Thursday, 19 November 2020

A new collaboration between researchers at CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre based at NUI Galway and Industry partner Aerogen, a world leader in high-performance aerosol drug delivery, has recently gotten underway. The project, costing over €400,000, is focused on optimising the Aerogen Solo nebulizer for the delivery of Heparin into the lung of patients with COVID-19 induced Acute Respiratory Failure (ARDS). Heparin is a compound that occurs in the body, which prevents blood clotting. The project will run until September 2021 and clinical patient trials are due to commence in December 2020. Led by Professor John Laffey at CÚRAM, NUI Galway and Dr Ronan MacLoughlin at Aerogen, the project will determine the safety, efficacy and mechanisms of action of nebulized heparin in COVID-19 induced Acute Respiratory Failure. The Aerogen Solo converts the liquid drug into a nebulised mist of consistently sized droplets that enable medication to get deep into the patients’ lung. Recommended by multiple international COVID-19 guidance documents, Aerogen is the only globally available closed circuit aerosol drug delivery system that mitigates the transmission of patient generated infectious aerosol and delivers effective aerosol treatment. Professor John Laffey, Professor of Intensive Care Medicine at NUI Galway, Consultant in Intensive Care Medicine, Galway University Hospitals and CÚRAM Investigator, said: “Disordered clotting in the lungs is a feature of COVID-19 induced ARDS. Heparin has specific potential benefits in COVID infection. It inactivates the SARSCoV-2 virus and prevents its entry into mammalian cells and appears likely to have a beneficial effect in these patients too, provided it can be safely and effectively delivered to the lungs.” Standard treatment to reduce the risk of the formation of blood clots in the lungs can have substantial associated risks and side effects, such as major haemorrhage and intracerebral haemorrhage. Nebulising heparin directly into the lung may improve the clotting disorder seen in COVID-19 induced severe respiratory failure, while potentially reducing the risk of serious side effects seen when heparin is given by traditional routes. Effective heparin delivery is critically dependent on the efficiency of the nebulizer, and the deposition patterns produced by that device suggests it can deliver effective quantities of heparin directly to the areas of the lung where the disordered clotting is seen. A recent study completed with 256 mechanically ventilated patients with or at risk of developing ARDS showed that nebulized heparin delivered by the Aerogen Solo device,reduced the development of ARDS and increased the number of surviving patients discharged home at day 60. Dr Ronan MacLoughlin, Senior Science Manager at Aerogen, said: “Not all nebuliser technologies are created equal, and here we are looking forward to bringing the inherent safety and performance advantages of Aerogen’s devices to bear in this important program. With the current focus on new and repurposed therapies for ARDS and COVID ARDS, it has never been more important to ensure that these therapies are screened effectively whilst ensuring that they are challenged robustly.” Dr McLoughlin added: “In this project, we are looking at repurposing an existing drug with proven potential, but ensuring that enough is delivered to the patient, all whilst keeping the clinical team safe. Aerogen’s closed circuit nebulisers do not require circuit breaks during mechanical ventilation, and have been shown to deliver the highest levels of therapies to the ventilated patient’s lung and our aim is to ensure that this combination of drug and device provide maximum benefit, under the most critical conditions. “Building on long standing collaborations with both the team in CURAM, and Professor Laffey, we look forward to advancing the state of the art in what have become some of the highest burden respiratory diseases, and provide a roadmap for future programs looking to optimise and exploit the advantages of aerosol-mediated drug delivery to the lung, with a focus on the critical care setting.” This is the third collaboration between CÚRAM and Aerogen. Earlier collaborations focusing on understanding the fluid mechanics of droplets and exploring enhancing the delivery of existing small molecule therapeutics worth over €1 million have resulted in  a significant number of co-publications with Aerogen that have being highly cited. CÚRAM researchers on these collaborations have gained relevant industry training, improved scientific and technical skills and have gone on to secure roles in industry. For more information about the research project contact Claire Riordan, Public Engagement Manager, CÚRAM at claire.riordan@nuigalway.ie or Ciara Power, Global Customer Marketing Manager, Aerogen at cpower@aerogen.com. -Ends-

Monday, 16 November 2020

Hand-held, battery-operated device will carry out rapid detection of the virus using a laser in approximately 15 minutes Device will also test for antibodies to the virus in human samples Device could carry out rapid on-site tests in airports, workplaces and schools Test can be administered by anyone, without medical or scientific training Researchers from NUI Galway and the University of Wyoming have received a grant of €199,720 from the Health Research Board to develop a handheld device for rapid detection of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The device, which they aim to have available early next year, will also test for antibodies to the virus in human samples. The test device is already being sold and the research team are currently developing a COVID test to work with it in order to produce and distribute large quantities within a short period of time. The rapid test will be capable of being administered by anyone, such as airport officials or school principals. Professor Gerard Wall, of Microbiology, College of Science and Engineering and SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices (CÚRAM) at NUI Galway, is leading the research along with Professors Patrick Johnson and Karen Wawrousek from the University of Wyoming’s Department of Chemical Engineering. Professor Wall will employ a laboratory-based technique that mimics the human immune response “in vitro”, or in a test tube, to produce antibody fragments for use in the detection of the virus. The antibody fragments will enable high sensitivity and reproducibility of the device, and can be produced in large quantities in bacterial cells. Professors Johnson and Wawrousek will attach the antibody fragments to nanoparticles for incorporation into a hand-held, battery-operated device that will carry out rapid detection of the virus using a laser, in approximately 15 minutes. Professor Gerard Wall, NUI Galway, said: “Rapid detection of the virus on-site will allow potentially infectious people to be identified so that decisions on isolation and treatment can be made immediately. There are clear applications for this type of device in airports, workplaces or schools, among other locations.” Professor Patrick Johnson, University of Wyoming, said: “Our test will have higher sensitivity than other rapid tests and will not require any sample preparation. The idea is to have an accurate, portable, on-site test with results within 15-20 minutes. This will allow rapid answers while the person is still present, enabling immediate intervention and treatment.” Samples can be collected from saliva, nasal swab or blood. The samples will then be placed in glass vials and inserted into hand-held instruments, called Raman spectrometers, for analysis. The project team plans to use Raman spectrometers developed by entrepreneur Keith Carron, CEO of Metrohm Raman in Laramie, Wyoming and will work with Noah Hull, Microbiology Laboratories manager at the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory to validate the assay against known positive and negative samples. -Ends-

Tuesday, 10 November 2020

CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Medical Devices based in NUI Galway, together with the Galway Arts Office will launch a new community art science project in Ballybane this week. Images by the commissioned artist, Karen Conway, will be projected onto the Castle, John Paul Campus of the Brothers of Charity, Castlepark Road, Ballybane, between 9pm and 10pm on November 14th. Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director at CÚRAM, says: “The Artist in Residence programme at CÚRAM provides a wonderful opportunity for our researchers to work with new audiences through the medium of art. It exemplifies CÚRAM’s commitment to developing relationships with the community through art and science, and we welcome the opportunity to display Karen’s work in this captivating way.” Award winning artist, Karen Conway, was selected in 2019 to create the CÚRAM community art science commission for the east side communities of Ballybane and Doughiska. Karen worked closely with CÚRAM researchers Dr Pau Redon Lurbe, a member of Professor William Wijns research team, on the area of cardiovascular research. Professor Wijns is an expert in cardiology and is leading a research project, which will develop wearable sensors to alert patients at high risk of heart attacks to triggers such as stress or high blood pressure. In addition to cardiovascular research, Conway also looked at routine laboratory techniques with Dr Jill McMahon and Dr Olena Kudina in the CÚRAM laboratories where she completed extensive photographic research. Artist Karen Conway says: “It was a wonderful opportunity to work with all the CÚRAM/NUI scientists in the laboratories and learn about their research. This enabled me to promote their scientific work through engagement with the local communities of Galway's Eastside. It was especially inspiring to explore this Art/Science connection through engagement with all the amazing students of Merlin College, with the young people in the Ard Centre, Doughiska and all the children who attended the Ballybane Library workshop”. Karen has created a series of drawings using pencil and ink inspired by her work with CÚRAM researchers and members of the communities of Ballybane and Doughiska. The theme of active travel for heart health was incorporated into the work following a meeting with a community liaison panel made up of community representatives. CÚRAM will also project the community art science project AfterImage at the Westside and both projects will be projected at the Spanish Arch Galway on November 14th. Timings are as follows: · 6-7pm - North Galway CAMHS, Ballard House, Bothar le Cheile, Westside, Galway- Cleary Connolly’s After Image project · 7.30 – 8.30 – Comerford House, Spanish Arch – Karen Conway and Cleary Connolly · 9pm – 10pm – Castle, John Paul Campus of the Brothers of Charily, Castlepark Road, Ballybane A film documenting Karen Conway’s Pressure project will be released in November on our website, https://curamdevicesengage.ie CÚRAM’s public engagement programme ‘Breaking Barriers’ supports the Science Foundation Ireland goal of having the most engaged and scientifically informed public. Due to the COVID-19 situation, the three permanent pieces will be installed in Ballybane Library, the Ard Family Resource Centre, and Merlin College School later in 2020/21. The full exhibition of work, ‘Pressure’ can be viewed here https://karenconway.work/#/pressure/ For more information, please contact Andrea Fitzpatrick, andrea.fitzpatrick@nuigalway.ie

Monday, 9 November 2020

Boston Scientific are collaborating with CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices, based at NUI Galway, on their innovative Teachers in Residence Programme for 2020-2021. This is the fifth year of the residency, during which teachers work directly with world-leading researchers over six months to learn about medical device research at CÚRAM and create practical lesson plans and activities for both primary and secondary school classrooms, based on cutting edge Irish research. Teachers from all disciplines are invited to participate, in support of encouraging multidisciplinary approaches to teaching science. “We are delighted to be able to collaborate with Boston Scientific on this programme. Having them on board adds significant value for our teachers and gives them an opportunity to get an even broader perspective on the MedTech Industry and the opportunities that are there for their students” say Dr Sarah Gundy, Teachers in Residence Programme Manager at CÚRAM. Boston Scientific is dedicated to transforming lives through innovative medical solutions that improve the health of patients around the world and is one of CÚRAM’s long term Industry partners. At present Boston Scientific and CÚRAM’s researchers are working together on research into cardiovascular disease. “It’s a pleasure to have the opportunity to talk about the medical device design collaborations that exist with CÚRAM and Boston Scientific. Similarly so, we look forward to discussing in this forum some of the diverse technical and social aspects of working within Boston Scientific and the Medtech industry in general” – Fergal Horgan, R&D Manager, Boston Scientific. This year’s Teachers in Residence programme kicked off in October and will provide and develop resources to help teachers overcome the extra challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year's programme will use a blended learning approach with online sessions held twice a month, from 7pm to 8pm until March 2021. Teachers will receive 10 ECTS through the NUI Galway's Centre for Adult Learning and Professional Development fully funded by CÚRAM. CÚRAM’s public engagement programme ‘Breaking Barriers’ supports the Science Foundation Ireland goal of having the most engaged and scientifically informed public. For more information about the programme, please contact Dr Sarah Gundy at sarah.gundy@nuigalway.ie ENDS

