Tuesday, 25 September 2018
NBCI,Neonatal Brain Consortium Ireland (www.nbci.ie), launched their collaborative Neonatal Encephalopathy PhD Training Network -HRB NEPTuNE-in Trinity’s Biomedical Science Institute. The training programme will improve understanding of the occurrence of and long–term impacts of encephalopathy in new-borns. The multidisciplinary research training programme aims to produce a cohort of experts who will advance patient-focused research in neonatal encephalopathy. The five PhD scholars recently recruited to the programme will conduct their research in centres of excellence, advancing their knowledge with integrated support for professional development. The result will be better synthesis between research and healthcare and will have positive impacts on patient care and health. HRB NEPTuNE combines the expertise of clinicians, psychologists and neuroscientists from Trinity College Dublin, the INFANT Centre at University College Cork, and the National University of Ireland Galway, along with the patient-focused group, Irish Neonatal Health Alliance (INHA). Clinical Research Development Ireland (CRDI) will provide the framework for the programme’s training and instruction. Neonatal Encephalopathy affects one and a half million babies worldwide. Many cases of NE occur unexpectedly at birth, without any warnings during pregnancy. Instances of NE can have permanent, life changing consequences for the children in question and their families. More than half of medical cases that appear before the High Court are maternity related. High Court awards to families are getting higher as the cost attending to the complex needs of their children rises. The socio-economic cost of NE is profound. To date, international progress in determining the causes of and further developing treatments for NE has been slow. Ireland is at the forefront of research in neonatal brain injury and has collaborative potential to be an international leader in this area. Led by Professor Eleanor Molloy (Consultant Neonatologist, Chair and Professor of Paediatrics, TCD and Tallaght Hospital) and Professor Geraldine Boylan (Professor of Neonatal Physiology and Director of the INFANT Research Centre, UCC), the programme’s PhD scholars will conduct multidisciplinary research projects in premier research centres in Trinity College Dublin, University College Cork and NUI Galway. Scholars will have a holistic overview involving the entire translational research paradigm from basic science research, translational clinical research, clinical trials to epidemiology and population health, while getting in depth expertise in their chosen areas. Principal Investigators in this consortium have internationally recognised expertise in neonatology, paediatrics, neurodevelopment, family-centred care, clinical trials and methodology, pharmacology, epidemiology, biostatistics, translational research and neuroimaging in neonatal brain injury. The PhD Scholars, while focussing on their five individual projects and getting in depth expertise in their chosen areas, will also collaborate to ensure that results will contribute to evidence-based improvement in healthcare. The most common cause of Neonatal Encephalopathy (NE) is hypoxia-ischaemia (HI) but other disorders such as sepsis, genetic and metabolic disorders may closely mimic the clinical features. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish the cause of encephalopathy in the first few days after birth and to predict longer term outcome. UCC’s INFANT Centre will aim to identify the standard EEG features seen in NE using EEGs from a large database of studies available at INFANT. This strand of the NEPTuNE programmewill also identify features that are most predictive of poor neurodevelopmental outcome. Understanding the role of the circadian rhythm in neonatal brain injury and inflammation may lead to simple therapeutic measures such as decreasing the duration of light exposure to increase melatonin production. The CRADLE strand at Trinity College Dublin will investigate the impact of alterations of circadian rhythm in babies and assess whether this alteration can decrease inflammation caused by NE and ultimately improve outcome. Follow-up research in NE infants neurodevelopmental, cognitive, linguistic and socio-emotional development will be conducted by Trinity College’s psychology department. This strand of the programme –PANDA -will considerthe impact of parent-infant interactions as predictive of developmental outcomes, including self-regulation, linguistic and cognitive competencies and executive functioning. The influence of neurobiological risk that may arise from NE may disrupt parent-infant interaction and influence the course of development, as has been shown in the context of prematurity. To date, no research has considered the nature of parent-infant interactions in the context of NE. One of the difficulties often faced by study analysis on a topic is heterogeneity in the outcomes measured in those studies. This means that reviewers are frequently unable to compare the findings of many of the studies and a full analysis of the findings of all included studies is rarely possible. NUIG is to develop and apply agreed standardised sets of outcomes, known as ‘core outcome sets’ (COS). The COS should represent the minimum to be measured and reported in all trials. This use of the COS across an entire research area would allow for the results of trials to be effectively compared, contrasted and combined. The fifth strand of the HRB-NEPTuNE project is to investigate the functional brain changes in neonatal encephalopathy (NE) infants and the associated behavioural and cognitive consequences. The Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience will use brain imaging data to quantify the functional integrity of the neural networks and examine potential associations with inflammatory markers and clinical phenotypes. The programme has received funding from the HRB’s Collaborative Doctoral Awards in Patient-focused Research which aims to provide structured PhD training to scholars working in a healthcare setting. Speaking at the launch, Dr Darrin Morrissey, CEO of the HRB, commended the multidisciplinary approach of the network and acknowledged the importance of such an integrated and inclusive project in advancing patient-focused research.
