Friday, 27 September 2019
NUI Galway’s School of Chemistry and CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Medical Devices, will host a celebration of the centenary of Professor Thomas Dillon on Wednesday, 2 October with attendees from all over Ireland, and beyond. Professor Thomas P. Dillon, a former revolutionary, was appointed Professor of Chemistry at the then University College Galway (UCG) in 1919. A century later, and the scientific topics he started exploring, such as the study of carbohydrates and sugars, as well as research into Ireland’s seaweeds, are still relevant in today’s cutting-edge research that will be discussed throughout the day at the Thomas Dillon Centenary Symposium. The programme will also include a lecture from Dillon’s grandson, Professor Niall Dillon of Imperial College London. Niall is a renowned molecular biologist who is carrying out research on stem cells and early mammalian development and its relevance to cancer. The public event will begin at 5pm, featuring stories, science and dance. To begin the evening, there will be a “Threesis” challenge, where research students will present their thesis succinctly and engagingly in only three minutes aimed especially for a lay public audience, and a ballet piece performed by Youth Ballet West inspired by Dillon’s description of the “benzene ring” and choreographed by Ester O Brolchain. A historical lecture by Professor Dillon’s granddaughter, the author Honor O Brolchain at 6 pm will tell the story of “The ‘remarkable’ Thomas P. Dillon: chemist, revolutionary and professor”. Thomas P. Dillon, born in Co. Sligo, was working as assistant to Professor Hugh Ryan at UCD in 1912 when he met his future-wife Geraldine Plunkett, and through her Dillon met her brother Joseph Mary Plunkett and many others involved in revolutionary activities at this turbulent time in Ireland’s history. He was a member of the Irish Volunteers and acted as Chemical Advisor in the 1916 Rising. He and Geraldine were married on Easter Sunday 1916, and watched the Rising start from their window in the Imperial Hotel, O’Connell Street, where they were honeymooning. For his role working for republican candidates in the 1918 elections, Dillon was jailed in Gloucester for more than a year. Upon his release from jail, Dillon went straight to Galway for a job interview, keen to continue his scientific career and he was appointed Professor of Chemistry in 1919, a post he held for 35 years. He was an enthusiastic teacher and wrote the first chemistry textbook in Irish. He believed Ireland should be exploiting its natural resources, and his pioneering research in the fields of alginates (polysaccharides from seaweed) gained him an international reputation. Under his stewardship, the School of Chemistry became a magnet for students, including two of the first women professors of chemistry in Ireland. When he retired in 1954, he was succeeded by his former student Proinsias S. O’Colla, establishing a tradition of research in carbohydrate and glyco-sciences, which continues at NUI Galway to this day. As well as in the Schools of Chemistry and School of Natural Sciences, research into the role of sugars in biological processes and health is also a key component of various investigations taking place in CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Medical Devices. This includes development of medical devices based on polysaccharides, very much in the spirit envisaged by Dillon himself. The med-tech industry is a major employer in the Galway region, and R&D in medical devices as well as carbohydrates as renewable natural resources has and will have a large part to play in the regional economy. Paul Murphy, Established Professor of Chemistry of NUI Galway’s School of Chemistry says: “Dillon’s foresight in trying to develop useful products from carbohydrates is just as relevant, if not even more relevant today. Aside from the relevance to health, carbohydrates are highly renewable carbon stores and will certainly have roles to play in generating chemical feedstocks for making drugs or for the production of smart materials in future years. This is potentially very important for the future of the West of Ireland given our proximity to the sea and importance of agriculture to the region.” Honor O Brolchain, author and family historian said of her grandfather: “Referred to as ‘remarkable’ by diverse people, he was the kind of man you could, and would, ask to do anything, and he did – running an organisation, setting up a canteen, starting an Aid Fund and, in the case of Galway, enhancing and expanding a Chemistry Department, while fending off the violent extremes of the Black-and-Tans, and representing the University in 1935 in a debate on the uniting of Ireland. He was an interesting, complex and generous man.” The event is open to the public and will take place from 5pm on Wednesday, 2 October in the ILAS Building, North Campus, NUI Galway. Details of the programme can be found on www.dillonsymposium.wordpress.com and to register free attendance, visit: www.eventbrite.com and search for ‘Thomas Dillon’. The event is supported by CÚRAM, and The Royal Society of Chemistry Republic of Ireland Local Section.