Monday, 2 November 2020

A new film festival – Science on Screen Film Festival Ireland – runs from this Thursday November 5th to Sunday November 8th. The festival, hosted by CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices based at NUI Galway and Galway Film Centre, will show the best of science films – shorts and features - from around the world and will include a world premiere, a European premiere and lots of Irish premieres. Films that will take you to interstellar space, and across the Atlantic from fishing villages in Scandinavia to Nova Scotia and to scientific bases in the Antarctic - this festival offers the perfect opportunity to enjoy great stories from the comfort of your home. The festival will take place online and all events are free, but tickets are limited and registration is necessary to reserve your seat. The festival began as in an idea in 2016, when CÚRAM and Galway Film Centre partnered to create the Science on Screen film fund with support from the Science Foundation Ireland Discover Programme. After a national call-out to filmmakers, this led to the production of two documentaries – Feats of Modest Valour, directed and produced by Mia Mullarkey and Alice McDowell of Ishka Films, which follows three individuals with Parkinsons and the scientists working to find a cure, and Mending Legends, directed by Paul Webster and produced by James Ryan of Station House Media, which looks at the impact of tendon injury on sports people and research to create the world’s first 3D cell-assembled tendon prototype. These films travelled the world and achieved broadcast on RTÉ and TG4, as well as winning many awards. Feats of Modest Valour will screen on Sunday November 8th at 4.00pm and Mending Legends will screen at 2pm on Friday November 7th. Since the scheme began in 2016, three more documentaries have been produced funded principally by CÚRAM. Bittersweet, directed by Hugh Rodgers and produced by Anna Rodgers and Zlata Filipovic of Invisible Thread Films and screening Saturday November 7th at 5pm, follows the personal stories of young people who are living with diabetes and their daily struggle to manage it. It also follows the work that CÚRAM have been doing in treating diabetes. A Tiny Spark, produced in 2018 by Caroline Kealy of Swansong Films and directed by Niamh Heery, examines the effect of cerebrovascular illness and stroke on people’s lives and specifically looks at research into the blood clots that cause stroke. This film screens on Friday November 6th at 5pm. Most recently, The Patient Effect which was produced by Alice McDowell and directed by Mia Mullarkey, and funded by the Health Research Board in collaboration with the Health Research Board Primary Care Clinical Trials Network and PPI Ignite at NUI Galway, tells the story of public and patient involvement in research – how tapping into the lived experience of patients, their families and carers, has the potential to hugely enhance the quality and relevance of health and medical research. This will screen Saturday November 7th at 2pm. The festival has three short film programmes which will be a great opportunity to get bite-sized stories from around the world. Two of the programmes are in partnership with the Imagine Science Film Festival in New York and will include ‘I am a Mobile Element’ which is a conversation with recent Nobel prize winner, Emanuelle Charpentier. There is also an ‘In Competition’ programme which has 7 short films shortlisted for the Judges’ Award. These films from Canada, Finland, India, the US and Ireland cover stories such as that of Dr Andrew Rynne, Ireland’s first Vasectomy doctor and the day someone walked into his surgery with a rifle, the rewilding of a city river in Vancouver and the search for a vaccine for rubella using fetal cells. There are 5 fantastic features on show including two recent Irish success stories. The Farthest, the Emmy-winning documentary by Emer Reynolds, is a witty and fascinating film which documents the story of Voyager 1 and 2, heralded as one of humankind’s biggest achievments to date, and resulted in the first manmade object reaching interstellar space. This beautiful film will have viewers on the edge of their seats and space as it traverses from Jupiter to Uranus and beyond. Atlantic, the multi- award winning documentary, by Risteard Ó’ Domhnaill, is cinematic storytelling at its finest and looks at the story of three fishing communities from Scandinavia to Ireland to Nova Scotia, as they struggle to survive in the face of big business. Narrated by Brendan Gleeson, it shows our most valuable natural resource, the ocean, in all its glory and vulnerability. The opening feature is the Irish premiere of Picture a Scientist, the new US documentary, directed by Ian Cheney and Sharon Shattuck, chronicling the groundswell of researchers who are writing a new chapter for women scientists. Biologist Nancy Hopkins, chemist Raychelle Burks, and geologist Jane Willenbring lead viewers on a journey deep into their own experiences in the sciences, ranging from brutal harassment to years of subtle slights. Along the way, from cramped laboratories to spectacular field stations, we encounter scientific luminaries - including social scientists, neuroscientists, and psychologists - who provide new perspectives on how to make science itself more diverse, equitable, and open to all. The festival also includes a new feature from Luxembourg, Tune Into the Future, directed by Eric Schockmel. The colourful film shines the spotlight on the forgotten and often misunderstood man, Hugo Gernsback, who invented the term ‘science-fiction’ and some say lay the foundations for social networks. His goal was to inspire and to stimulate young minds into speculating about how science would shape our future and to come up with tomorrow's new inventions. Lastly, ‘The Inventor; Out for Blood in Silicon Valley’, directed by Oscar-winning director, Alex Gibney, tells the fascinating story of Elizabeth Holmes, once touted as ‘the next Steve Jobs’ and who was the founder of the one-time multibillion-dollar healthcare company, Theranos which subsequently collapsed as a massive fraud. The festival will also include many Q & A’s and live panel discussions, all streamed to the Science on Screen Film Festival Ireland Facebook page. Topics covered will include – Diversity and Participation in STEM and Ireland as an Island of Storytellers and Scientists. The Science on Screen Festival Ireland will be an annual event and is part of the public engagement programme at CÚRAM which supports the Science Foundation Ireland objective of having the most engaged and scientifically informed public. Find out more at www.scienceonscreen.ie It runs from November 5th to 8th and all events are free but registration is necessary as tickets are limited. Twitter: @screenscience Facebook: Science on Screen Film Festival Ireland

Tuesday, 27 October 2020

A recent study from researchers at CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Medical Devices at NUI Galway, explores the use of optogenetics as a method to relieve chronic pain. Optogenetics uses genetically-encoded proteins that change position and shape in the presence of light to turn brain cells on or off.   Pain is comprised of both sensory (physical intensity) and affective (emotional distress) components. A part of the brain involved in the emotional component of pain is called the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). Dr Sarah Jarrin, CÚRAM, NUI Galway and first author of the paper, said: “There is significant overlap in the neural circuitry of pain and anxiety in our brains. Sensory pain is our body’s natural alarm system, it is an important mechanism that alerts us to injury and danger. So rather than turning off that alarm system, we are targeting the distress component of pain, a promising target for chronic pain relief that is not addressed by current treatments. “The technique of optogenetics is opening up lots of possibilities for further neuroscience research. With the use of light-activated proteins called opsins, optogenetics allows us to switch on or off a selective population of neurons that control this affective component of pain.” The study, funded by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), focused on the two components of pain (physical and emotional), the distinct roles they play in the pain experience, and how they can often influence one another. Chronic pain and anxiety frequently go hand in hand. People with chronic pain are also more likely to have anxiety and depression than the general population. The research looked specifically at the role of glutamatergic neurons of the ACC (glutamatergic neurons release the chemical transmitter glutamate, responsible for signalling between nerve cells) and changes in a protein marker of neuronal activity, known as c-Fos, in the ACC. The study was able to show that when the glutamatergic neurons in the ACC were silenced, it is possible to abolish the aversion to pain without affecting the sensory component of pain. The study also showed that optogenetic activation of glutamatergic neurons of the ACC has a differential effect in males and females in terms of pain response. Dr Jarrin added: “The inclusion of both sexes in pain studies is critical, because of differences in pain that have been observed between the sexes. Little is known about differences in the regulation of the physical and emotional components of pain in the male and female brain. Studies have found differences in the functional connectivity between the ACC and other brain regions of important regulating pain in males and females, which may account for differences in the effect of optogenetic treatment." Being able to target the emotional component of pain specifically could be therapeutically beneficial for patients with chronic pain, however further research to better understand the neural circuitry is required to develop these improved treatments. Professor David Finn, Co-Director of NUI Galway’s Centre for Pain Research and principal investigator on the published study, said: “We are excited to publish these interesting data which advance our understanding of how the brain regulates pain, and how this may differ between males and females.” The study was carried out as part of Dr Sarah Jarrin’s PhD project, jointly supervised by Dr David Finn, Dr Michelle Roche and Dr Abhay Pandit at NUI Galway. -Ends-

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Ireland’s first science film festival asks audiences to ‘Join the conversation’ in a time when the public rely heavily on accurate and sensitive scientific facts and research Wednesday, 21 October, 2020: Today marks the official launch of the ‘Science on Screen Film Festival Ireland’ an exciting new annual Irish Film Festival, running from the 5-8 November 2020 online. The free online Festival will showcase the best of science in film and this year incorporates themes of representation and diversity in science and the value of art-science collaborations. The Festival tagline, ‘Join the conversation’ invites audiences of all types to immerse themselves in scientific storytelling, hear from filmmakers and researchers on critical topics such as climate change and health research, and take the opportunity to question leading scientists on cutting-edge research. The Festival is hosted by CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices, and Galway Film Centre who established the successful Science on Screen scheme in 2016. The Festival programme will be announced at the end of October 2020 and will include science themed feature films and short film programmes, as well as all of the original Science on Screen documentaries. These documentaries tell the stories of patients living with chronic conditions like Parkinson’s, diabetes and stroke recovery and the Irish researchers working to improve their quality of life. Over 200 primary school children from around Ireland have submitted their questions for the ‘Ask A Scientist’ panel session, to be broadcast online on Friday, 6 November at 11am, following a selection of three minute science films created by school children for ReelLIFE SCIENCE’s programme in recent years. The Ask A Scientist session will be chaired by two sixth class students from Gaelscoil Riabhach in Loughrea, Co Galway, who will put the questions to a panel of three top researchers in biological, engineering and environmental sciences. The opening feature for the Science on Screen Film Festival, called ‘Picture a Scientist’ will be hosted as part of the Science Foundation Ireland Annual Summit. Picture a Scientist chronicles the groundswell of researchers who are writing a new chapter for women scientists. Biologist Nancy Hopkins, chemist Raychelle Burks, and geologist Jane Willenbring lead viewers on a journey deep into their own experiences in the sciences, ranging from brutal harassment to years of subtle slights. Along the way, from cramped laboratories to spectacular field stations, we encounter scientific luminaries - including social scientists, neuroscientists, and psychologists - who provide new perspectives on how to make science itself more diverse, equitable, and open to all. The film will be followed by a panel discussion on representation and diversity in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM). Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director, CÚRAM, NUI Galway, said: “We are very proud to be launching the first Science on Screen Film Festival this year. Ireland really is a nation of scientists and storytellers, something that has been illustrated particularly well through the award winning documentaries produced through the Science on Screen programme in recent years. CÚRAM’s public engagement programme aims to provide easy opportunities for the public to ‘join the conversation’ about Irish research and the role of science in society generally. This year the programme will focus on themes of representation, diversity and public trust in science, as well as looking at ideas and opportunities for greater collaboration between science and the arts to create better access to and awareness of research that impacts us all.” Alan Duggan, Manager, Galway Film Centre, said: “We are delighted to be launching Ireland’s first Science Film Festival in partnership with CÚRAM. Building on the success of the Science on Screen documentaries, which have reached an audience of over one million worldwide, the festival will showcase the engaging and thought provoking content that is born from collaboration between our industries. In a time when our reliance on the accurate and sensitive portrayal of scientific facts and research is more important than ever, there is no better moment to ask audiences to join the conversation.” Dr Ruth Freeman, Director of Science for Society, Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), said: “SFI has been developing initiatives to improve the participation of women in STEM careers for some time, as well as funding projects that can help to ensure inclusivity and a diversity of voices in STEM research. There is still much collective work to be done however, to address bias, harassment and the lack of opportunity, diversity and equality for underrepresented groups, such as people of colour, those with disabilities, migrants, those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and the LGBTQ+ community. “I am particularly pleased to see the Science on Screen Festival promote the ‘Join the conversation’ hashtag, as it is only through multiway dialogue, and by actively listening to those impacted, that we can really improve institutional and toxic workplace culture. The ‘Picture a Scientist’ film is a powerful example of courageous individuals breaking barriers, which in turn can create lasting cultural and political change, which I believe will prove to be both inspirational and motivational to the research community here.” The Science on Screen Film Festival forms part of CÚRAM’s public engagement programme ‘Breaking Barriers’, which aims to forge collaborations between researchers and the community to support the Science Foundation Ireland goal of having the most informed and scientifically engaged public. ‌ View the Festival Trailer here: https://vimeo.com/470302101 Further information on the film programme, speakers and themes will be released on the Festival website at the end of October at www.curamdevicesengage.ie. For more information contact sosfestival@galwayfilmcentre.ie. The Festival is free to attend, but ticket numbers are limited and registration is essential. -Ends- For Press contact Gwen O’Sullivan, Press and Information Executive, NUI Galway at gwen.osullivan@nuigalway.ie.

Monday, 21 September 2020

CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Medical Devices, based at NUI Galway, will once again collaborate with artists Anne Cleary and Denis Connolly to create interactive art and science workshops for children. Having participated in CÚRAM’s Artists in Residence programme in 2017-2018, Cleary Connolly developed AfterImage, an art-science project with Galway’s Westside community. The Baboró International Arts Festival for Children is a welcome opportunity for further collaboration between CÚRAMs researchers and award-winning artists. The project, Wavelengths will enable school children to meet the artists, Cleary Connolly over Zoom, and be shown their exciting Science Foundation Ireland supported exhibition, Invisible Light, at the Crawford Art Gallery in Cork. Participants will see fantastic artworks and Cleary Connolly will introduce the electromagnetic spectrum, using every day and familiar objects to help demystify each type of light. “We are very excited to be working once again with Cleary Connolly on this talk and seeing their new work at the Crawford Art Gallery in Cork.  Anne and Denis have an amazing way of connecting art and science while making complex scientific ideas accessible and fascinating to any audience,” says Andrea Fitzpatrick, Artist in Residence programme manager at CÚRAM.  Like the visible spectrum, the electromagnetic spectrum is divided into seven sections or types of lights, most of which we cannot see. Although most of this light is invisible to the naked eye, scientists have devised many ways of seeing them and using them in medicine, astronomy, meteorology, security, etc. Now Cleary Connolly explores these invisible forms of light as art. Researchers from CÚRAM, SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices, Dr Vijaya Krishna Kanala and Vaishali Chugh, will be participating in the online experience to explain how they use ultraviolet light and fluorescence in the laboratory for the imaging of cells in their research. Funding for the project has been provided by NUI Galway to celebrate Galway’s designation as European Capital of Culture. Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director at CÚRAM, says: “This project is another great opportunity for our researchers to communicate their work to new audiences. It exemplifies CÚRAM’s commitment to developing relationships with the community through art and science, and we are delighted to partner with talents such as Cleary Connolly.” CÚRAM’s public engagement programme ‘Breaking Barriers’ supports the Science Foundation Ireland goal of having the most engaged and scientifically informed public. Wavelengths will take place online over Zoom on Monday, October 12th and Tuesday, October 13th and is suitable for 5th and 6th class students.  Full details, including how to book, are available on the Baboró website at https://www.baboro.ie/festival/programme/wavelengths

Friday, 21 August 2020

CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Medical Devices at NUI Galway is now enrolling for its Teachers in Residence Programme for the fifth year, with applications being accepted up to 28th September 2020. This year the programme will provide and develop resources to help teachers overcome the extra challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to COVID-19, this year's programme will use a blended learning approach. The online sessions will be held twice a month, from 7pm to 8pm. Teachers will receive 10 ECTS through the NUI Galway's Centre for Adult Learning and Professional Development fully funded by CÚRAM. During the residency, teachers will speak directly with world-leading researchers to learn about the medical device's research at CÚRAM to improve the quality of life for patients with chronic illnesses. Teachers from all disciplines are invited to participate, in support of encouraging multidisciplinary approaches to teaching science. Participants will learn about and receive resources for the classroom including science engagement activities, science capital teaching approaches, and lesson plan kits developed by teachers for teachers, that are linked with the primary and junior cycle science curricula. "We are delighted with the innovation and creativity shown by the primary and secondary teachers who have participated in this programme", said Prof Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM. "If we can continue to support and inspire our teachers by providing access to current, cutting edge Irish research and work with them to incorporate it into classroom activities, our hope is that they, in turn, can inspire their students for years to come. We also want to provide practical support through resources that can be used in classrooms and online to cater to current challenges that teachers will face as schools reopen in September". The programme has places available for five primary and five secondary school teachers and will run from October 2020 over ten evenings until March 2021. Teachers will work directly with CÚRAM researchers to develop high-quality content for the classroom that is relevant, engaging, and practical to use. The material generated during the residency will be shared with all participants and their schools. Lesson plan kits developed from previous years' teachers, including homeschooling resources, can be downloaded here.  CÚRAM is a partner in the Department of Education and Skills' Junior Cycle for Teachers (JCT) STE(A)M in Junior Cycle initiative. The goal of the initiative is to provide Professional Learning Experiences (PLEs) for Junior Cycle teachers that allow for interdisciplinary responses to societal challenges in subject-specific and cross-curricular contexts. To apply for a place in the Teachers in Residence Programme or find out more, please contact sarah.gundy@nuigalway.ie.