Tuesday, 5 December 2017
As published in Silicon Republic Dr Nathan Quinlan, a senior lecturer in mechanical engineering at NUI Galway, discusses his attempts to unlock the secrets of fluid dynamics. Last month, a Galway-founded company called Aerogen announced that it was going international with the opening of a German commercial headquarters in the town of Ratingen, in what was another sign of the west coast’s medtech prowess. Aerogen is a major player in the aerosol drug-delivery sector, with around 5m acute-care patients worldwide using its technology. Working with the company for the past 15 years is Dr Nathan Quinlan, a senior lecturer in mechanical engineering at NUI Galway and an investigator at the Cúram centre for research in medical devices. After picking up his degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s in aerodynamics of advanced aircraft engines at NUI Galway, he went on to develop a computational model to predict the performance of a propfan, a highly efficient hybrid of a propeller and jet engine. His breakthrough into medical devices came following his doctorate at Oxford University working on an “extraordinary” device for a needle-less injection, which uses a gas flow to carry powdered drugs. What inspired you to become a researcher? I remember a specific moment, sitting in a lecture about the dynamics and mathematics of rockets. It’s a problem that seemed hard at first, but unravelled when approached the right way. It hit me with great clarity that Newton’s laws can tell you everything about motion. Using these very simple fundamental rules, you could build up a model or a prediction of almost anything that moves. From there, research seemed to be a way to spend time understanding those fundamental building blocks and putting them together. Research is constant learning, and the results of that work could help to make useful things. Can you tell us about the research you’re currently working on? At the Cúram centre for research in medical devices, I work on unique technology developed by Aerogen, a Galway company that leads the world in aerosol drug delivery. The key to its success is its capability to generate huge numbers of very small droplets of liquid drug very consistently. Because the droplets are small, they can travel deep into the lung. Droplets are formed at microscopic holes in a plate that vibrates 128,000 times per second. We are creating computational models of the liquid medication flowing at scales of microns and microseconds. This will give us insights into the operation of the technology, and help it to develop in future. For example, we can simulate design changes to predict their effects before they are implemented. In your opinion, why is your research important? ‘Fluid dynamics’ is the single phrase that best summarises what I do. Fluid dynamics – including both liquids and gases – is everywhere. Often it’s invisible, but it’s vital to the flow of blood in the human body, keeping aircraft in the air, keeping computers cool and wind turbines spinning. Many medical devices exploit it, from artificial organs to lab-on-chip systems. On the negative side, however, it plays a role in some cardiovascular disease, accounts for a lot of the energy consumed by transport, and can be destructive in storms and other forces of nature. Fluid dynamics is vital to life and ubiquitous in engineering, but it still holds mysteries. What commercial applications do you foresee for your research? Our collaboration with Aerogen is an example of a project with direct commercial application. Our work will feed into the design of future versions of the technology for the delivery of novel therapeutics. The computational methods that my groups develop for flow simulation have applications in simulation of biological processes and medical devices, and many other fields of engineering. In the longer term, the software that we develop will be exploited either as a commercial or open-source release. What are some of the biggest challenges you face as a researcher in your field? The need to master the tools (computing and experimental techniques), and sometimes to make the tools to answer the research problem. Sometimes, the tools themselves become an avenue of research. Finding the time, and the self-discipline, to really finish off a piece of work and write it up before moving on to the next shiny, new thing. As problems go, these are really nice problems to have! Are there any common misconceptions about this area of research? Engineering in general is not well understood as a profession, perhaps because its variety is so hard to sum up in a single sound bite or picture. We have to keep shining a light on the diverse things that engineers do. An engineering education isn’t a training for any one career, but a way of thinking, of using scientific understanding to create amazing things. Most of all, we have to shake off the insidious notion that engineering isn’t for girls. We’ve looked at the numbers in NUI Galway and found that although women make up a smaller part of the engineering student population, they get proportionately more of the high grades and study higher degrees. What are some of the areas of research you’d like to see tackled in the years ahead? There are still huge questions about what happens in turbulent blood flow. True turbulence is a hard problem in ordinary fluids because it’s chaotic at large scale and all the way down the microscale. When viewed at everyday scales, blood acts like a slightly more viscous version of water – however, it’s made of highly flexible cells, suspended in liquid but closely packed. If we could understand how turbulence works in that environment, and how cells respond to it, it would be a big step forward in the understanding of cardiovascular disease and the design of implants such as stents and ventricular assist devices.