Thursday, 19 September 2019
CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Medical Devices based at NUI Galway, is now enrolling for its fourth Teachers in Residence Programme, with applications being accepted until 11, October 2019. CÚRAM’s Teachers in Residence Programme has ten places available for five primary and five secondary school teachers with priority placement given to teachers from DEIS schools. Participants will learn about and receive resources for the classroom in science engagement activities, science capital teaching approaches designed to support teachers in helping students find more meaning and relevance in science subjects, and lesson plan kits developed by teachers for teachers, that are linked with the primary and junior cycle science curricula. During the residency, teachers will work directly with world class researchers from CÚRAM and receive private tours of the laboratories to learn about the cutting edge medical device research taking place there and its impact on healthcare in Ireland and globally. The residency runs from October 2019 until March 2020 for nine evenings. As part of the programme, teachers and students are invited to attend interactive workshops run by CÚRAM and participants of the programme. Teachers from all disciplines are invited to participate, in support of encouraging multidisciplinary approaches to teaching science. Kathleen Lally, a secondary school teacher from Calasanctius College in Oranmore who participated on the course from 2018-2019 had this to say about her involvement: “The best outreach programme by far that we have ever participated in. The dual approach of targeting teachers and students is fantastic, enthusing both by giving a glimpse of cutting edge technology in Science outside the classroom. We cannot recommend this course highly enough.”Teachers in residence work with CÚRAM researchers to develop high quality content for the classroom that is relevant, exciting, practical and easy to use. Lesson plan kits developed by teachers from primary and secondary schools will include; Biomaterials, Healing the Heart, Mending the Musculoskeletal System, Fixing the Brain and Exploring Stem Cells Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director, CÚRAM, NUI Galway, said: “We have been delighted with the innovation and creativity shown by the primary and secondary school teachers who have participated in the first three years of the programme. If we can 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.” CÚRAM is also a partner in the Department of Education and Skills’ Junior Cycle for Teachers *STE(A)M in Junior Cycle initiative, to develop Continuous Professional Development workshops for Junior Cycle teachers around MedTech research and career opportunities. The JCT STE(A)M workshops will 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 information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Lesson plan kits developed by previous years’ teachers can be downloaded at: http://www.curamdevices.ie/curam/public-engagement/teachers-in-residence/.
Friday, 13 September 2019
WestBIC, CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Medical Devices at NUI Galway, and their European partners in Codex4SMEs Information and Networking Event are to host the Interreg North-West Europe project Codex4SMEs (Companion Diagnostics Expedited for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) on Wednesday, 18 September, at Hotel Meyrick, Galway. Codex4SMEs aims to improve healthcare through enhanced adoption of personalised medicine. The objective is to establish a network, which supports SMEs along the value chain of Companion Diagnostics development. The event will provide an opportunity to meet the nine European partners involved in the Codex4SMEs project and discover the supports that this project can bring to your SME. Participants will be given the opportunity to listen to companion diagnostics experts such as Dr Margot Jehle, lead partner, SMEs who will provide an introduction and overview of the Interreg Codex4SMEs project and the supports for SMEs, and Ultan Faherty, Halo Business Angel Network who will present tools to convince the investor to invest in your SME. Insight into new regulations that will affect Companion Diagnostic SMEs will be presented and networking sessions to meet other key players, stakeholders or potential new collaboration partners will be held. Diarmuid Cahalane, Metabolomic Diagnostics who will be speaking at the event on the topic of Pathway to regulation and market for IVD Companies and start-ups’ feels this is a critical period for the country to solidify its place in the global field of data processing. “Ireland is a world leader in data processing and medical science. Right now Ireland has the potential to lead the convergence of research in order to bring to market next generation medical technologies based on revolutionary bioinformatics. By combining the expertise within Irish research institutes with our commercial knowledge and global