Thursday, 30 July 2020

Investigators at CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Medical Devices based at NUI Galway, have demonstrated the efficacy of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) delivery using a three-dimensional microgel platform, to assist with tissue repair in patients suffering from critical limb ischemia and other peripheral arterial diseases. Peripheral arterial disease is a chronic vascular disease characterised by impaired circulation to the lower extremities. Its most severe stage, known as critical limb ischemia (CLI), puts patients at an increased risk of cardiovascular events, infected and non-healing wounds, amputation, and death.   CLI affects millions of patients globally. Advancing age combined with other risk factors such as diabetes and smoking suggests that the condition will only increase in the near future”.[1] CÚRAM’s research in innovative ‘smart’ medical devices and implants aims to benefit patients with chronic soft tissue ailments such as CLI, as well as cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, neural, renal and respiratory diseases. This study, ‘Temporal Changes Guided by Mesenchymal Stem Cells on a 3D Microgel Platform Enhances Angiogenesis In Vivo at a Low-Cell Dose’ published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), one of the most influential journals on scientific progress, illustrates how a low dose of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) embedded in a three-dimensional microgel cell delivery platform, can induce rapid blood vessel regeneration and tissue repair. Mesenchymal stem cells are adult stem cells found in the bone marrow that are important for making and repairing skeletal tissues. Therapeutic factors secreted by mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) promote the regeneration of blood vessels. Still, delivery of these stem cells to the patient in isolation and outside of their normal environmental conditions offers only a limited benefit to patients, with issues such as poor graft survival. The delivery of stem cells on an extracellular matrix (ECM)-based platform; however, changes cell behaviour and enhances the potential for tissue repair, reduces inflammation and further tissue damage. “Our fundamental research adds to current knowledge about cell encapsulation strategies by highlighting the importance of preconditioning or priming the capacity of biomaterials through cell-material interactions. Obtaining therapeutic efficacy at a low-cell dose in the microgel platform is a promising clinical route that would aid faster tissue repair in patients suffering from peripheral arterial diseases such as Critical Limb Ischemia (CLI)” said Prof Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM and lead author on the paper. Further basic investigation of the biochemical nature of the 3-D delivery platform and its influence on the over or under expression of cellular receptors will be the focus of a future study. From a cell therapy point-of-view, the 3-D model platform developed during this research offers a significant benefit over other cell delivery platforms with the use of a twenty-fold lower cell dose than that of the gold-standard used in pre-clinical ischemia studies. This illustrates the importance of preconditioning the MSCs on a 3-D microgel platform that allows the use of a low-cell dose as a localised therapy to reverse ischemia. According to Prof Pandit; “These findings will be increasingly significant, as future studies will investigate ECM-based three-dimensional niches using our platform technology for engineering constructs that will allow replication of native cellular microenvironments for enhancing the regenerative capacity of stem cells. Besides, we are very keen on transferring this technology to the clinic with our clinical collaborators. ” The multi-disciplinary research team led by Prof Pandit involved Prof Tim O’Brien, Co-PI at CÚRAM and the Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI) at NUI Galway, CÚRAM researchers Dr Dilip Thomas, Dr Grazia Marsico, Dr Gianluca Fontana and Dr Isma Liza Mohd Isa, Dr Arun Thirumaran and Dr Xizhe Chen, Dr Bart Lukasz and Dr Brian Rodriguez from the Conway Institute, University College Dublin and Prof Martina Marchetti-Deschmann from the Institute of Chemical Technologies and Analytics, TU Wien (Vienna University of Technology), Austria. This research was supported by Science Foundation Ireland and co-funded by the ERDF as well as through EMBO short-term fellowships with use of core-facilities and technical assistance at NUI Galway. The full paper can be accessed at www.pnas.org. For further information, please contact claire.riordan@nuigalway.ie Ends   [1] https://www.dovepress.com/the-burden-of-critical-limb-ischemia-a-review-of-recent-literature-peer-reviewed-fulltext-article-VHRM

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

RCSI, UCD and NUI Galway awarded €3.4m SFI Research Infrastructure grant A new National Preclinical Imaging Centre (NPIC) which will provide enhanced research data to inform new clinical trials that aim to improve patient outcomes, has been awarded funding of €3.4 million under the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Research Infrastructure Programme. The Centre, which is the first of its kind in Ireland, is being established and co-funded by RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, University College Dublin (UCD), and CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices, based at NUI Galway. The Centre’s imaging infrastructure will support the development of new therapeutics and diagnostics in human disease areas including cancer, neurology, dementia, psychiatry, cardiology, medical devices, diabetes, tissue engineering, nanomedicine and inflammatory disease. The Centre will provide a national pre-clinical imaging resource open to all academic, industry and not-for-profit researchers, and will have locations in Dublin (RCSI, UCD) and Galway (NUI Galway). NPIC establishes a national pre-clinical magnetic resonance (MR) facility, a national high-field preclinical MR / chemical imaging platform and incorporates a high-resolution micro-computed tomography (CT) and Optical Imaging laboratory. “The National Preclinical Imaging Centre’s high resolution imaging technologies will allow the research community in Ireland to respond to future international research challenges and will provide important support infrastructure for SFI Research Centres, Irish academic institutes and industry collaborators,” commented Director of NPIC, Professor Annette Byrne, Head of the RCSI Precision Cancer Medicine Group, Department of Physiology and Medical Physics and Centre for Systems Medicine at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences. “The Centre’s resources will allow us to work more collaboratively on research projects with clinicians and on training initiatives in radiology, which are critical elements of translating laboratory research finding to improvements in patient care in clinical settings,” Professor Byrne said. “This infrastructural funding provided by SFI, which is complemented by financial support from each of our partner institutions, along with in-kind contributions from industry, will provide an unparalleled national resource for advancing in vivo imaging. Our research in the area of precision oncology will benefit considerably from being able to image non-invasively tumour growth and spread, leading to improved understanding of disease and associated therapeutic options,” said Professor William Gallagher, Associate Director of NPIC, Director, UCD Conway Institute and Deputy Director, Precision Oncology Ireland. “I am delighted to see the establishment of NPIC as it will provide a significant boost to our existing capabilities across academic, industry and clinical networks allowing us to further progress medical device research and its clinical application in each of our disease target areas,” commented Professor Abhay Pandit, Associate Director of NPIC and Scientific Director at CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices at NUI Galway. The SFI Award is co-funded by all three Universities (RCSI, UCD and NUI Galway) and the application was supported by a diverse number of academic, not-for-profit and industry collaborators across the island of Ireland including Trinity College Dublin, University College Cork, Technical University Dublin, Cancer Trials Ireland, Queens University Belfast, Pfizer, Roche, M2i Ltd and Boston Scientific. -Ends-

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

A recent study undertaken by Dr Anna Hobbins, Postdoctoral researcher at CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices, led by Professor Ciaran O’Neill from the Center for Public Health at Queens University Belfast, together with colleagues from NUI Galway, the Office of Health Economics in London and Axentiva Solutions in Spain, suggests that there is no meaningful difference in how people value health, whether they have private health insurance or not while other studies have shown it to significantly impact on whether and how people use the healthcare system in Ireland. “Differences in health service use between people with and without health insurance have been observed in Ireland with respect to preventive, primary and tertiary healthcare services and this is a major source of concern for policy-makers” explains Dr Hobbins. “We wanted to find out whether the differences in how people with and without health insurance use the healthcare system relates to a difference in the value they assign to their health.” Almost half of the population in Ireland hold private health insurance. Studies examining the factors that explain insurance uptake suggest this is because it is perceived as affording faster access to public services and may actually afford faster access to services. Approximately 37% of the population have a medical card, just under half have private health insurance and approximately 6% have both private and public insurance. To conduct this research, Dr Hobbins and the team used specific valuation tasks with a sample of 1160 residents of Ireland during 2015/16. The study provided no compelling evidence that any meaningful differences exists in the values accorded to health between those with and without health insurance. Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director at CÚRAM commented: “This study provides an important perspective for making healthcare and access decisions at policy level in Ireland. I’m delighted to see our researchers work contributing to these important conversations, supporting CÚRAM’s mission of improving quality of life for people, in particular those with long term chronic healthcare needs.” Earlier studies have drawn attention to the greater likelihood of healthcare needs having gone unmet among those without insurance relative to those with. In Ireland, equity has been highlighted not just as an important policy goal, but as one of the guiding principles in the national health strategy. Significant research has been carried out before now on differences within the population with respect to how they use the healthcare system. Whether the differences in how we use the system relate to our ethnicity, socio-economic status, gender, age or body shape, these studies are useful in identifying any disparities or inequalities and what impact health policies have had in addressing them. This study suggests that differential use of the healthcare system in Ireland is grounded in the differential access afforded by insurance not preferences for health. The findings suggest that the current position in Ireland, where the state subsidizes the acquisition of insurance through the provision of tax relief and charges less than the full economic cost of publicly provided services, runs counter to the pursuit of equity and may accentuate unwarranted disparities in service use. Dr Hobbins continued: “Our analysis provides no compelling evidence that there exist differences in the preferences for health among those with and without private health insurance in Ireland. It follows that observed differences in use between those with and without insurance more likely relate to the differential access private health insurance affords than to differences in preferences.” Dr Anna Hobbins is a postdoctoral researcher working on economic evaluation of medical devices at CÚRAM and Health Economics and Policy Analysis Centre NUI Galway. She completed her PhD in Queen’s University Belfast which involved producing the Irish “value set”, “population norms” using the EQ-5D-5L system. The output from her work, which has involved collaboration with colleagues across multiple disciplines, has been published in a range of leading national and international peer-reviewed journals. To access the full paper please visit https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168851020300555?via%3Dihub -Ends-

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Medical Devices, based at NUI Galway, are now offering co-teaching support for primary school teachers in STEM. Primary school resources from CÚRAM’s highly successful Teachers in Residence programme have been adapted to support teachers delivering STEM education online over the coming months. These lesson plan kits have been developed by primary school teachers, in collaboration with CÚRAM researchers. They are suitable for fifth and sixth class students and link with the primary science curriculum. Five comprehensive lesson plan presentations, recorded by CÚRAM’s Teachers in Residence programme manager Dr Sarah Gundy, are now available. These presentations are supplemented by downloadable lesson plans. Dr Gundy, together with CÚRAM’s researchers are also offering primary school classes their very own ‘Ask a Scientist’ session in collaboration with their teachers either via email or as part of an online session. Prof Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM commented, “We are very conscious of the difficulties faced by parents and teachers trying to continue to deliver quality content in a completely new format. We would like to offer these ready to use resources that deal with a very relevant and topical area of research to support the huge efforts being made by parents and teachers in a very challenging time.”ctivities for younger audiences to engage with STEM at home. For latest updates and links you can follow us on Twitter @CURAMdevices Pre-recorded lesson plan presentations include: Healing the Heart: Learn basic heart anatomy, how a heart attack occurs and how to keep their hearts healthy. Follow up activities include construct a large diagram of the heart which can used to play “Heart Twister” at home! Mending the Musculoskeletal System: Learn about bones, muscles, and tendons, and how doctors currently treat damage to these tissues. Follow up activities show how to construct a model hand and act as a surgeon to fix a tendon using a Biomedical Engineering Kit from material you have at home. Fixing the Brain: Learn how nerves send and receive messages, and the causes of Parkinson’s disease. Students can build their own medical devices to treat Parkinson’s disease and test the devices by making jelly “brains” at home. Exploring Stem Cells: Learn about how stem cells are used by animals to heal their bodies. Students build model animals using cells made from playdough, and fix their injured animals by using playdough stem cells or building prosthetic devices. What are Biomaterials?: Learn about medical devices, and natural and synthetic sources of biomaterials. Students can make their own biomaterials at home (using slime!) to fix soft tissues. To register your interest in the resources, or to simply book an ‘Ask a Scientist’ session for your class, please contact sarah.gundy@nuigalway.ie.  In addition to teaching resources, CÚRAM has also added ‘Bite-Sized Science’ activities to our website. Bite-Sized Science offers quick, uncomplicated science activities for teachers or parents to share with children at home.  The focus of this resource is on generating excitement for science without asking too much of already time-pressured parents. Each activity can be completed with just a small bit of help for younger children (JI-2nd class) and independently for older children (3rd-6th class).  Care is being taken to select engaging activities that can be completed with the simplest of ingredients and materials, using everyday items found in most homes, and plenty of recyclables. Look out for new activities every Tuesday and Thursday over the coming months. Should kids take an especially keen interest, links will be provided that allow them to delve a little deeper into the science behind the experiment. See www. http://www.curamdevices.ie/curam/public-engagement/artists-in-residence/bite-sizedscience/ ENDS About CÚRAM CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices based at NUI Galway has created unique, synergistic networks across academic, industry and clinical institutions since its establishment in 2015, bringing together a comprehensive set of tools, expertise and perspectives to progress medical device research and its clinical application in each of our disease target areas. Our goal is to improve quality of life for people living with chronic illness. CÚRAM’s response to the COVID-19 crisis to date has been to help coordinate this network in support of the HSE, our MedTech industry partners and our talented Funded Investigators, to add to the global effort to fight the virus. CÚRAM’s public engagement programme is also adapting in the short term given the requirement for social distancing, and will be moving many of our public engagement interactions to virtual platforms where possible. Some of our content has been supplied to RTÉ for the excellent ‘School at Home’ initiative and a new ‘Bite Sized Science’ has been launched on our website in addition to the ‘Home School Resources’ page to provide simple, educational and fun activities for younger audiences to engage with STEM at home. For latest updates and links you can follow us on Twitter @CÚRAMdevices and our website www.curamdevices.ie. Link to Teachers in Residence Home School Resources - http://www.curamdevices.ie/curam/public-engagement/teachers-in-residence/ Link to Teachers in Residence vide - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o25-bMDbQbg Link to Bite Sized Science page - http://www.curamdevices.ie/curam/public-engagement/artists-in-residence/bite-sizedscience/