Tuesday, 5 December 2017
As published in Silicon Republic Dr Isma Liza Mohd Isa aims to eradicate chronic back pain forever. A report last year found that in Ireland, back pain was the most commonly reported chronic condition, with one in five respondents to a survey saying they suffer from it. While a multitude of different reasons could be behind back pain, ranging from diet factors to deeper bone issues, a research team is aiming to stop the problem at its source with a new hydrogel. One such researcher is Dr Isma Liza Mohd Isa, who is based at the Cúram medical device research centre at NUI Galway. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering from the National University of Malaysia in 2006, Isa worked with the National Poison Centre in Malaysia and as a lecturer with the country’s ministry of health. This year, she completed a PhD in anatomy from NUI Galway and now works as a researcher focused on modulation of inflammatory pain in intervertebral disc degeneration using biomaterials strategy. What inspired you to become a researcher? I always wanted to save people’s lives, and I think the best way to do this is through a career as a medical scientist. During my academic career, apart from administrative activities, my job was solely to give lectures and practical classes of pre-clinical subjects to the students. This cycle was repeated over five years without significant input from my side. I felt I could do better than this and I believe that there is huge potential to improve people’s lives through the advancement of technology and developing interventional strategies for chronic diseases. Can you tell us about the research you’re currently working on? I’m currently working on an intervertebral disc project under the supervision of Prof Abhay Pandit. In Cúram, the Science Foundation Ireland centre for research in medical devices based at NUI Galway, we are developing an interventional technology using therapeutic biomaterials. The material we are using is known as hyaluronic acid hydrogel (a gel-like structure) and we hope to develop a way to inject this biomaterial into the spine where intervertebral discs (pads of cartilage between our back bones) have been damaged. The material has therapeutic properties to combat inflammation and pain. This has been a truly multidisciplinary project. We have expanded our research to collaborate with fellow investigators at Cúram, including Prof David Finn at the Centre for Pain Research in NUI Galway, to establish our own pre-clinical model of pain in intervertebral disc injury. Already, we have seen significant evidence for successful biomaterial treatment to alleviate pain and promote tissue healing in the intervertebral disc, and increased our knowledge of the possible mechanisms underlying disc disease and tissue repair. In your opinion, why is your research important? Statistics estimate that lower back pain causes the highest amount of disability worldwide, and approximately 42pc of patients with lower back pain suffer from degenerative disc disease. Current treatment is either conservative treatments or surgical procedures that aim to alleviate pain – however, none of these treatments can facilitate disc repair. We aim to help surgeons to find better solutions to alleviate chronic pain in patients, while promoting disc repair and its mechanical functions using biomaterials without removing damaged discs. This approach would have significant benefits for patients, allowing them to avoid repeated surgery – and potential complications, such as adjacent disc degeneration – to treat their conditions. What commercial applications do you foresee for your research? Biomaterials can be injected alone at early or middle stages of disease, and biomaterials combined with other biologic molecules could be used for late stage of disease to assist with tissue repair. An advanced prototype for spine intervention would possibly help patients who show susceptibility to particular disease mechanisms, allowing us in the future to customise biomaterials for tissue repair for specific patients. What are some of the biggest challenges you face as a researcher in your field? The only way to know the efficacy and safety of our technology is by testing it in humans. However, strict regulations require extensive lab-based research before we can get to that stage. A concern would be that while we might see greater tissue repair using biomaterials treatment in a laboratory setting, we can’t guarantee that this would be replicated in humans. We also need a better understanding of pain behaviour in humans –therefore, our multidisciplinary and collaborative process in this research is very beneficial. What are some of the areas of research you’d like to see tackled in the years ahead? Everyone has their own genetic code, which functions to express different levels of disease mechanisms and manifestations. I would like to map disease mechanisms that are specific to the severity of disc disease in individual patients at genome level. This would facilitate the design of specific target technology tailored to individual patients, and this approach would prevent further disease progression and complications, and also improve the healing process. This technology would be less invasive and prove cost-effective for patients worldwide. That is the overall goal of our research at Cúram: to develop affordable transformative solutions to improve quality of life for patients suffering from chronic illness.