experience in life sciences and technologies, we are delivering a world class suite of solutions which can place Ireland firmly at the forefront of the healthcare revolution being fueled by bioinformatics”, he says. Further topics to be covered by guest speakers include: ‘The transfer of diagnostics tests from “bench to bedside”’ by John O’Loughlin of the Rotunda Hospital; ‘Evaluation of how different IVD’s perform from clinical prospective’ by Dr Fergus McCarthy, an obstetrician at Cork University Maternity Hospital; ‘Engagement with pharmaceutical companies’ by Dr Leonard Marshall, Access and Innovation Manager at Roche Diagnostics; and ‘Overview of funding access and sustainability of projects within European environment’ by Jeanette Mueller of Accelopment. Eunan Cunningham, WestBIC, one of the Irish Codex4SMEs partners, commented: “We are delighted to host this information and networking event in Galway. It provides an excellent opportunity for SMEs working in the Companion Diagnostics field to hear the latest information from experts in diagnostics, regulation, investment and other topics. There is a formal networking session incorporated into the event where attendees can meet up with other attendees and discuss collaborative projects and possibilities.” Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director at CÚRAM in NUI Galway, said: “Partnering in this project provides a valuable opportunity for CÚRAM to assist in strengthening the growth and development of SMEs in Ireland through the Codex4SME unique approach.” To register for the event and to find more details, visit https://bit.ly/2mbuLa5.
Tuesday, 3 September 2019
Niamh Heery’s A TINY SPARK, will screen at the prolific DOCUTAH Festival this week. It is the most recent film produced through the ‘Science on Screen’ initiative created by CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Medical Devices at NUI Galway and Galway Film Centre. Produced by Caroline Kealy of Swansong Films, A TINY SPARK focuses on three stroke survivors, Rebecca, Trevor and Helen, who talk about life after a stroke and their individual roads to recovery. It also looks at research which is being led by NUI Galway neuroscientist, Dr Karen Doyle, and involves the analysis of removed blood clots to determine what information they may yield and could point to big improvements for stroke treatment. It is the first study of its kind in the world, and is an international collaborative study between NUI Galway, hospital partners in Beaumont Hospital and throughout Europe, and the Mayo Clinic in the US. The research is carried out in partnership with Cerenovus. DOCUTAH, taking place from the 2nd to the 7th September 2019 in St. George, Utah, is an international documentary film festival that celebrates the art of documentary filmmaking with programmes providing creative, cultural and educational engagement. A TINY SPARK will screen at 8.30pm (East Coast) on Tuesday the 3rd and 11:50am on Friday the 6th of September 2019. For more information see festival programme here. Producer Caroline Kealy will be in attendance at this prestigious festival where A TINY SPARK is included in the ‘Films to your Health ‘ strand, alongside other documentaries examining the impact of illness and the potential for recovery. A TINY SPARK was recently awarded the Best Medical Short at Sci On! Film Festival in Nevada and has previously screened at festivals worldwide including Oregon Documentary Festival and SCINEMA Australia. Follow the films journey on Twitter and Facebook: @atinyspark1 #ScienceOnScreen #ATinySpark #GalwayFilmCentre #CURAM #CeantarScannán #GalwayCityOfFilm Web links: http://www.galwayfilmcentre.ie/category/science-on-screen/ http://www.curamdevices.ie/curam/public-engagement/science-on-screen/
Thursday, 29 August 2019
A NEW community art-science project for the east side community in Galway city has been commissioned by CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Medical Devices, based at NUI Galway, together with Galway City Arts Office. The artist Karen Conway was awarded the CÚRAM Artist Commission for the city’s east side. She will draw inspiration from the research being carried out at CÚRAM. Ms Conway has exhibited at the Galway International Arts Festival and the TULCA Festival of Visual Arts, and the University College Hospital Galway. Her work has shown a strong interest in the crossover of science and art. For this project, she will work with the eastside community and Prof William Wijns and his researchers. Prof Wijns is an expert in cardiology and is leading a €5 million 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. CÚRAM’s Art and Science programme creates links between the scientific and artistic communities to support the art-science discipline while increasing interest in science and current research. Since 2015, CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland funded Centre for Research in Medical Devices based at NUI Galway, has hosted artist residencies in its laboratories.
