced structural cardiotoxicity. Niall uses his cell culture and molecular cell biology experience to contribute to the planning and troubleshooting of Shannon ABC’s mammalian and microbial cell culture research projects for both the biotechnology industry and academia. He is currently PI on numerous industrial client projects and lead supervisor for two postgraduate academic projects.

Dr Adam Charlton

Dr Adam Charlton is a Senior Scientist at The BioComposites Centre, Bangor University, a specialist unit engaged in applied research with companies across a number of sectors, including plant fibre processing / composites production, polymers, fine chemicals and forest products. He trained as a materials chemist and has 30 years research experience in collaborative industrial research across different sectors, including nonlinear optics, molecular electronics and the synthesis of chemical intermediates for the pharmaceuticals sector. His research now focuses on the production of value added materials from biomass, with a general interest in biorefining and developing novel fractionation/ extraction technologies for agricultural crop and forestry residues. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and a Chartered Chemist

Prof JJ Leahy

Prof J J Leahy is currently an associate professor in the Dept of Chemical Sciences at the University of Limerick where he is involved in teaching, curriculum development and research in the area of waste management and renewable energy. He currently heads a research group consisting of chemists and chemical engineers that is focused on chemical technologies for biofuels and biorefining from wastes with particular interests in :

• Identifying the optimum thermochemical route (gasification, pyrolysis), & chemical hydrolysis route for the production of chemicals and second generation transport fuel from bio-waste.

• Using laboratory & pilot scale processing facilities to test & optimise the yield of selected product from characterised feedstocks. The goal will be to develop novelty through optimising the process variables for particular feedstocks or products.

• Develop and test catalysts/chemical processes for the production of and upgrading bio-oil.

JP Prendergast

JP is Founder and CEO of Epitheal, a science driven dermatology company developing a specific suite of pharmaceutical products for the human and veterinary markets. Epitheal has developed a number of patent pending pharmaceutical products using unique combination of natural tried and tested active ingredients. The compounds act as antibacterial and anti-fungal solutions, providing alternative medicines to leading antibiotics containing prescription only formulations. Additional product development include the use of Hemp/Salicin in the treatment of chronic inflammation and pain relief.