Wednesday, 4 October 2017
On Monday 2 October, Minister for Health Simon Harris TD unveiled a new name and brand identity for a leading national academic research body that aims to increase Ireland’s position as a centre of excellence and attract clinical and translational research projects that can ultimately improve and enhance public health. Clinical Research Development Ireland (CRDI) is the new name for Molecular Medicine Ireland (MMI), a not for profit partnership established by NUI Galway, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Trinity College Dublin, University College Cork and University College Dublin, their associated academic hospitals and clinical research facilities. CRDI’s ambitious Strategic Plan 2017 – 2021 was also presented at the event, which was held in the stately surroundings of Farmleigh House, and attended by key representatives from the Irish and international academic, public and private sectors. CRDI acts as a central contact point for the development of collaborative research with academic and industry partners from Ireland and abroad. It does this by helping to develop, co-ordinate and facilitate research programmes and networks in a wide range of therapeutic areas in both medicines and medical devices. Since it was first established in 2002, it has provided training, including structured PhD programmes and Good Clinical Practice (GCP) courses, to over 4,600 Irish researchers, it has jointly facilitated almost 200 clinical research studies and has helped to position Ireland as a prime location for the conduct of clinical and translational research. CRDI works with funding agencies that include the Health Research Board, Enterprise Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland, Wellcome Trust and the Irish Cancer Society. According to Dr Pat O’Mahony, Chief Executive of CRDI, Ireland has significant potential to increase its clinical research activities. “Currently we estimate that less than 2 percent of Irish adult patients are offered the opportunity to participate in clinical research as part of their medical treatment; the international target is circa 10 percent – so there is a significant opportunity to increase clinical research in Ireland that would also enable Irish patients to potentially access new and emerging therapies. Clinical Research Development Ireland strives to build on Ireland’s reputation as the tenth strongest contributor to global scientific research. We seek to create an enabling environment where the process of conducting a clinical research project across one or a number of different centres in Ireland is enabled quickly and easily. We are a partnership and we endeavour to mobilise the combined strength of all our partner academic institutions, their medical schools and associated hospitals.” In health systems where clinical research infrastructure and delivery (both academic led and commercially sponsored) are better developed, there are significant and demonstrable benefits for patients in terms of better outcomes. Dr O’Mahony emphasised this message, stating; “It is undisputed that a strong clinical research infrastructure offers a host of benefits to the wider healthcare system including improved outcomes for patients, better use of scarce resources, and improved clinical staff recruitment and retention. Coordinating and enabling clinical researchers at a national and international level is the focus of the CRDI business unit, HRB Clinical Research Coordination Ireland. In addition, through our coordination of academic training programmes we are facilitating the next generation of researchers to deliver research which will revolutionise patient treatment options and the wider health system. Through the CRDI coordinated Irish Clinical Academic Training programme alone, over the next five years we will enable 40 top class clinicians to significantly contribute to clinical research in Ireland.” CRDI Chairman, Tom Lynch said, “The new name Clinical Research Development Ireland (CRDI) will enable this unique academic research partnership to align more closely with our vision to be an effective and innovative force for the development of translational and clinical research in Ireland. We are living in exciting times for research development and CRDI, through developing and supporting translational and clinical research infrastructure and delivery across our partner academic institutions, their medical schools and associated hospitals, will be perfectly placed to lead the way in Ireland.” Prof Dermot Kelleher, founder and former Board member of MMI, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Canada, and a guest speaker at the event said: “The molecular basis of disease is now firmly embedded in both the diagnosis and treatment of conditions as diverse as cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and neurological conditions such as epilepsy. The evolution of Molecular Medicine Ireland to Clinical Research Development Ireland reflects the necessity to address the current challenge of effective implementation of molecular medicine into clinical practice.” See CRDI Strategic Plan 2017-2021 here
Sunday, 1 October 2017
The European Orthopaedic Research Society (EORS) promotes education, research, innovation, clinical translation and social responsibility in orthopaedics. EORS meetings provide a forum to discuss orthopaedic-related challenges and achievements, in research, clinical and commercial space. EORS 2018 invites symposia proposals in all areas of orthopaedic, musculoskeletal and trauma research, development and clinical translation. Symposia proposals with educational and societal impact are also welcomed. If you are interested in submitting a symposium proposal, please complete the proposal form and submit it to email@example.com by the 31st of October 2017. Chair(s) of successful symposium proposals will be notified by email by November 2017. For full details, please visit website If you have any questions regarding EORS2018, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, 26 September 2017