Friday, 1 May 2020

CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Medical Devices, based at NUI Galway, is participating in two of the seven new NUI Galway projects to respond to the COVID-19 emergency announced by Minister for Business, Enterprise, and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, TD yesterday.  The rapid response research projects are part of the national, coordinated research and innovation funding response to the COVID-19 pandemic involving leading funding and innovation agencies*. The projects in which CÚRAM are involved are; Professor Martin O’Halloran and Professor John Laffey will further develop their CPAP/BiPAP Hood for safe oxygen delivery to COVID-19 patients. Supported by local med-tech companies, the multidisciplinary Inspire team are developing oxygen equipment that is easy to manufacture and safe to use, and will reduce risk of infection to front-line healthcare staff and help reduce the demand on more invasive, mechanical ventilators for patients.  The INSPIRE team is composed NUI Galway and GMIT researchers, UHG clinicians, medical physics and nursing staff, and is supported by groups and individuals from across Galway, including local medtech, ICT, manufacturing, and quality and regulatory advisors. Professor John Laffey is also collaborating on a project led by Dr Kasia Whysall, from the Discipline of Physiology, which aims to help improve long-term patient recovery by reducing muscle wasting and frailty, especially among older patients. Her approach will investigate whether microRNAs, small molecules which regulate the function of our cells, can predict or improve muscle health and strength following critical illness such as COVID-19.  The project also involves NUI Galway’s Dr Brian McDonagh, Dr Bairbre McNicholas of University Hospital Galway, Professor Ken O'Halloran from UCC and Dr Rónán O’Caoimh from Mercy University Hospital Cork.  Prof Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM said ‘CÚRAM is committed to providing support, expertise and facilitating collaboration in any way that we can during this crisis. We take pride in seeing how swiftly our colleagues have come together to respond and will continue to provide strong support to help the country come through this crisis together.’ Following the announcement, NUI Galway President, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh said:  “As a region renowned for creativity and as a global medtech hub, our University has been to the fore in looking at innovations that can support the response to the COVID-19 crisis.  Our main aim is to serve the public good and the range of activities announced today highlight how we are working not only to address the health challenges created by this pandemic, but also our understanding of the economic and social implications. “It’s important that as a society, we firstly address the current crisis and then look to the future.  We find ourselves having to re-imagine our humanity as we face new times and new realities. Our community is at the centre of innovations to respond to the crisis and the solutions to restore our society after this pandemic.”    Vice President of Research at NUI Galway and CÚRAM Principal Investigator, Professor Lokesh Joshi added: "There has been a tremendous response to the COVID-19 pandemic from our research and innovation community here in Galway. Our people have mobilised across all the disciplines and are collaborating to find innovative approaches and new insights for this globally-shared challenge.  Ireland's COVID-19 Rapid Response research and innovation funding initiative is a welcome support to these efforts, and I congratulate the many NUI Galway awardees whose projects seek to benefit patients, frontline healthcare workers, and wider society." *Health Research Board, Irish Research Council, Science Foundation Ireland, IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland. The complete list of the seven NUI Galway projects to be awarded funding are:  Equipment to make it easier and safer for patients with COVID-19 to breathe Expediting the diagnosis of COVID-19 in a clinical setting using AI enabled analysis of CT scans Improving long-term patient recovery and reducing disability after COVID-19 critical illness using microRNA-based approaches Identifying mental health needs and best practice for psychological support in frontline healthcare workers during and after the COVID-19 outbreak and in future pandemics Modelling real-time population-wide impacts of COVID-19 Optimising Covid-19 social distancing communications: Identifying and addressing psychosocial determinants of social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic Rapid response and learning for later: establishing high quality information networks and evaluation frameworks for the National Ambulance Service response to COVID-19

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

In March, Medical Cannabis Network travelled to Dublin, Ireland, to act as a media partner for the Europe Canna Expo (ECE), which saw leading international experts presenting on cannabis business, science, cultivation, and patient care and access, giving an understanding of the current state of play of the CBD and medical cannabis industry globally. At the event we met with Professor David Finn, Professor of Pharmacology and Therapeutics at the National University of Ireland Galway’s Centre for Pain Research, Principle Investigator in the Science Foundation Ireland funded research centres CÚRAM and FutureNeuro, and President of the International Cannabinoid Research Society, to discuss issues around the use of cannabinoids for the treatment of pain, as well as other areas such as patient access. What are the key benefits of medical cannabis in the treatment of pain? Based on preclinical research there is now a strong body of evidence to suggest that cannabinoids are antinociceptive in animal models for various types of chronic or acute pain. However, when it comes to clinical evidence, we are lagging behind a little. Although there is a body of evidence from some 35 to 45 published randomised controlled trials (RCTs) investigating the effects of cannabinoids, cannabis or cannabis-based medicines in patients with acute or chronic pain (most of these trials have focused predominantly on neuropathic pain, and to a lesser degree other types of pain, such as that associated with cancer, for instance). Other forms of evidence beyond RCTs are also available. Overall, we have something of a mixed body of evidence – some might say a controversial body of evidence – and not everybody agrees on the final conclusions. My perception is that there is a modest amount of positive evidence in favour of cannabinoids for neuropathic pain now; and while that is coming mostly from studies that are relatively small in size and have a short duration, nonetheless they tend to show a positive effect on pain. We now need to look at things on a larger scale, to do more RCTs and other types of clinical trial of longer duration and larger sample size. We should also study and learn as much as possible from additional sources, for example large population health-based studies and experience from clinical practice. I would also support the recommendation of the European Pain Federation Task Force on Cannabinoids and Pain, which was that cannabinoids or cannabis-based medicines could be considered as third line (and preferably adjunctive) medical treatments for neuropathic pain, and as an individual therapeutic trial for other pain conditions. That means that if patients are refractory to guideline-recommended first- and second-line medications that have been tried and failed, or if the side effects of those other medications are unacceptably high, which is often the case, then there could be a basis for trying cannabis-based medicines. However, it is very important to select the right type of patients when doing this – not only patients who have been refractory to other treatments, but also who have been screened for susceptibility to psychosis, schizophrenia, substance misuse, and so on. What are the risks associated with a largely unregulated CBD industry? The risks are that patients don’t know with any real certainty what they are taking, and doctors don’t know with a clear degree of certainty what is in these products; and those things are real barriers to prescribing because while some doctors may be open to considering prescribing CBD or cannabinoids generally, they don’t know what to prescribe or where to start. At same time, there are now a lot of products on the market and studies have been carried out to show that they don’t always contain the concentrations of CBD that they claim. It is important to see CBD as a drug: if anyone needed any proof of that then they would just need to look at the fact that the FDA in the USA approved it in the form of Epidiolex a couple of years ago. CBD is a drug, despite how others may like to think of it, and we must treat it that way. It has a complex pharmacology which we don’t yet fully understand either in terms of pharmacodynamics and how it works and what receptors it works on, but also in terms of pharmacokinetics and how it impacts on liver enzymes and the metabolism of other drugs. I think it’s incumbent on us and on the industry to be regulated and have the highest quality standards that are in line with those of any other drug. What should consumers look for to ensure a brand or product is good quality and does not contain any unlisted ingredients? Should they just be looking for medical grade pharmaceutical products? That would be the ideal: medical grade products that have been through the process that all other drugs go through – Phases 1, 2 and 3 trials before being approved by a regulatory authority like the FDA in the US or HPRA in Ireland. But the reality is that this is quite complex and challenging, because we are not dealing with a single molecule most of the time with these products; we are dealing with a plant or plant extracts. which are complex mixtures of many hundreds of different molecules, and regulatory authorities can find that very difficult to deal with. In that context, it has proven very difficult to get regulatory approval or even an openness by regulatory authorities to consider these products. Thus, in the absence of that, you have to think about what the next best thing is, and I suppose it is for there to be some independent oversight and unbiased testing of these products so that doctors and patients can have confidence in them. We therefore need independent laboratories to test these products and determine what is or is not in them – and that is everything from the amount of active ingredient that is being claimed to their impurities and contaminants such as pesticides, herbicides, and fertilisers. This is vital. Would you agree that an additional challenge facing clinicians who want to prescribe medical cannabis products is a lack of knowledge about the products and so there is a clear need for more education for doctors? There are perhaps two main reasons as to why prescriptions aren’t being made, and a lack of education is one. But the other is that the clinicians are still not totally convinced about the evidence base, particularly for some of the more complex conditions like chronic pain and psychiatric or neurological disorders. A part of that, of course, may be related to education because it takes time to become familiar with the literature in what is quite a complex area, and the pain literature is very nuanced and complex. You need to take the time to really look at it, and when you do that you find that it is not black and white; it is very nuanced. Often the systematic reviews that are carried out pool very disparate studies together which can mean that the signals that are there get lost in the noise. People will just read the final few sentences of the abstract and not look at the actual data. So it is education, but it is also the evidence base, and the fact that it’s complex, and it is trying to communicate that to clinicians and trying to be objective and evidence-based and unbiased in doing that, which is where academics can have a role to play. I also think that it is about generating more evidence of a higher quality as well. Indeed, often people will say that there is poor quality evidence for the efficacy of cannabinoids in one condition or another. But that does not necessarily mean that that the drugs aren’t working. Rather, it means that the quality of the evidence is poor, and that can be in relation to the way in which the studies were done, for instance, in that they may not have been properly controlled, or there was a design flaw, or they were too small. It is a statement about the evidence and not about the drug. But that message can get lost, too. How should healthcare policy evolve to meet the needs of patients who may benefit from increased access to medical cannabis? From my point of view as a pharmacologist, I believe that there should be an openness to considering facilitating cannabinoid medications and medicinal cannabis for the right type of patient for the right type of disorder (i.e. disorders for which there is supporting evidence). To some extent in countries around the world that is happening; countries do to try to learn from each other, and so Europe should perhaps try and learn from the experiences in Canada and the USA: we should look at what worked well and what didn’t. And then we can go on to apply best practice. Ultimately you need a policy that makes medicines that have proven efficacy available to patients, if indeed they have worked for the right type of patient – but we also need to keep people safe. Is there a need for more basic science research? It is incredibly important that we continue to support good, high quality, basic science research in this area. We should continue with grant funding, government funding, and industry funding, as this is going to be the fundamental bedrock in building the evidence base and understanding more about the endogenous cannabinoid system as well as more about the phytocannabinoids in the plant, most of which are poorly understood. Basic science research lays the foundation for later clinical translation and clinical trials. Do you have any hopes for European funding, perhaps via Horizon Europe, being made available for this? Yes, that is one possible away to support the basic research that is needed. There is a strong interest in cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system across Europe, and I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t be competitive for European funding in this area. Professor David Finn Professor of Pharmacology and Therapeutics Centre for Pain Research National University of Ireland Galway By Rosemary Lobley, published 16th April 2020 This article appeared in the second issue of Medical Cannabis Network which is out now.