Monday, 19 August 2019
Funding to advance development of Tight Alright device to treat venous leg ulcers, the first device capable of continuously monitoring compression therapy outside the clinical setting FeelTect, a connected-health, wound care start-up company established from the NUI Galway laboratory of CÚRAM investigator, Professor Garry Duffy, has been presented with an *EIT Health Headstart award worth €50,000 to advance the development of their ‘Tight Alright’ pressure sensing device to treat venous leg ulcers. The competition finals saw 22 finalist teams of medtech start-ups from across the UK and Ireland pitching their technologies to a panel of investors, healthcare professionals, and medtech experts. FeelTect’s technology, Tight Alright, is a wireless, pressure sensing device for measuring and monitoring sub-bandage pressure during compression therapy, primarily for the millions of people worldwide with venous leg ulcers (VLUs). Venous leg ulcers are chronic wounds that stem from venous insufficiency. Venous insufficiency is a medical condition affecting the circulation of blood to the lower limbs. The tiny valves that normally force blood back up towards the heart no longer function, causing blood to pool up in the legs, and the veins of the legs become distended, resulting in an accumulation of fluid in the lower limbs. Venous leg ulcers are associated with a variety of risk factors including age, increased body mass index (BMI), low physical activity, high blood pressure, venous insufficiency, deep vein thrombosis, and family history. Compression therapy is the gold-standard treatment for venous leg ulcers helping to overcome venous insufficiency and restoring blood flow, however it is ineffective if applied too loosely, and dangerous if applied too tightly. Yet studies have shown that even experienced wound care clinicians can find it difficult to achieve a targeted pressure with existing compression products. Despite major advances in certain wound care areas, such as regenerative medicine, moisture balance, infection management, and tissue oxygenation, the basic tools for compression therapy have been largely untouched by significant (“disruptive”) innovation in recent decades. FeelTect aims to change this through the digital capabilities of Tight Alright, which will enable improvements in the application and maintenance of evidence-based compression therapy, ensuring safety while reducing healing times. In fact, due to global wound care industry trends, such as the expiry of patents, entry of low-cost competitors, and a lack of advanced wound care specialisation amongst clinicians, many leaders in the segment have turned their focus to digital, outcomes-based, and value-based innovations that complement their existing product portfolios. FeelTect is fully aligned with these needs, resulting in very strong interest from potential strategic partners. FeelTect founder and CEO, Dr Andrew Cameron, highlighted the impact the award will have on the company’s progression towards market entry: “The funding provided by EIT Health will allow us to progress the miniaturisation of Tight Alright to a truly wearable product, making it the first device capable of continuously monitoring compression therapy outside the clinical setting. We’ll also be able to further our initial clinical validation, which was supported by Health Innovation Hub Ireland, demonstrating the ability of Tight Alright to improve the achievement of targeted, evidence-based pressure during compression application. “We have planned our first clinical study involving VLU patients with our clinical collaborator, Professor Mary-Paula Colgan in St James’s Hospital. After having experienced wound care nurses from Galway University Hospitals, and Dr Georgina Gethin from the School of Nursing and Midwifery at NUI Galway validating the functionality of the Tight Alright prototype, with substantial improvements in the achievement of targeted bandage pressure on healthy volunteers, the FeelTect team is excited to see these results translated to benefit patients.” Inventor, Co-founder and CÚRAM investigator, Professor Garry Duffy, NUI Galway, stated: “It’s very exciting to see the first commercial product from our labs at NUI Galway move closer to the clinic. NUI Galway has the perfect ecosystem to support translational medical devices including the BioInnovate Ireland programme, where this unmet clinical need was identified, and the critical mass of expertise provided through the CÚRAM investigator network which is supporting the development of the product. Through Enterprise Ireland’s initial support and now with EIT Health Headstart funding we plan to continue the clinical validation of the Tight Alright technology and move it close to positive outcomes for patients with venous leg ulcers.” FeelTect began its journey in the renowned BioInnovate Ireland programme based at NUI Galway, where the underlying clinical need was identified by 2017 BioInnovate Fellow Dr Andrew Cameron, in collaboration with CÚRAM investigator, Dr Georgina Gethin, as well as an Enterprise Ireland Commercialisation Fund project within the Duffy Lab in the School of Medicine at NUI Galway, where the proof-of-concept research and development was conducted. The team is currently in discussions with potential partners and has launched a seed round for fundraising to support the progression of Tight Alright into clinical practice. For more information about FeelTect, based at NUI Galway, visit: https://www.feeltect.com/. For more about CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Medical Devices based at NUI Galway, visit: http://curamdevices.ie/.