The NUIG Flow Cytometry Core Facility is proud to announce the delivery and successful installation of its newest acquisition, the ImageStream®X Mark II Imaging Flow Cytometer, funded by an SFI Infrastructure award. The revolutionary Amnis ImageStream®X Mark II Imaging Flow Cytometer (Merck Millipore) combines the speed, sensitivity, and phenotyping abilities of flow cytometry with the detailed imagery and functional insights of microscopy. This unique combination provides the tools for numerous applications that cannot be pursued using either technique alone. Flow cytometry is a technology that allows quantitative and qualitative analysis of cell populations at a single cell level, providing multi-parametric data based on measurements of scattered light and fluorescent signals produced by cells as they pass through a laser light source. The addition of the image acquisition feature of Imaging Flow Cytometry greatly increases the amount and value of the information obtained from each experiment when compared to either of the techniques alone (Flow Cytometry and Microscopy). This instrument produces multiple high-resolution images of every cell as it flows (at a rate of up to 5000 cells per second), including brightfield and darkfield (SSC), and up to 10 fluorescent markers with sensitivity exceeding conventional flow cytometers. When compared to conventional Flow Cytometry, researchers can obtain numerous additional parameters on their samples and quantify the intensity, specific location, and distribution of signals within tens of thousands of cells per sample. These include cell morphology, nuclear shape and subcellular localization and distribution of target molecules which enable for multiple features to be analysed in great detail. The majority of the dyes used in conventional Flow Cytometry can also be detected by the instrument with compensation being also applied to the images, rendering the users with the ability to use many more dyes than they could ever use when performing microscopic analysis. Furthermore, it allows for the visual confirmation that rare events are real cells and not just artefacts. Our system has 4 lasers (405nm, 488nm, 561nm, 642nm and 785nm (SSC)), three different objectives (20x, 40x and 60x) and the extended depth of field option (EDF). EDF keeps the depth of cell in focus without loss of fluorescence sensitivity and can be of great value when imaging FISH spots or other sub-cellular features. The data analysis software, IDEAS®, offers powerful tools for graphical representation and quantification of more than 85 parameters per cell. Coupled with the short acquisition time, this technology allows the analysis of statistically relevant numbers of images, which is not feasible using classical microscopy. Taken together, the capabilities of the ImageStream®X Mark II system make it equivalent or superior to traditional flow applications for multi-parameter cell/particle analysis while also integrating the scope of flow cytometry and microscopy. Typical applications include the study of: Autophagy Apoptosis Phagocytosis Protein internalization, nuclear translocation and subcellular localization DNA damage response Nuclear architecture Cell signalling Cell-cell interactions and immune synapse formation Cell cycle Nanoparticle uptake We are keen to talk with researchers in NUI Galway and their collaborators at other institutions about potential applications of imaging flow cytometry to their ongoing and planned projects. For more information on the capabilities of this equipment and consultation on how it can be of value to your research programme, please contact Dr. Joana Cabral at email@example.com
Monday, 14 August 2017
Twelve CÚRAM PIs were acknowledged for their roles as champions of EU research in Ireland. As leaders of major projects in the European Research and Innovation Programme – Horizon 2020 – these investigators are deemed to have reached the pinnacle of the European research system. According to Enterprise Ireland, all projects tackle societal challenges while enabling enterprise development and are a testament to the world class research that is being carried out in Ireland and to the robust research infrastructure that has been built in Ireland over recent years. The 12 PI’s who received awards at Ireland’s Champions of EU Research Forum in Dublin on July 18th were; Prof. Martin O’Donnell, Dr Martin O’Halloran, Prof. Abhay Pandit, Prof. Tim O’Brien, Dr Dimitrios Zeugolis, Prof. Afshin Samali, Prof. Garry Duffy, Prof. Frank Barry and Dr Mary Murphy from NUI Galway, and Prof. Fergal O’Brien from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Dr Daniel Kelly from Trinity College Dublin and Prof. Madeleine Lowry from University College Dublin. The award ceremony was attended by John Halligan TD, Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, and by Julie Sinnamon, CEO of Enterprise Ireland. Thee event was hosted by Enterprise Ireland on behalf of Ireland’s National Support Network for Horizon 2020. Full list of champions is available here.
Thursday, 13 July 2017
Science Foundation Ireland has partnered with the National Science Foundation (NSF) on a collaborative framework called I-Corps@SFI to allow participation of SFI-funded researchers in the NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Programme. The SFI/NSF I-Corps@SFI Entrepreneurial Training Programme is intended to support SFI funded researchers to develop entrepreneurial skills that will enable them to realise new opportunities for their research that will, in turn, lead to economic and societal impact. The SFI/NSF I-Corps@SFI Entrepreneurial Training Programme comprises an intensive 3-day bootcamp undertaken at an NSF I-Corps affiliated location in the United States, followed by an immersive 6-week period of opportunity discovery/validation, during which teams are mentored by NSF I-Corps trainers On July 10th 2017 a team from CÚRAM at NUI Galway travelled to Chicago to commence their training programme. The team consisted of Dr. Neil Ferguson, Industry Programme Manager, CÚRAM, Dr. Martin O'Halloran, Investigator in CÚRAM and Director of the Translational Medical Device Lab and Atif Shadzad , Post Doctoral Researcher with Dr. O'Halloran. Further information on the programme is available on the SFI website here or the NSF website here
Wednesday, 5 July 2017