Monday, 20 April 2020

As the world grapples with a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), Irish academics are exploring eco-sustainable solutions to decontaminate single use masks Researchers and clinicians from Athlone Institute of Technology and NUI Galway have joined forces to tackle the global shortage of N95 masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment (PPE) desperately needed by frontline workers and other healthcare professionals. Offering protection from coronavirus, PPE needs to be carefully removed and disposed of after each use to prevent the spread of the highly infectious disease. Due to its material composition, PPE is extremely heat sensitive and not intended for reprocessing. Conscious of this, Professor Neil J Rowan, Director of the Bioscience Research Institute at Athlone Institute of Technology, and John Laffey, Professor of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine at NUI Galway and Galway University Hospitals, are exploring ways to decontaminate PPE without destroying it. “A key priority is making sure our frontline healthcare workers have the PPE they need to be protected against COVID-19. Unfortunately, the combination of supply chain challenges and unprecedented levels of global demand means that some hospitals are now facing PPE shortages,” explains Professor Laffey. “Reprocessing of PPE using novel decontamination approaches is essential to protecting our frontline workers. Of course, these novel approaches must be assessed and validated to ensure that they are safe and effective to meet regulatory requirements,” he adds. These eco-sustainable solutions, which were recently published in leading environmental journal STOTEN, harness the power of vaporised hydrogen peroxide (VH2O2) to neutralise COVID-19 and other contagions. Use of this gas has just been FDA-authorized for decontaminating N95 masks and a similar authorized approach is likely to be deployed in the Republic of Ireland. Professors Rowan and Laffey’s research indicates demand has overtaken supply for vital PPE where there is a critical shortage for frontline healthcare workers. What is proposed are best solutions to ensure supply including provision for reprocessed PPE that would be safe and fit for purpose during this COVID-19 crisis. “A pandemic foists untold and unexpected demands on society that includes provision or contingency planning for reprocessing PPE. The majority of existing in-house hospital and adjacent minimal processing technologies, as used in food industry, will not be effective for reprocessing PPE,” explains Professor Rowan, who is also an Adjunct Professor at NUI Galway’s School of Medicine. “However, review of best evidence suggests that VH2O2 and possibly UV irradiation technologies for deploying within healthcare environment can be used to fill this gap and will be paramount to ensuring the safety of our healthcare workers during this public health emergency.” Their vital research is being supported by ‘INSPIRE’, a programme led by Professors Martin O’Halloran and John Laffey, and composed of academics, clinicians and scientists from University Hospital Galway, the BioInnovate Programme and the Translational Medical Device Lab at NUI Galway, CÚRAM, the SFI Centre for Research in Medical Devices, GMIT and AIT’Software Research Institute and Applied Polymer Technology Centre. The INSPIRE programme has been met with much enthusiasm globally, especially from developing nations like Costa Rica and South Africa. According to Professor Abhay Pandit, Director of CÚRAM: “In the absence of a vaccine, disease countermeasures must rely upon preventing or slowing person-to-person transmission.” He notes that despite increased efforts to protect frontline workers, there is still “a growing international concern” regarding the shortage of PPE, making ready access to suitable decontamination technology crucial. -Ends-

Friday, 10 April 2020

CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices based at NUI Galway has created unique, synergistic networks across academic, industry and clinical institutions since its establishment in 2015, bringing together a comprehensive set of tools, expertise and perspectives to progress medical device research and its clinical application in each of our disease target areas. CÚRAM’s response to the COVID-19 crisis to date has been to help coordinate this network in support of the HSE, our MedTech industry partners and our talented Funded Investigators, to add to the global effort to fight the virus. In support of the HSE we have been providing technical expertise around a mass ramp-up of viral testing methods, working with the hospital testing service to make available reagents that are in critical short supply and to identify alternative reagents to increase testing capacity. To further support the HSE testing effort, some of our researchers are volunteering at local test centres and with contact tracing. Prof Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM said ‘It is extremely heartening to see how swiftly colleagues have come together to respond to this crises. We have the talent, innovation and technical expertise as well as dedicated personnel at all levels willing to provide strong support to help the country come through this crisis together. CÚRAM will continue to provide support, facilitate collaboration and provide expertise wherever possible during this difficult time.’ Many of our talented FI’s are playing a central role in developing innovative solutions that directly impact patient outcomes during the current COVID-19 crisis in Ireland. For example, CÚRAM Investigators Professors Martin O'Halloran and John Laffey are leading the Inspire project, an industry-academic partnership based at NUI Galway, designed to deliver fast-to-clinic medical devices to support the COVID-19 effort. The Inspire team is composed of over 30 clinicians, medical physicists, engineers and other healthcare staff from UCHG, CÚRAM, NUI Galway and the local MedTech industry. The team have a number of development streams, addressing topics ranging from infection control to improving oxygen delivery to critically ill patients. As part of this initiative, the Galway VentShare team is investigating a safer way to ventilate multiple patients from a single ventilator. The team is led by Tim Jones & Jack Connolly (NUIG Engineering) and Dr David Hannon & Professor John Laffey (Critical Care) with technical support from Aerogen. You can read more about their work here https://www.galwayventshare.com/ CÚRAM is also supporting an initiative run through our academic partners at AIT, looking at strategies to improve access to respiratory support consumables such as CPAP helmets to see if they can be repurposed, reused or disinfected. Solutions being tested include a novel disinfection approach to enable reusing of single use equipment, led by Prof Neil Rowan of AIT and collaborators across HSE and NUIG. Prof Lokesh Joshi with Aquila Bioscience is also leading a project to evaluate novel antimicrobial wipes developed by his Glycoscience team at NUI Galway. The ABwipeTM technology serves as a decontamination wipe for first-responders, healthcare workers and for civilians to significantly reduce and prevent pathogen transmission from person-to-person and therefore reducing the spread, panic and impact of the pathogen, as is the case with coronavirus COVID-19. CÚRAM’s Operations team will continue to identify, target and support new ‘crisis calls’ coming out from funding agencies to support our FI’s to continue this critical work. We are maintaining close contact with our industry partners and will work with the companies to maintain projects as much as we can with the current advice to scale back/cease laboratory-based experiments. CÚRAM’s public engagement programme is also adapting in the short term given the requirement for social distancing, and will be moving many of our public engagement interactions to virtual platforms where possible. Some of our content has been supplied to RTÉ for the excellent ‘School at Home’ initiative and a new ‘Bite Sized Science’ page will be launched on our website shortly to provide simple, educational and fun activities for younger audiences to engage with STEM at home. We would encourage all of our stakeholders to contact us if we can be of assistance in facilitating new connections or supporting further initiatives to add to the wider response effort. For latest updates and links you can follow us on Twitter @CÚRAMdevices and our website www.curamdevices.ie. ENDS

Thursday, 9 April 2020

A joint investment of €12 million has been announced through a tripartite research and development partnership between the United States of America (USA), Republic of Ireland (RoI) and Northern Ireland (NI). The US-Ireland Research and Development Partnership, launched in July 2006, is a unique initiative that aims to increase the level of collaborative R&D amongst researchers and industry professionals across the three jurisdictions. CÚRAM Investigators Dr Michael Conall Dennedy and Prof Martin O’Halloran are amongst the four awards announced, which will support over 40 research positions across 10 research institutions, for three to five years. Dr Dennedy, lead researcher at the adrenal research laboratory, NUI Galway and Prof O’Halloran, Director of the Translational Medical Device laboratory at NUI Galway will partner with Ulster University (NI) and Kansas State University (US). The collaborative team of clinicians, scientists, engineers and mathematicians will research an image-guided approach for minimally invasive microwave thermotherapy (MWT) of aldosterone producing adenomas (APAs) for the treatment of secondary hypertension or high blood pressure. They will also develop machine-learnt techniques for identifying APAs and monitoring therapy using nanocontrast technology. The commonest specifically treatable cause of high blood pressure is known as primary aldosteronism (PA). This is a condition of hormonal excess whereby the kidney retains salt and water to increase blood pressure. It is caused by small benign nodules on the adrenal gland called aldosterone producing adenomas (APA). Surgical removal of APAs can cure complicating high blood pressure. In this study, the team of researchers will develop new methodologies for diagnosing and treating aldosterone producing adenomas which avoid the need for surgery and improve patient outcomes and experience. Welcoming the announcement, Prof Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said: “The continued success of the US-Ireland R&D Partnership Programme demonstrates the strong open relationship between our countries and highlights Ireland’s scientific standing internationally. I would like to congratulate all of the award recipients and their collaborators, who are forging innovation and discovery across the Atlantic, with the potential to greatly benefit our collective societies and economies.” Commenting on the award, Dr Dennedy remarked "This US-Ireland R&D Partnership award will provide the resources necessary to carry out detailed research into the area of thermal therapy of functioning adrenocortical tumours. From a translational viewpoint, it is highly important that we develop methodologies to intervene in conditions such as primary aldosteronism safely and in a manner which preserves as much normal adrenal gland as possible while disrupting the disease causing benign tumour. Ours is the first cross-disciplinary group across science, medicine and engineering to focus specifically on this area, and to receive this funding is a welcome endorsement of our work to date, and our plans for the future.” The US-Ireland Research and Development partnership agencies in the Republic of Ireland are Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), the Health Research Board (HRB) and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM). The partnership is facilitated by the National Science Foundation (NSF), US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), within the US Department of Agriculture in the USA. In Northern Ireland, the Health & Social Care R&D Division (HSC R&D), the Department for the Economy (DfE), and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) are partners. For more information on the programme, visit https://www.sfi.ie/funding/funding-calls/us-ireland-rd-partnership/. -ends-

Friday, 3 April 2020

CÚRAM wish to share this important information on behalf of Science Foundation Ireland. SFI Response to the COVID-19 Crisis Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) is working together with Government Departments and other agencies (IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, Health Research Board, Irish Research Council and others), and the wider research and innovation community to ensure a coordinated and meaningful contribution to solving some of the challenges we are presented with during the current Covid-19 crisis.  To this end, we have developed a Five Point Plan which represents SFI’s contribution to the Irish Government’s National Action Plan in response to Covid-19. The plan outlines key activities where SFI believe we and the research community can make a positive impact. COVID-19 Rapid Response Science Foundation Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland Since first being reported in December 2019, the world is experiencing a pandemic outbreak with the spread of the coronavirus, COVID-19. Ireland is taking a cross-Government and public health-led approach to tackling this crisis through its National Action Plan in response to COVID-19, focused on minimising risk of illness for all, minimising risk of exposure of vulnerable groups and minimising social and economic disruption.  Research, development and innovation, both in the public and private sectors, have a significant role to play in the national and global response to COVID-19. Of key importance in this regard is the WHO Global Research Roadmap and, in particular, the highlighted immediate priorities and knowledge gaps. Funders around the globe have rapidly mobilised forces to provide a range of opportunities for researchers and innovative companies.  Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), Enterprise Ireland (EI), and IDA Ireland have launched a joint rapid-response call to fund research, development, and innovation (RD&I) activities that will deliver significant and timely impact for Ireland within the context of the current emergency. This call will be closely co-ordinated with the rapid response call launched by the Health Research Board (HRB) and the Irish Research Council (IRC). Potential applicants are advised to consider their eligibility and the suitability of their proposal and to consider the most appropriate mechanism. The SFI, Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland rapid response call is an agile and adaptive initiative to support development of innovative solutions (including STEM-based, social/behavioural science) that can have rapid demonstrable impact on the current COVID-19 crisis in Ireland. Under this call, any Research Performing Organisation (RPO); a client company of one of the following government agencies Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland, Údaras Na Gaeltachta or Local Enterprise Office (LEO); or any combination of the preceding may submit a proposal for support of a solution to a significant specific problem associated with the COVID-19 crisis in Ireland. The involvement of relevant Government Departments and/or other public sector bodies in the development of applications and the delivery of the solution is strongly encouraged. Any solution supported under this call must be operational and fully deployed within 6 months of project start. Applications from other organisations, outside those referenced above, are also welcome and we would ask you to contact us at covid19@sfi.ie to confirm eligibility. SFI and the listed Government agencies will consider funding proposals aligned to this call. In addition, SFI and the agencies will also play a co-ordination role, liaising closely with other funders and Government Departments in the national system to expedite support of proposals outside this scope. The HRB-IRC rapid response call focuses on the development of medical countermeasures, health service readiness, and social and political countermeasures to COVID-19. Given current circumstances, SFI, Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland recognise the challenges facing researchers, industry and higher education institutions, and significant demands placed on key stakeholders working in clinical settings. In this context, both they, the HRB and IRC will take a flexible and pragmatic approach to the management of these challenges in relation to any funded awards. Scope of the Call The agencies are interested in incentivising RD&I activities that will impact positively on the current crisis. These activities include the development of innovative solutions based on new or alternative approaches and methodologies to address immediate national needs.  Applications that propose the adaptation, blending or re-purposing of existing products, processes, technologies and infrastructures are also strongly encouraged. Problem areas include, but are not limited to: Contact tracing and role of data analytics; Frontline healthcare (supply of ventilators, use and supply of personal protective equipment and infection prevention and control (IPC) methods etc); Monitoring the impact and effectiveness of control and mitigation measures; Re-purposing of existing technologies, products or processes; Rapid, reliable, diagnostic testing and sampling optimisation; Supporting essential behaviours of self-isolation and social-distancing; Mitigation measures relating to the disruption that the crisis is having on Irish society, including impact on essential services and supply chains; Epidemiological and seroepidemiological studies, including novel approaches to better understand transmission and spread of virus (relevant to humans and animals) and to evaluate the potential impact of control measures. Ethical, Regulatory and Gender in Research Requirements Applicants are required to consider and adhere where relevant to SFI’s requirements in relation to all ethical and regulatory issues.  Prior to advancing to expert review, applicants may be requested to provide additional information on the ethical requirements associated with their application.  Additionally, as SFI is committed to integrating a gender perspective into research that we fund, applicants will be requested to provide a statement on how the project integrates a gender perspective in the research proposed, outputs and impacts of the project. Guidance for applicants on these issues can be found here. What can you do to help? If you feel that you could strengthen and enhance Ireland’s ability to deal with the current crisis, and that your idea broadly aligns with the problem areas outlined above, please consider the following: If you are a researcher, innovator, developer and have identified a specific problem area for which you consider you could develop an impactful and innovative solution and you need financial or other support from Science Foundation Ireland or other national funders, please read the SFI, Enterprise Ireland, IDA COVID-19 Rapid Response Funding Call Documentand follow the instructions on how to submit an application. Please email specific queries on this to covid19@sfi.ie If you have identified a problem where you consider that RD&I could have impact and would like this problem to be highlighted to innovators and researchers, who may be able to advance a solution, please contact us directly at covid19@sfi.ie If you are currently working in an organisation (e.g. in industry, public service, research performing organisation etc.) on a solution that could generate significant impact and strengthen Ireland’s response to the current crisis, and you need to be connected with research experts, government departments or agencies in Ireland that may be able to assist, please contact us directly at covid19@sfi.ie

Friday, 27 March 2020

Science Foundation Ireland invited CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices, to present at the 2020 SFI St. Patrick's Day Science Medal Award ceremony in Washington DC. The event celebrated Irish science and US-Ireland collaboration. CÚRAM is a global player with 474 academic and 276 industrial international collaborations. CÚRAM recognises the importance collaboration plays in producing excellent and impactful science. The formation of national and international partnerships is key to CÚRAM reaching its full potential. CÚRAM and its Irish partners are currently collaborating with four centres in the U.S. To highlight the impact of the partnership. At this prestigious event, Prof Abhay Pandit, CÚRAM Centre Director, highlighted CÚRAM’s leading role in the global medical device sector. “We have sought to partner with high profile international institutes and centres whose expertise is synergistically aligned to our own”. Prof. Pandit presented the value of the Ireland-U.S. partnership to leaders in SFI and National Science Fund (NSF) with an example of one of CÚRAM’s more advanced projects which involves the development of Bioresorbable Magnesium Alloy Systems for Use in Orthopaedic Implants. This tripartite collaborative partnership was formed amongst CÚRAM, the Nanotechnology and Integrated Bioengineering Centre (NIBEC) at Ulster University in Northern Ireland (NI) and NSF-ERC for Revolutionizing Metallic Biomaterials (RMB) in the USA. The partnership is supported by industrial partners OrthoKinetic Technologies LLC, OrthoKinetic Testing Technologies LLC (Ortho Kinetics, Inc.), of Shallotte, NC, USA and Ft. Wayne Metals (FWM) Ft. Wayne, IN, USA. This partnership creates a unique convergence of world-leading expertise from academia and industry in the fields of materials processing, surface characterization, and computational modelling with the shared goal of developing bioresorbable magnesium (Mg) alloy systems for orthopaedic implant devices. The project not only aims to achieve its scientific advances but also aims to prepare inclusive engineers for worldwide collaborative research, as well as developing a vibrant, diverse workforce, well prepared for multidisciplinary global challenges and opportunities.