Wednesday, 7 August 2019
CÚRAM and Galway Film Centre’s ‘Science on Screen’ films celebrate continued international screenings and award successes in the US and Australia A Tiny Spark, the most recent film produced through the ‘Science on Screen’ initiative created by CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Medical Devices at NUI Galway and Galway Film Centre, has been awarded Best Medical Short at Sci On! Film Festival in Nevada. The film focuses on the first study of its kind in the world, which is being led by NUI Galway Neuroscientist, Dr Karen Doyle and involves the analysis of removed blood clots to determine what information they may yield and could point to big improvements to people’s lives. The film, directed by Niamh Heery and produced by Caroline Kealy of Swansong Films with animations by Eric Dolan, meets three stroke survivors Rebecca, Trevor and Helen who talk about life after a stroke and their individual roads to recovery. This research is an international collaborative study between NUI Galway, hospital partners in Beaumont Hospital and throughout Europe and the Mayo Clinic, USA. Awarding the prize, one of the festival judges at Sci On! Film Festival had this to say about the film: “Such a powerful and perfectly-made film. The subject matter is so vital and relevant. It’s hard to find the words to describe such a meaningful and compassionate treatment of a condition that has impacted so many of us directly or indirectly, personally or through a friend or family member. Thank you for helping raise awareness - and to show that there is hope.” While a second judge remarked: “Absolutely superb and engaging documentary, with an excellent and sensitive blending of interviews with animated scenes.” A Tiny Spark, which had its international festival premiere in March 2019 at the Oregon Documentary Festival, also screened at the SCINEMA International Science Film Festival in Australia, the largest science film festival in the Southern Hemisphere. The film has also just been selected for DOCUTAH Film Festival in Utah in September 2019 and more screenings will be announced soon. The CÚRAM and Galway Film Centre ‘Science on Screen’ initiative offers funding to filmmakers to produce a documentary that engages with research currently underway at CÚRAM in NUI Galway. This funding strand for creative documentaries set in the world of science is now in its fourth year. Other ‘Science on Screen’ films are also still screening to audiences around the globe. The 2017 film Bittersweet, directed by Hugh Rodgers and produced by Anna Rodgers and Zlata Filipovic of Invisible Thread Films, scooped the Best Educational Media Award at the Raw Science Film Festival 2019 in Los Angeles. Bittersweet follows the personal stories of young people who are living with diabetes and their daily challenges to manage it. Over the course of the film, audiences discover ground-breaking research and development in pharmacology and biomedical science, capturing the important work of CÚRAM’s Professor David Brayden and his team at UCD’s School of Veterinary Medicine, where they are developing new ways of delivering insulin to the body. Bittersweet premiered in 2017 and has since screened at film festivals globally, as well as broadcasting on RTÉ 1 TV and at special screenings for healthcare professionals, and for school children and academics throughout Ireland. It recently screened at Galway University Hospitals to the Paediatric team in conjunction with Diabetes Ireland. The film’s success to date emphasizes the key goal of ‘Science on Screen’ which is to bring science to new audiences in the form of great storytelling through the medium of film. Bittersweet is available on the RTÉ Player: https://www.rte.ie/player/movie/bittersweet/83918888259 A Tiny Spark Trailer is available here: https://vimeo.com/291731458 and for more about ‘Science on Screen’ visit: http://curamdevices.ie/curam/public-engagement/science-on-screen/
Tuesday, 30 July 2019
Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM at NUI Galway has been elected to Fellowship of the Irish Academy of Engineering. This distinction has been bestowed on Professor Pandit by the Academy in recognition of his “exceptional career and contribution to the advancement of engineering and economic and social progress in Ireland”. The Irish Academy of Engineering is an all-island body with a mission to advance the wellbeing of the country by marshalling the expertise and insights of eminent engineers to provide independent advice to policy makers on matters involving engineering and technology. Fellowship of the Academy recognises outstanding distinction in engineering in Ireland and overseas, covering