MMI is supporting CÚRAM, the Centre for Research in Medical Devices, in its mission to translate research to the clinic and in development and delivery of the centre’s education and training programme. This partnership is formalised through the SFI funded project entitled: ” Developing Key Structures and Resources to Support Medical Device Clinical Research in Ireland “. As part of this project MMI is assessing the impact of the Medical Device Directive revisions for key stakeholders in the Irish MedTech community. Medical Writing; Volume 26, Issue 2 (Medical Devices)New EU medical device regulations: Impact on the MedTech sectorAuthors: Robert Behan, Abhay Pandit, Mark Watson Regulation plays a fundamental role in the translation of innovative medical devices from concept to clinical application and ensures that only devices that exhibit the highest standards of safety and quality are released onto the EU Single Market for sale and clinical use. The impending introduction of a revised Medical Device Regulatory Framework in the EU will require an assessment of how stakeholders in the MedTech sector will be affected. Understanding the impact will be essential for maintaining compliance in the changing regulatory environment as well as for promoting commercial competitiveness and facilitating early access to innovative medical device technologies. In Ireland, a national initiative has been launched to centralise expertise on the regulatory requirements for medical devices in the EU and to analyse how the new medical device regulations will affect requirements for medical device clinical investigations and commercialisation of medical device technologies. http://journal.emwa.org/medical-devices/new-eu-medical-device-regulations-impact-on-the-medtech-sector/ Further information on MMI / CÚRAM Partnership at https://www.crdi.ie/research/curam/
Thursday, 22 June 2017
As published in Silicon Republic, https://www.siliconrepublic.com/machines/curam-galway-medtech-centre June 22nd 2017 The Cúram medical devices research centre at NUI Galway has big plans for the future, after securing €22m in EU funding within 10 months of opening. The life sciences sector in Ireland is the place to be, it seems, with biopharmaceutical giants firmly ensconced within the Irish economy, both as a producer and exporter of a variety of drugs. In fact, one of those companies, APC Technologies, has gone so far as to describe Ireland as a ‘phenomenal place’ to be right now. But behind the world of biopharma is another exciting field where medicine and machines combine to create devices capable of these medications in a variety of ways. It is just a matter of trying to find new, interesting and more efficient means to create devices that can, say, help diabetes patients monitor their blood sugar levels with unprecedented accuracy. One such research centre is Cúram at NUI Galway (NUIG), located in a region that has established itself as a life sciences hub over the past few decades. Opened as recently as September, the €68m centre for medical devices research has 24 industry partners and works with six of Ireland’s largest universities. Internationally, this expands to 403 collaborators and, in just a matter of 10 months, the centre has accumulated €22m in EU funding under various research projects, nine of which it is leading. “The money invested in Cúram is pretty close to be repaid from exchequer and non-exchequer funding,” Cúram director Prof Abhay Pandit told Siliconrepublic.com. Island mentality “We also have collaborations in the US with National Science Foundation (NSF) centres like the metallic biomaterials centre in North Carolina, where we have an NSF and SFI [Science Foundation Ireland] joint project, which has just commenced. “Although Ireland is an island, we don’t have an island mentality because we can’t.” The Galway effect can’t be denied, Pandit added, noting that there are 25,000 people employed within the medtech sector in Ireland, a third of whom are based in the county. “The population of Galway is around 250,000 people so, when you walk on the streets of the city, maybe nearly every tenth person is going to be in the medical devices sector,” he said, with a sense of pride. What a difference 14 years make Pandit has been closely involved with the Irish life sciences sector since he moved here back in 2003 and, in that time, he has seen the country go through some major changes, economically and culturally. Within medtech however, he has seen only an upward trend, despite the 2008 crash. “When I moved to Ireland in 2003, there were only two medical start-up companies in Galway – now we have 20,” he said. One area that Pandit and Cúram will be particularly focused on is chronic diseases. Other growing sectors include tissue engineering, intermediary medicine and neuromodulation. “We don’t have a big critical mass yet [within minimally invasive devices] but we would like to be in that space,” he said, “but we should be there because that’s where the sector is moving.” Growth of IoT in medtech One thing becoming more apparent, however, is the need for all medtech device manufacturers to embrace the potential of the internet of things (IoT). Even now, tech giants such as IBM are using machine learning platforms such as Watson to gather medical data to cure disease, while Apple is collecting health data from iPhones and other devices. With this in mind, other makers need to step up to the mark to allow their devices to be better utilised, for both the patient and the doctor. Where Cúram comes in, Pandit said, is to try to find where the sector is lacking, in order to make a splash in an otherwise competitive space. “[IoT] is a highly competitive space and industry is very interested in it,” he said. “It is going to be a hot area in the future and we are going to be a part of it, but we’re going to need to find a niche to be competitive within it.” Cúram has already undergone collaborations with its sister centre, Insight, on a number of projects. “The process [of setting up Cúram] has been quite exciting and there has been a lot of interest,” Pandit concluded. “It is now a matter of moving that research chain along in terms of what the next generation of products are out there that we could develop.”