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

CÚRAM and RCSI PhD student Domhnall Kelly has recently been awarded the UK and Ireland Controlled Release Society Travel Award to attend and present his research at the upcoming Controlled Release Society (CRS) Annual Meeting in Las Vegas this summer. The CRS is the home for experts dedicated to the delivery of actives and an international hub for delivery science and technology. On receiving the award, Domhnall said: “The annual Controlled Release Society and Exposition (CRS) is the leading conference within my field of research. It goes without saying that the opportunity to participate in this meeting will be immensely beneficial with regards to allowing me to disseminate my research to, and network with, some of the leading researchers, clinicians and industry representatives within in the fields of drug delivery and regenerative medicine.” Domhnall is a member of the Tissue Engineering Research Group (TERG) at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), which focuses on the development and functionalization of biomaterial scaffolds for a number of regenerative medicine and tissue engineering applications. Domhnall’s PhD research, which is supervised by CÚRAM investigators Prof. Fergal O’Brien (RCSI) and Prof. Caitriona O’Driscoll (UCC), specifically focuses on the use of these platforms in preventing the progression of osteoarthritis following damage or injury to cartilage tissue in the joints. Prof. Fergal O’Brien, Head of the Tissue Engineering Research Group (TERG) and Director of Research & Innovation in RCSI said ‘We are very grateful to the support to the UK and Ireland Controlled Release Society for this travel award which will provide an outstanding early career researcher with the opportunity to present his work at this leading global meeting’. Speaking about the award, Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director at CÚRAM, said, said: “This award indicates the excellence of the work being done by the TERG group and presents an important opportunity to share our expertise with a global audience. I congratulate Domhnall on the achievement and the positive impact it will no doubt have on his research career. Osteoarthritis (OA) affects approximately 300 million people worldwide making it the leading degenerative joint disease worldwide. To date there are no pharmacological or surgical options that can completely restore damaged cartilage to its original structure and/or function. OA is caused by damage to the articular cartilage in the joint due to either trauma, aging or disease. The poor innate healing capacity of cartilage tissue results in this damage slowly progressing over time leading to osteoarthritis, which is why aging is a major contributor, however, OA can occur in adults of any age. As a result, almost all of us will develop OA in some of our joints, as we get older. Domhnall explains: “I focus on combining non-viral gene therapy with these naturally derived biomaterials to create an advanced drug delivery system that is capable of overcoming the negative effects of the inflammatory cascade that often leads to the joint wide propagation of osteoarthritis.” The CRS Annual Meeting will take place in Las Vegas, Nevada in July 2020. Domhnall will present his research at the 4 day event. “There are few opportunities in life to get to listen and learn from a Nobel Prize Winner. CRS is one of those special places that provides such inspiring events. As a graduate of biochemistry, the opportunity to attend a talk by Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi (a fellow molecular biologist) will no doubt be right up there as one of the highlights of my research career to date.” -ends-

Monday, 24 February 2020

CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices, based at NUI Galway is one of a group of international partners from Italy, Finland, Portugal, Ireland, Latvia, Serbia and Switzerland who have just launched an EU funded project Precision medicine for musculoskeletal regeneration, prosthetics, and active ageing – PREMUROSA. The main objective of the 4-year programme is to train a new generation of tissue engineering scientists from multiple European countries to develop new technologies and new therapies for musculoskeletal disorders. Over the next four years, the project’s partners will receive 3.4 million EUR funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Framework Programme.  Musculoskeletal diseases are reported to affect roughly half of those over 60, strongly impacting the quality of life and posing a major burden on healthcare and welfare systems. Treatment of musculoskeletal disorders is currently based either on prosthetic or regenerative surgical procedures, often involving “one-size-fit-all”  medical device implantation, compromising the effectiveness of treatments.  A great improvement could be achieved by precision medicine, specifically designed on patient’s individual characteristics, explained Lia Rimondini, professor at the University of Eastern Piedmont, and the PREMUROSA project’s coordinator.  “Patients respond differently to regeneration technologies and their response depends on their profile. To consider or not to consider the genetic (DNA), transcriptomic (RNA), proteomic (proteins) and metabolomic (including various metabolites) profile of the patient can greatly change the fate of the rehabilitation. At the moment no technique for the precise application are available for the musculoskeletal regeneration technologies,” said Lia Rimondini. “The future is to use effective therapies, fit to each patient and using scientific-based decision supporting system to decide the fitness,” she added.  This requires new and highly skilled professionals who will develop new strategies for translating tissue engineering innovations into useful information to customize therapies, taking into account the characteristics of each patient.  INNOVATIVE TRAINING FOR 13 YOUNG RESEARCHERS  The project aims to train a new generation of scientists with an integrated vision of the whole value chain in musculoskeletal regeneration technologies and able to boost the necessary innovations to achieve precision principles in developing innovative devices and optimized clinical applications.  A total of 13 students from the field of medical and health sciences, clinical medicine, surgery and surgical procedure will be selected to take part in the interdisciplinary project and earned their PhD degrees. Students will be hosted by a member of a European consortium of universities, research institutions and companies in Italy, Switzerland, Portugal, Finland, Latvia, Ireland and Serbia.  Young researchers will gain advanced knowledge and skills, through an innovative combination of academic, industrial and clinical experience and training. They will benefit from an excellent scientific environment, up-date technologies and supervision by international leaders in the field.  Tiziano Serra, senior research scientist at the AO Research Institute Davos and one of the supervisors in the PREMUROSA project, explained:  “We will develop novel biofabrication technologies for the generation of vascularized 3D models. This is fundamental to create robust tools diagnostic and therapeutics. All these advances will drive to a future where tissue and organs can be created in a mild, fast, and affordable way.”  The successful implementation of PREMUROSA will not only set the ground for innovative PhD training but will also contribute in meeting important SOCIAL CHALLENGES, such as optimization of clinical choices and therefore improvement of quality of life of patients and reduction of healthcare system costs. Moreover, industrial competitiveness will be substantially boosted due to medical devices optimization and the development of new products in the project.  PROJECT PARTNERS  The consortium comprises 11 European partner institutions led by the University of Eastern Piedmont (Alessandria, Novara and Vercelli, Italy), and 6 non-academic partners and companies specializing in the biomedical field. Among the 11 partner organizations are:  University of Eastern Piedmont (Alessandria, Novara and Vercelli, Italy), Rizzoli Orthopaedic Institute (Bologna, Italy), Aalto University Foundation (Aalto, Finland), AO Research Institute Davos (Davos, Switzerland), Riga Technical University (Riga, Latvia), Faculty of Technology and Metallurgy, University of Belgrade (Belgrade, Serbia), INEB—National Institute of Biomedical Engineering, University of Porto (Porto, Portugal), Polytechnic University of Turin (Turin, Italy), EnginSoft SpA (Trento, Italy), Tampere University of Technology, (Tampere, Finland), CÚRAM, SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices, National University of Ireland Galway (Galway, Ireland).  PREMUROSA is part of the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network - European Joint Doctorates programme, funded by the European research and innovation programme Horizon 2020. The project’s aim is to train a new generation of creative, entrepreneurial and innovative early-stage researchers, able to face current and future challenges and to convert knowledge and ideas into products and services for economic and social benefit. You can follow the project on twitter @ThePremurosa Contact Claire.riordan@nuigalway.ie for more information      

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Science on Screen, run by CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices at NUI Galway and Galway Film Centre are once again offering funding to filmmakers interested in producing a short scientific documentary focused on cancer research. Collaborating with the scheme this year are Precision Oncology Ireland (POI), a consortium aiming to develop new diagnostics and therapeutics for personalised cancer treatment, and the Patient Voice in Cancer Research, with financial support through the Wellcome Institutional Strategic Support Fund at UCD and other philanthropic funds. Precision (or ‘personalised’) medicine uses data about a person’s genes (genomics), along with additional information on their cancer, to understand the unique pathways of a disease or treatment response in that person. With this new science, doctors can prescribe the right treatment in a timely fashion, saving the wasted resources and time our current ‘trial and error’ method incurs, while greatly improving response rates. The ‘Science on Screen’ scheme, a funding strand for creative documentaries set in the world of science, is now in its fifth year. The scheme will  fund one 26-minute film with a budget of €35,000 that promotes the public understanding of science. The scheme forms part of CÚRAM’s public engagement programme which supports the Science Foundation Ireland objective of having the most scientifically informed and engaged public. Please note that teams who have been in receipt of Science on Screen funding previously are not eligible to apply in 2020. The Science on Screen Information Day will take place on Wednesday 26th February 2020 at the Palás Cinema in Galway City for filmmakers and producers. Both researchers and patients will give an overview of their research and involvement, followed by a Q&A and opportunities to discuss ideas with the speakers.  The schedule for the day will include: 10.30: Welcome by CÚRAM 10.45: Speaker 1 Professor Walter Kolch, Director, Precision Oncology Ireland 11:05: Speaker 2 Dr Roisin Dwyer, NUI Galway & POI Investigator 11.25: Speaker 3 Professor Maeve Lowery, Trinity College Dublin & POI Investigator 11.45: Patient/Lived Experience Panel [Perspectives from several cancer patients/family members] – chaired by Professor William Gallagher and Professor Amanda McCann 12.25: Speaker 4 Professor William Gallagher, Deputy Director, Precision Oncology Ireland 12.45: Speaker 5 Professor Amanda McCann, Chair, The Patient Voice in Cancer Research 13:05:   Galway Film Centre – Application Guidelines & Q&A 13:30:   Close For interested filmmakers, a limited number of places will also be made available to attend a separate event the evening before the Information Day, the ‘Patient Voice in Cancer Research’ Dragons Den workshop on Tuesday, 25th February from 4pm-7pm, which is being held in the Galway Bay Hotel, Salthill. For more information on this separate event, please contact Claire Riordan at CÚRAM on Claire.riordan@nuigalway.ie to book a place. Science on Screen is a Galway City of Film initiative between Galway Film Centre and CÚRAM. Since 2016, five Science on Screen films have been produced. All have been broadcast on RTE and or TG4, screened at numerous international film festivals and scooped six international awards. The documentaries are used throughout the country at schools, for community screenings as well as at academic conferences and have reached an audience of over a million people to date.   What: Science on Screen Information Day When: Wednesday 26th February 2020 Time: 10:30am – 1.30pm Where: Palás Cinema, Galway City Registration: Through Eventbrite  Trailers for previously funded commissions are available here: Science on Screen 2016 ‘Feats of Modest Valour': https://vimeo.com/184564095 ‘Mending Legends': https://vimeo.com/189779551 Science on Screen 2017  - ‘Bittersweet': https://vimeo.com/242714712 Science on Screen 2018  - ‘A Tiny Spark’: https://vimeo.com/291731458  Science on Screen 2019  - ‘The Patient Effect’: https://vimeo.com/367628357  For more information on Science on Screen see: www.galwayfilmcentre.ie  and www.curamdevices.ie  ENDS About CÚRAM CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices based at NUI Galway is part of the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre Network, and aims to radically improve the quality of life for patients with chronic Illness by developing the next generation of smart, implantable medical devices. Clinical targets include cardiovascular illnesses, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease, musculoskeletal and respiratory illnesses as well as soft tissue and wound healing.  Read more at www.curamdevices.ie or follow us on Twitter @curamdevices. About Precision Oncology Ireland Precision Oncology Ireland (www.precisiononcology.ie) is a consortium of five Irish universities [University College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, University College Cork and National University of Ireland, Galway]; six Irish charities [National Breast Cancer Research Institute, Breast Cancer Ireland, Breakthrough Cancer Research, Irish Cancer Society, National Children’s Research Centre, and The Oesophageal Cancer Fund]; and ten industry partners [Helsinn Birex, Bayer Healthcare, AstraZeneca, OncoMark Ltd., miR Scientific, Phion Therapeutics, Celgene Institute for Translational Research Europe, Cell Stress Discoveries Ltd., Fosun Orinove, and Genomics Medicine Ireland]. The Consortium is part-funded by Science Foundation Ireland under their Strategic Partnership Programme; led by Professor Walter Kolch, Director and Professor William Gallagher, Deputy Director and based out of Systems Biology Ireland at University College Dublin.  About The Patient Voice in Cancer Research (PVCR) The PVCR began in April 2016 when more than 100 cancer survivors and their families joined health care professionals, researchers, patient advocates, funding agencies and charity groups at an open forum in University College Dublin (see http://www.ucd.ie/conway/engagement/ and @PVCR_Ireland via Twitter). This initiative grew out of a clear unmet need to involve the voices of cancer patients within the scientific research process. Its main aim is to enable dialogue between patients and researchers, scientists, funding bodies and patient advocate groups so that the lived experience of cancer patients can enrich, inform and shape the research process. PVCR workshops give participants the opportunity to voice the questions and concerns that matter most to cancer patients and are likely to improve the relevance of cancer research. Today, the initiative has expanded considerably and the PVCR team run regular workshops around the country.  About the Wellcome Institutional Strategic Support Fund (ISSF) at UCD  The Wellcome Institutional Strategic Support Fund (ISSF) is supported under the SFI-HRB-Wellcome Trust Biomedical Research Partnership, with matched funding from University College Dublin. A formalised approach to Public and Patient Involvement (PPI) is a relatively new concept and requires cultural change in the research community. In addition, to effect behavioural change and enable impact, there is a necessity to link with policymakers, patient groups and other stakeholders, activities that are not currently taking place on a significant scale (Grant ref 204844/Z/16/Z).

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices, is amongst five NUI Galway public engagement and education initiatives have been awarded funding of more than €175,000 through Science Foundation Ireland’s Discover Programme, to fund projects dedicated to educating and engaging with 112,000 members of the public in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) in 2020. The funding awards were announced by Secretary General of the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Dr Orlaigh Quinn as part of a national investment of €5.12 million. The five projects include CÚRAM ‘Curious Young Minds’, Bright Club, Cell EXPLORERS Escape Room, SpaceShip Earth and ReelLIFE SCIENCE. Speaking about the funded projects, Professor Lokesh Joshi, Vice President for Research at NUI Galway, said: “It’s part of our culture at NUI Galway to engage, to connect and to communicate. Our researchers have an excellent track record in public engagement and have devised fun and engaging programmes to highlight the importance of STEM in addressing societal challenges. The support from SFI is particularly important in helping us to carry on inspiring minds.” Speaking about the Programme, Dr Ruth Freeman, Director of Science for Society, Science Foundation Ireland said: “I am delighted to see such a strong contingent from NUI Galway this year. The SFI Discover Programme encourages people from all communities, age groups and backgrounds to engage with Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM). This is achieved by supporting a diverse range of engagement activities across Ireland, designed to help people explore STEM in meaningful and creative ways. All of the Discover projects are supported by a number of Higher Education Institutes, Research bodies, companies and councils. I congratulate the each of the teams and look forward to watching them inspire our future scientists, engineers and innovators.” NUI Galway Funded Projects CÚRAM ‘Curious Young Minds’ Project (€28,135 funding award) CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices, together with community partners, scientists and artists will develop and deliver a series of hands-on STEAM workshops to families living under Direct Provision in Galway City with the ‘Curious Young Minds’ project. A creative approach to science learning will be at the core of the workshops, aimed primarily at children aged 4-12 and their parents. Workshop content will be designed in conjunction with participants to increase their interest in science as well as their confidence in learning about and exploring science topics. Workshops will be held throughout the year, exploring different science topics and culminating in the development of a STEAM toolkit which will be distributed to hundreds of families living in Direct Provision centres throughout Ireland. The contents of the toolkit will be developed directly by the children and parents participating in the workshops, making them the authors. CÚRAM’s Education and Public Engagement Programme ‘Breaking Barriers’ aims to forge collaborations between researchers and the community. More information is available at www.curamdevices.ie/curam/public-engagement/. Bright Club (€49,862 funding award) Bright Club is a variety show with a twist. Academic researchers become comedians for one night, using comedy to talk about their research. The researchers from science, engineering, mathematics, social science, and the humanities get training in humour as communication, before joining actual comedians on stage in front of the public to talk about their research in an informal pub setting. Bright Club has been running across Ireland for five years with over 70 live events and 200 academics trained, spearheaded by Dr Jessamyn Fairfield in the School of Physics at NUI Galway. More information can be found at www.brightclub.ie. Cell EXPLORERS Escape Room (€46,542 funding award) Cell EXPLORERS is a successful science education and public engagement programme delivering STEM activities nationally. By using hands-on activities facilitated by local scientist volunteers. In 2020, with the support of the SFI Discover strategic partnership fund 2018 (€298,778), the programme will run school visits nationally with the participation of 13 teams based in 15 universities and institutes of technology. More information can be found at www.cellexplorers.com. This year, the programme will also create a Cell EXPLORERS Escape Room to reach participants not normally engaged with STEM. Escape rooms, in which a group of participants solves puzzles to resolve a mystery and escape a confined space/situation, are a combination of intellectual challenge, hands-on experience and social gathering. The content will relate to modern biology and will be co-created with young people, teachers, scientists, and education specialists, including Escape Room artist Dr Ran Peleg from Southampton University. The Cell EXPLORERS Escape Room will be launched during Science Week 2020 in three distinct geographic locations and in one school, while kits will subsequently be circulated around the country making this project sustainable for several years. SpaceShip Earth (€39,200 funding award) Spaceship Earth will inspire, engage and educate teachers, students and the public about STEM through launching four high-altitude balloons from Ireland to the ‘Edge of Space’ and back on 4 May 2020 (May the Fourth Be With You - Star Wars Day). Space is an amazing way to enthuse people about STEM and, given the current justifiable concern for Climate Change, the ability of high-altitude balloons to carry student projects and cameras into the stratosphere (~30,000m), allows reflection on the uniqueness of our blue planet - Spaceship Earth. The Spaceship Earth format will engage students in real-world, project-based experiments, to develop collaborative problem-solving skills and a framework for asking and answering scientific questions. The project team (including NUI Galway/UL/Met Éireann) will work closely with participating schools for their first high-altitude balloon mission. This celestial pilot project proposal represents a new dawn of innovation for Irish STEM education and public engagement. ReelLIFE SCIENCE (€15,000 funding award) ReelLIFE SCIENCE is a nationwide science video competition, which encourages young people and the general public to discover more about STEM and its impact on individuals, society and the environment, while developing participants’ creativity, communication and digital skills. Young people from schools and youth organisations are challenged to research a STEM topic and communicate it for the public via an engaging and educational three-minute video. The deadline for entries is Friday October 16th, and the best videos are awarded €1000 and are screened for the public at the Galway Science and Technology Festival in NUI Galway. Since being launched by Dr Enda O’Connell in 2013, ReelLIFE SCIENCE has enabled more than 13,000 young people from 400 schools and community groups all over the country, to engage with STEM in a novel way. More information about this programme can be found at www.reellifescience.com. Science Foundation Ireland has invested in over 440 public engagement projects through the Discover Programme since 2013. This year’s funded initiatives are estimated to reach five hundred and eighty thousand people. 47 diverse initiatives will be supported by this year’s programme, with successful awardees being carefully selected through international peer-review. -Ends-

Monday, 10 February 2020

CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Medical Devices, based at NUI Galway, is organising a public meeting on Monday February 17th at 11am at the SCUUL Enterprise Centre in Ballybane. The meeting is open to anyone interested in hearing more about heart disease, what preventative measures we should take and current research being done in this area by CÚRAM researchers. Cardiovascular disease accounts for 33 per cent of all deaths in Ireland, and causes 13 per cent of premature deaths in people under the age of 65, according to Irish Heart Foundation statistics. Speakers from CÚRAM and CROÍ will be joined by the artist Karen Conway. Karen, who has been working with CÚRAM researchers and the Ballybane community to create permanent artworks for the East side of the city, will showcase some of her work which has been inspired by research into cardiovascular disease at CÚRAM. Karen was selected to develop an art-science project with the Eastside community as part of CÚRAM’s public engagement programme, called ‘Breaking Barriers’ which aims to forge collaborations between researchers and the community and raise awareness about the impact of this research for society. All are welcome to attend and tea / coffee will be provided for all attendees. For more information please contact andrea.fitpatrick@nuigalway.ie Ends About CÚRAM: CÚRAM is the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Medical Devices and is located in the National University of Ireland, Galway.  CÚRAM aims to create a sustainable future for the medtech sector in Ireland and train the next generation of world class medtech scientists and entrepreneurs. About CROÍ: CROÍ is a registered charity with the goal of leading the fight against heart disease and stroke, with a special focus on the West of Ireland.  Their mission is to prevent heart disease and stroke, save lives, empower and support families, communities and future generations to take control of their health and well-being.

Monday, 3 February 2020

CÚRAM Investigator Mary Murphy based at NUI Galway’s Regenerative Medicine Institute will lead a new €7.45 million project to develop ground-breaking and innovative scientific and engineering platforms for the production of advanced cellular therapeutics for use in the treatment of osteoarthritis and other major diseases. Funded by the EU Horizon 2020 programme the AutoCRAT project will address the critical need to develop industrially relevant, cost effective and fully automated manufacturing systems for this new area of medical treatment. Based on a strong interdisciplinary and collaborative effort, it will generate a deeper understanding of the science of stem cells and their therapeutic use as well as harnessing world-class expertise in advanced engineering and robotic systems. The project will also meet the need for development of an effective treatment for osteoarthritis and the demand for other cell-based treatments by transforming the way stem cells and their secreted therapeutic factors (mainly a novel type of biological nanoparticles, the so called extracellular vesicles (EVs)), are manufactured. Cellular therapies are being tested for a wide range of conditions including degenerative diseases, immune and inflammatory disorders and cancer. These revolutionary therapies offer great promise for patients and practitioners and may finally open the door to new and effective treatments which up to now have been unavailable. Several different types of cells may be used, (including stem cells, tissue-derived adult cells and cells of the immune system) depending on the specific treatment. The use of living cells as a medicinal product presents extraordinary challenges in terms of production and current manufacturing protocols are relatively inefficient and limited in scale.  They also require highly-skilled teams of technicians operating in a clean-room environment. As clinical trials progress and more treatments are available for patients, cost-efficient and high throughput manufacturing remains a major challenge. The initiative is being led by NUI Galway and Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology, Aachen. AutoCRAT arises from strong and fruitful collaborations between these partners in the recently completed AUTOSTEM project, which led to the development of a fully automated and closed advanced robotic platform for the industrial-scale manufacture of cell products. The AUTOSTEM concept will now be further developed to include enhanced technologies for a wider array of cell types and products derived from cells. The AutoCRAT system will also include automated testing protocols so that process monitoring and quality control are managed within the robotic platform.  The AutoCRAT Regenerative Medicine Factory (ARM-F) will produce chondrocytes and stem cells for arthritis treatments using robots for every manufacturing step. It will also generate products based on proteins, RNA and other materials that stem cells produce and which are now understood to be key elements of their therapeutic mechanism. Thus, AutoCRAT will enable the production of cell-based therapeutics on an industrial scale, that is more controlled and at a lower cost compared to existing technology. This will accelerate the development of the cell therapy industry and make these treatments more accessible for the benefit of patients. Professor Murphy said: “This is an exciting interdisciplinary project that will develop new cell therapies for arthritis and provide the platform for automated, robot-enabled manufacturing of the cell products to ensure that patients will benefit in the foreseeable future.”  According to Frank Barry, Professor of Cellular Therapy at REMEDI, and CÚRAM Investigator, the adoption of best in class manufacturing protocols is still the most serious obstacle facing the cell therapy industry: “We know from our experience in managing cell therapy clinical trials that the  manufacturing side is inefficient and vulnerable with an unacceptably high cost of goods. The only way the field can progress is through the widespread adoption of highly automated production and testing protocols. AutoCRAT addresses these gaps and will be a game-changing innovation.” Other essential contributions will come from: Valitacell Ltd (VC), based in Dublin will establish automated quality control tests for the automated factory. The University of Gothenberg and Leiden University Medical Center will work with REMEDI to develop and test these new arthritis therapies. Essen University Hospital and the University of Genoa will develop methods to produce EV-containing, cell-free therapeutic products for arthritis in the automated system. Panaxea BV will determine the costs of production and delivery of the developed therapies. They will also assess the potential benefits of an effective cell therapy for osteoarthritis to patients and their families as well as the broader European and worldwide economies. Pintail Ltd will assist with the management and administration of the Project and will ensure that AutoCRAT output is disseminated effectively to our target audience. The project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 874671. The material presented and views expressed here are the responsibility of the author (s) only. The EU Commission takes no responsibility for any use made of the information set out.  -Ends-

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

 On the 29th and 30th of January 2020, the second annual consortium meeting of the iPSpine project was held in Nantes, France. iPSpine is a 5-year project aiming to design a novel therapy for chronic lower back pain related to disc degeneration. This therapy will use advanced stem cells and smart biomaterials that can rejuvenate deteriorated tissue, ultimately restoring function to the spine. Professor Abhay Pandit, Director of CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Medical Devices at NUI Galway is one of the partners in this consortium.  During the meeting, investigators discussed study achievements and next steps for the upcoming year. The meeting also marked the launch of the iPSpine story, told through an animation co-created by patients and the consortium members.  The iPSpine story In the first year of the project, iPSpine formed a Patient Advisory Board (PAB) comprised of 5 patients, 2 patient engagement experts, a lower back pain expert, an ethicist, and the dissemination work package lead. As one of it’s first tasks, the PAB, together with the consortium, developed an animation to tell the iPSpine story. The purpose of this animation is to spread awareness of the iPSpine project in patient communities and the general public. You can find the iPSpine animation and more information about the project at iPSpine.eu.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5C2VEJhrD7c&feature=emb_logo  Scientific progress and next steps Consortium partners from across Europe, the United States of America, and China came together to reflect on a successful first year filled with scientific developments. The investigators have made the first steps towards the preparation and development of advanced stem cells and biomaterials. In the coming year, the investigators will study stem cells and biomaterials within the context of the degenerated disc. Further along, they will research safety aspects of the advanced therapy and determine how it will rejuvenate the healthy disc. The therapy will first be studied at the cellular level and later at the tissue and functional level by using specialized laboratory tools. You can find more information on the project and the consortium on the iPSpine website: iPSpine.eu.  iPSpine is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme to fund research that improves knowledge, testing, and exploitation platforms that address the future of advanced therapies in Europe. This project has received funding under grant agreement No 825925. The project is coordinated by Professor Marianna Tryfonidou at Utrecht University.  