Tuesday, 14 February 2017
Dr Manus Biggs lab at CÚRAM has recently acquired a new Photonic Professional GT printer ‘Nanoscribe’ that provides submicrometer features with easy and fast fabrication along the 3D printing workflow. This next generation 3D laser lithography system combines two writing modes in one device: an ultra-precise piezo mode for arbitrary 3D trajectories and the high-speed galvo mode for fastest structuring in a layer-by-layer fashion. The system offers a high degree of automation for direct manufacturing and allows for the fabrication of high-resolution photo masks and other direct write applications. “This technology allows the development of devices and structures with sub-cellular dimensions and has the potential for impact in a number of projects that are ongoing at CÚRAM” says Dr Biggs, who has established a research programme in nanofabrication of electrically active biomaterials within CÚRAM. His research integrates material science, electronic engineering, top-down nanofabrication techniques and biological functionalization strategies in developing next generation biomaterials platforms. Currently Dr Biggs is applying nanofabrication techniques to novel classes of electrically conducting polymers to enhance integration of implanted neuroelectrodes or promote functionality of the brain-computer interface. Nanoscribe is the highest resolution commercially available micro 3D printer and provides CÚRAM’s researchers with the technology to manufacturenano-structures with a wide variety of uses, from diagnostics, to bio sensors and 3D scaffolds.
Wednesday, 30 November 2016
CÚRAM have teamed up with US based medical device startup Acuitive Technologies to work on an exciting biomaterial that has the potential to become a paradigm changing material for numerous musculoskeletal applications. The project is titled “The MSC intracellular signalling response to bioactive citric acid composite soft-tissue anchors”. This project will explore the role of citrate-based resorbable polymers in inducing differential cell function and in promoting the activation specific regenerative pathways. Acuitive Technologies, Inc. was founded in 2013 by a highly experienced management team that is devoted to pursuing material technologies improving medical device performance and patient outcomes. Increasing patient activity levels and extended lifespans have heightened the demand for advanced orthopedic implant technology. ATI’s focused approach on implant device innovation is aimed at improving the integration between the body's host tissue systems and such medical devices. Using technologies, evolutionary designs, and effective partnerships, ATI intends to preserve and or regenerate normal host tissue. Citrate polymer is a novel platform technology based on citric acid as the building block material. Citric acid is commonly used in anti-infective, anti-viral and anti-bacterial products. It is also an integral part of human bone (approximate 5%) so that when it is modified by other selected functional molecules, the citrate polymer may mediate bone growth, promote osteo-conductivity, facilitate osteo-inductivity and stimulate local angiogenesis. Furthermore, this citrate polymer can be engineered to be fully resorbed in a time-phased surface erosion process with low chronic response leaving behind chemical by-products mimicking natural host tissue composition. The lead investigator on this project Manus Biggs, aims to use his expertise in investigating the formulation and fabrication of a regenerative bone-ligament anchor through functional citrate-based resorbable polymers. Yury Rochev will be collaborating on the project. According to James Malayter, Cofounder and Chief Technical Officer of Acuitive, this project is relevant because it represents an opportunity to both improve consistency in clinical results and to lower overall health care costs. Previous bioresorbables essentially act as spacers in bone that degrade in a more unpredictable fashion in the hope that bone will heal into the degraded space. Citrate polymer shows promise in being more biocompatible in its degradation and more bioactive, which could result in faster healing with fewer complications of inflammation currently experienced using previous generations of biodegradables. Ultimately, citrate polymer may be able to supplant many metal appliances, and this could dramatically reduce costs of removal surgeries and their complications. Creating outcomes and cost efficiencies becomes a valuable asset in our current and future healthcare environment.
Friday, 14 October 2016
On October 14th we launched the CÚRAM MedTech Minds Industry Breakfast Series. The event held in the Meyrick Hotel, was officially launched by Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs and Natural Resources, Seán Kyne T.D. Minister Kyne spoke on the importance of MedTech to our local and national economy and the important role that CÚRAM will play in growing the MedTech ecosystem. Will your project still have value if it takes twice as long and is half as good? The distinguished speaker of the event was Arthur Rosenthal. Arthur has filled senior research and product development executive roles for medical technology companies for over 40 years. He has successfully directed commercialization efforts for hundreds of novel medical products. Being the first speaker in the series it was appropriate that Arthur’s talk was titled “A Real World Perspective of Medical Device Development”. The presentation comprised of three components: Understanding of Successful Commercial Products and Industry Dynamics, Understanding the Nature of Unsolved Problems and Understanding Funding Preferences. Arthur kicked off with an Overview of the Global MedTech landscape which featured insightful M&A Analysis provided by Piper Jaffray. Art went on to highlight the technologies that have been of most interest to the large multinationals and the importance for startups and small SMEs to follow the money. He then went on to discuss the possible way forward and provided a nice overview of quality of life outcomes and explained that universal problems remain development targets. He concluded with a reality check "No Dough, No Go" and the importance for entrepreneurs to ask “Will your project still have value if it takes twice as long and is half as good” More about Arthur: A former Chief Scientific Officer of Boston Scientific from January, 1994 to January, 2005 and VP Vice President of Research and Development at Johnson and Johnson Medical Products, Inc. from April, 1990 to January, 1994 and more recently Chief Executive Officer of two start-up companies, Labcoat, Ltd. and Cappella, Inc., both developing cardiovascular medical devices. He has been a Professor of Practice in Translational Research in Boston University's College of Engineering since January 2010, where he oversees biomedical engineering innovation. Arthur serves on the CÚRAM Industry Advisor Board .