Thursday, 12 December 2019

/media/researchcentres/curam/latestnews/Laoise-ERC-.jpg/media/researchcentres/curam/latestnews/Laoise-ERC-.jpgProfessor Laoise McNamara and Dr Dimitrios Zeugolis will lead prestigious European funded projects The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded two NUI Galway researchers €4.4 million to pursue ‘blue-sky’ biomedical research. With this support, Professor Laoise McNamara and Dr Dimitrios Zeugolis, will pursue frontier research to achieve far-reaching impact on improving human health./media/researchcentres/curam/latestnews/Laoise-ERC-.jpg Professor McNamara and Dr Zeugolis were winners in the prestigious ERC Consolidator Grant competition which saw 301 top scholars and scientists from across Europe receive awards, following a review of 2,453 proposals. Professor Lokesh Joshi, Vice-President for Research at NUI Galway, said: “These awards are among the most prestigious and competitive in Europe. Myself and the entire NUI Galway research community are delighted for both Laoise and Dimitrios who have demonstrated their excellence and leadership in research.” Professor Laoise McNamara – MEMETic Professor Laoise McNamara, who was recently announced as the Irish Research Council Researcher of the Year 2019, will lead the MEMETic project which will focus on bone disease.   According to Professor McNamara of the Biomechanics Research Centre, and CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices at NUI Galway: “My research is in the field of mechanobiology, which is at the interface between engineering and biology. Our work seeks to understand the biological mechanisms by which bone cells sense and respond to the forces they experience during every day physical activity, and how these are affected by Osteoporosis. Despite immense efforts to develop therapies for osteoporosis, conventional drugs that target bone loss only prevent osteoporotic fractures in 50% of sufferers, and the worldwide economic burden of treatment is projected to reach $132 billion by 2050. In this project we will develop advanced models to allow us to investigate how our bones react to changes in the physical environment, from a cellular level right the way up. We will use these models to increase understanding of bone disease and our ultimate aim is to apply these models to improve the success rates of therapies for osteoporosis.”    Dr Dimitrios Zeugolis - ACHIEVE Dr Dimitrios Zeugolis, Director of REMODEL and Investigator at CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices at NUI Galway, will lead the ACHIEVE project. The aim is to bring new advances to cell culture methods and address major bottlenecks in regenerative medicine, drug discovery and cellular agriculture.   According to Dr Zeugolis: “Currently, the development of cellular products, products made from cells cultured in the lab, is hampered by the lengthy culture periods taken when the cells are removed from their natural environment: the human or animal body. This time factor is responsible for the cells losing their normal function, resulting in suboptimal cellular products. With this project, we want to engineer culture environments that imitate the tissue from which the cells were extracted, thus maintaining their physiological function during experimental culture and significantly reducing the culture period. We believe the work will lead to a paradigm shift in cell culture methods with ground-breaking impacts across diverse fields, such as regenerative medicine, drug discovery and cellular agriculture.” Both grantees recognised as part of their success the support of their research students, postdoctoral and support staff, collaborators, friends and family, and funders. Professor Lokesh Joshi noted that the announcement built on years of previous successful projects for Professor McNamara and Dr Zeugolis, which were supported by Science Foundation Ireland, the Irish Research Council, Health Research Board, Teagasc, Enterprise Ireland and the European Commision, and through industry collaboration. Speaking at the announcement of the European Research Council awards, Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said: “Knowledge developed in these new projects will allow us to understand the challenges we face at a more fundamental level, and may provide us with breakthroughs and innovations that we haven’t even imagined. The EU’s investment in frontier research is an investment in our future, which is why it is so important that we reach an agreement on an ambitious Horizon Europe budget for the next multiannual budget. More available research funding would also allow us to create more opportunities everywhere in the EU - excellence should not be a question of geography.” ERC President Professor Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, whose mandate ends on 31 December 2019 after six years in office, commented: “I have had the immense privilege of seeing thousands of bright minds across our continent receive the trust and backing to go after their most daring ideas. It has been an exhilarating experience through countless meetings with many of them in person, listening to their stories and being inspired by them. As it’s about top frontier research, it comes as no surprise that an overwhelming number of them already made breakthroughs that will continue to contribute greatly to meeting the challenges ahead. As I bid farewell to an organisation that will always remain close to my heart, I am once more highly impressed when I see this latest set of grantees funded by the European Research Council. That the ERC empowers them makes me proud to be European!” For more about the ERC Consolidator Grant awards, visit: https://erc.europa.eu/news/erc-awards-over-600-million-euro-europes-top-researchers

Friday, 6 December 2019

/media/researchcentres/curam/latestnews/J0286151113.jpgThe winners of the prestigious 2019 Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Awards were revealed recently at the annual SFI Science Summit. NUI Galway academics Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM received the ‘SFI Best International Engagement Award’ and Dr Muriel Grenon, lecturer in Biochemistry from the School of Natural Sciences received the ‘SFI Outstanding Contribution to STEM Communication’ award. Over 300 leading members of Ireland’s research community came together to celebrate the significant contributions made over the past year to Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) in Ireland. This year there were eight categories in total, with ten award winners. The SFI Best International Engagement Award recognised the accomplishments of Professor Abhay Pandit for his research-led international activities at CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices based at NUI Galway. Speaking about his award, Professor Abhay Pandit, CÚRAM, NUI Galway, said: “I am honoured to receive this award from SFI. This honour recognises the trust, hard work, dedication and excellence of the entire team of advisors, researchers, industry partners and staff at CÚRAM who I have the privilege to work and collaborate with. It is through our international research collaborations that we are driving the development of new understandings and the advancement of real solutions to develop affordable, innovative and transformative device-based solutions to treat global chronic diseases. By striving to be outward facing we are not only training to empower future leaders but also work hard to champion stakeholders in the community (artists, filmmakers, teachers) to engage them with the STEM message.” The SFI Outstanding Contribution to STEM Communication award recognised the accomplishments of Dr Muriel Grenon for her outstanding contribution to the popularisation of science and raising public awareness of the value of science to human progress. Speaking about her award, Dr Muriel Grenon, NUI Galway, said: “I would like to share this award with all past and present Cell EXPLORERS coordinators, volunteers, and supporters. Our programme is based on the simple idea of sending local science role models with a passion for Science to meet the general public locally. We meet young people at an age when they decide if they like science and if they would consider it as a career. Due to its hands-on aspect, the programme has achieved great popularity within schools and contributes to changing stereotypes about science and scientists. This is only possible through the amazing work that our coordinators do behind the scenes and the dedication of our volunteer scientists. I am very proud of what we have achieved together – the delivery of a programme with a high standard of public engagement, a high education value, inspiring many young children all over Ireland.” Professor Pandit is an Established Professor of Biomaterials at NUI Galway and Scientific Director of CÚRAM. He has been an elected member on the Council for both the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society and European Society for Biomaterials Society. He was the first Irish academic to be inducted as an International Fellow in Biomaterials Science and Engineering by the International Union of Societies for Biomaterials Science and Engineering and elected as a Fellow of the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative International Society. He was also elected to the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) College of Fellows. Professor Pandit has published more than 250 papers in peer-reviewed journals, filed numerous patent applications and has licensed four technologies to medical device companies. He has coordinated four EU grants to date and has generated research contracts from industry and government funding agencies totalling €90 million. Throughout his career, his work has been outward facing, from engaging in international collaborations and hosting international conferences, to supporting trade missions and championing residency programs for leaders in the community (artists, filmmakers, teachers) to empower them with the STEM message. Dr Grenon is a lecturer in Biochemistry at the School of Natural Sciences in NUI Galway and the founding Director of the Cell EXPLORERS science outreach programme. Dr Grenon started out the programme in 2012 with a team of 10 undergraduate science students in NUI Galway and has built Cell EXPLORERS into a national network comprising 13 partner teams with members from 15 Higher Education Institutions in Ireland. Between 2012 and 2018 Cell EXPLORERS involved 1,187 team members, visited 471 classrooms in 280 schools and reached 32,000 members of the public. Cell EXPLORERS has also successfully integrated science outreach projects into the final year of the Biochemistry undergraduate course at NUI Galway allowing the creation of potential novel science outreach resources each semester. Dr Grenon is also involved in driving science communication internationally: Cell EXPLORERS is part of Scientix, the community for Science Education in Europe. The programme has also started a collaboration with the University of Kwatzulu-Natal in South Africa, where a team is currently piloting the ‘Fantastic DNA school’ visits. Dr Grenon’s contribution and dedication to the popularisation of STEM has been recognised by the ‘Outstanding Contribution to STEM’ award at the 2013 Galway Science and Technology Festival, the 2017 ‘NUI Galway President Award for Societal Impact’ and been made Knight of the Order of the Palmes Académiques by the French Ministry of Education in 2019./media/researchcentres/curam/latestnews/J0286151113.jpg/media/researchcentres/curam/latestnews/J0286151113.jpg‌

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

/media/researchcentres/curam/latestnews/GGL_certificate.jpg/media/researchcentres/curam/latestnews/GGL_certificate.jpgDr Una Fitzgerald, founder of Galway Green Labs, CÚRAM, NUI Galway (front right), pictured receiving Europe’s first Green Lab Certification from Allison Paradise, CEO, My Green Lab (front left) with members of the Galway Green Labs team. Photo: Maciek Doczyk New video documentary highlights people who work in labs are using 15-16 times more plastic than the average person in Ireland CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices based at NUI Galway has launched a new short video documentary ‘The time to green our labs is now’ as part of the Galway Green Labs initiative, which recently led to the CÚRAM lab being the first in Europe to be awarded Green Lab Certification. The video documentary tells the story of the Galway Green Labs initiative, which was spearheaded by Dr Una Fitzgerald, a CÚRAM funded Investigator and Director of the Galway Neuroscience Centre at NUI Galway. Together with her ‘green team’ of CÚRAM researchers and staff, and with the support of the University Registrar and Deputy President, Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh, and the Community University Sustainability Partnership, she is working to transform practice across campus to address issues such as plastic waste, energy reduction, recycling, and water usage. Dr Una Fitzgerald, NUI Galway, explains her motivation for establishing Galway Green Labs: “What has emerged is that people who work in labs are using 15-16 times more plastic than the average person in Ireland. This practice is done more so out of convenience than out of necessity, so we’re trying to change mind-sets to heighten our awareness of the cumulative negative impact on the environment of this way of working. All we’re asking lab scientists to do is question what they’re doing - to ask themselves, “Is there something I can do to lessen the environmental impact of my work in the lab”. And to talk to others, and spread the message of the urgent need for change.” University Registrar and Deputy President, Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh, is supporting the initiative and commented: "For many years NUI Galway has been improving its performance in terms of energy efficient buildings, waste management, water use and more. Recently we've brought together a Community and University Sustainability Programme that is looking at practices and spreading what we do out into the entire community and crucially bringing it into educational practices under the model Learn - Live - Lead. The Galway Green Labs initiative is a major part of this work." Certification was awarded this November by My Green Lab, a non-profit organisation that aims to fundamentally and permanently improve the sustainability of scientific research by unifying and leading scientists, vendors, designers, energy providers, and others in a common drive toward a world in which all research reflects the highest standards of social and environmental responsibility. Run for scientists, by scientists, it leverages its credibility and track record to develop standards, oversee their implementation, and inspire the many behavioural changes that are needed throughout the scientific community.  Though My Green Lab focuses solely on laboratory environments, it believes its activities will excite similar changes across other industries, and in the private lives of the millions of people who spend their time in labs. Alison Paradise, CEO of My Green Lab, commented: “Labs comprise an industry that is three times larger than the construction industry and half the size of the automotive industry. Labs, for all their good intentions, are estimated to discard over more than 5.5 million metric tonnes of plastic each year, which is enough to cover an area 23 times the size of Galway ankle-deep. They also consume 5-10 times more energy and water than office spaces. If every lab in Ireland were to turn off just one piece of equipment overnight for a year, it would be the equivalent to offsetting the greenhouse gas emissions associated with driving 2.8 million kilometres.” Sinéad Ní Mhainnín, Resource Efficiency Officer, Connacht Ulster Regional Waste Management Office, who appears in the film, is supporting Galway Green Labs, and says: “By 2020 we aim to achieve a 50 percent recycling rate for municipal dry recycling. Working with Dr Fitzgerald and the Galway Green Labs team is going to go a long way to help us in achieving this goal.” The documentary is funded by CÚRAM, SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices at NUI Galway, Connacht Ulster Regional Waste Management Office and St. Anthony’s and Claddagh Credit Union, Galway. For more information about Galway Green Labs, contact Dr Una Fitzgerald, NUI Galway, at una.fitzgerald@nuigalway.ie.  Click here to view the Galway Green Labs short video documentary:https://vimeo.com/375847945. Follow on Twitter at #GalwayGreenLabs and @GalwayGreenLabs.