Friday, 2 September 2016
On September 2nd 2016, the first ever CÚRAM Researcher Orientation Day took place at NUI Galway. Overall, 36 CÚRAM-funded researchers (post-graduate students, post-doctoral researchers and research associates) from all partner universities attended the event. Orientation day also saw the formation of our researcher committees. Emmanouil Kasotakis has taken on the role of Chairperson of The CÚRAM Post-doctoral Council. This council aims to strengthen the career prospects of our senior researchers. The post-graduate students also formed a committee – The CÚRAM Young Researcher Leadership Council. This council aims to increase the communication between post-graduate researchers and to build up a strong and supportive community. The Young Researcher Leadership Council will be organizing a student-led event to coincide with the Annual Retreat in 2017. In the afternoon, we were delighted to have Prof. Brian Trench, science communication guru, speak to us on the topic of “Telling Your Story, Communicating Your Research”. Here, Prof. Trench explored the reasons and methods for taking on public engagement as an opportunity rather than a burden. We had great feedback from members of the ~100-strong audience coming from the schools of science, medicine & engineering at NUI Galway, as well as CÚRAM-funded researchers from across Ireland. Many thanks to Prof. Trench for a really insightful and stimulating presentation which provoked a very interesting discussion!
Wednesday, 22 June 2016
Dr Dimitrios Zeugolis recently hosted the very successful ‘Ireland - Japan Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering Meeting’ on June 22nd and 23rdin the Hotel Meyrick, Galway. The meeting was opened by Dr. Jim Browne, President of National University of Ireland Galway and Her Excellency Ms Mari Miyoshi, the Ambassador of Japan to Ireland. In attendance was Professor Nobuo Ueno, Director of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science London and Dr Dara Dunican from Science Foundation Ireland. The Conference was held as part of the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) International Strategic Cooperation Award (ISCA) Japan programme, which aims to strengthen and improve relationships between researchers in Ireland and Japan. Seven Japanese scientists with expertise in functional biomaterials, tissue engineering, nanotechnology and stem cell technology presented at the conference. They represented prestigious Japanese institutions including the University of Tokyo, Kyoto University and RIKEN. These were complemented by presentations from leading researchers from NUI Galway and other Irish institutions.
Tuesday, 31 May 2016
The first CÚRAM Annual Scientific Retreat took place on May 31st and June 1st in Kilronan Castle, Ballyfarnon, Co. Roscommon. The two-day event saw CÚRAM researchers presenting their work in front of the CÚRAM Scientific Advisory Board. It was an excellent opportunity for exchanges and discussion with CÚRAMs Scientific Advisory Board and keynote speakers including Mr Kevin Bennet, Mayo Clinic, William Wijns, Cardiovascular Center Aalst, Andreas Lendlein, Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht, Fijs van Leeuwen, Leiden University Medical Centre. Academic showcases were presented by Jeremy Simpson, Conway Institute, University College Dublin, Caitriona O’Driscoll from the School of Pharmacy, University College Cork, Madeleine Lowery, School of Electrical, Electronic and Communications Engineering, University College Dublin, Gearóid Ó Laighin from Electronic Engineering, NUI Galway and Martin O’Donnell from the HRB Clinical Research Facility at NUI Galway. Students who presented over the two days included Marc Fernández, Paolo Contessotto, Aniket Kshirsagar, Maura Tilbury, Vivien Stuettgen, Aitor Larrañaga, Séamus Caulfield, Sarah Jarrin, Jared Gerlach, Ivor Geoghegan, Adam Raymakers and Brendan Dolan Entrepreneurial and industry showcases were presented by Mr Ronan Byrne, Entrepreneur and former CEO of ClearSight Innovations and Mr Ronan Rodgers, Director of Research and Development at Medtronic, Galway. A highlight of the retreat on the first evening were the Science Soundbytes presentations by Juhi Samal, Isma Liza Mohd Isa, Ivor Geoghegan and Dilip Thomas followed by a researcher-led Panel Discussion with the Scientific Advisory Board.
Wednesday, 2 December 2015
A collection of work resulting from our artists in residence programme CHIMERA is currently on display at the Galway City Museum and runs until 31st December 2015. The Chimera Art and Science Programme has seen both artists work alongside CÚRAM researchers, with full access to its laboratory facilities for the past six months, with the aim of investigating the meeting point of art and science. The programme is funded by the Science Foundation Ireland Discover Programme which aims to support and develop Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) education and the public engagement sector in Ireland. Opening hours at the museum are from 10am-5pm Tuesday to Saturday. Admission is free.