academia, public sector, industry and engineering consultancy, with a current membership of 146. Abhay Pandit is an Established Professor of Biomaterials. He is Scientific Director of CÚRAM, the Centre for Research in Medical Devices at NUI Galway, a multi-disciplinary academic-industry-clinician translational research centre funded by Science Foundation Ireland. Professor Pandit’s research integrates material science and biological systems in developing solutions for chronic diseases. Professor Pandit has developed advanced drug delivery vehicles, which facilitate highly controlled localised and sustained delivery of multiple biomolecules to target injury mechanisms at the molecular and cellular levels. These biomaterial platforms have been demonstrated to act as templates for constructive reorganisation of existing tissues and for the induction of new functional, site-appropriate, tissue formation. These platforms have been developed for neural, musculoskeletal and cardiovascular clinical targets with numerous other targets currently under development. Professor Pandit has received numerous awards and distinctions. 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 in recognition of his outstanding contributions to establishing a national centre which will develop transformative device-based solutions to treat global chronic diseases. Abhay Pandit 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 has hosted the TERMIS-EU meeting in 2010 and ESB in 2011, both for the very first time in Ireland. He is also the current chair-elect of TERMIS-EU since 2019. 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. Professor Pandit serves on the Executive Editorial Board of the Tissue Engineering journal and is an Associate Editor of the Biomaterials journal. He has coordinated four EU grants to date and has generated research contracts from industry and government funding agencies totalling €90 million. President of NUI Galway, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, said: “On behalf of colleagues at NUI Galway, I extend warmest congratulations to Abhay on this recognition by the Irish Academy of Engineering. His election to Fellowship signals the immense and continuing contribution which Abhay continues to make to the field of engineering in Ireland, in particular to the area of tissue engineering. I’m delighted to see his achievements so justly recognised by the Academy in this way.” Speaking about his Fellowship, Professor Abhay Pandit, NUI Galway, said: “It is an honour to be elected to the Irish Academy of Engineering. I look forward to building on this achievement to further enhance the impact of tissue engineering at NUI Galway and to further the growth and international recognition of the medical device sector here in the West of Ireland.” For more information about the Irish Academy of Engineering, visit: http://iae.ie/
Monday, 29 July 2019
A University College Dublin (UCD) researcher and CÚRAM Investigator Professor Madeleine Lowery, is among 62 European Research Council (ERC) grant holders who have today been awarded an ERC Proof-of-Concept or ‘top-up’ grant of €150,000 to explore the commercial or societal potential of their ERC-funded frontier research results. Professor Lowery’s research in the UCD School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering is focused on using engineering methods to model the brain, nerves and muscles to improve technology which is used to treat motor symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease. In 2015 Professor Lowery was awarded an ERC Consolidator Grant of €2 million, over 5-years, for a research project focused on deep brain stimulation (DBS) therapy used to treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. While DBS has emerged as an effective treatment for the symptoms of Parkinson's disease (PD) over the last 25-years, the mechanisms of DBS are not yet fully understood. Current DBS systems operate in an 'open-loop' configuration with stimulus parameters (amplitude, pulse duration and frequency) empirically set and remaining fixed over time. Patients can however experience side effects and poor control of symptoms associated with suboptimal programming of stimulus parameters. A ‘closed-loop’ DBS system offers an alternative approach that has the potential to overcome current limitations and increase therapeutic efficacy while reducing side-effects by automatically adjusting stimulation parameters as required. Through her ERC-funded project, Professor Lowery and her research team have developed biophysically detailed computational models of the neural circuits in the brain during DBS and are using these to develop and test novel algorithms for closed-loop DBS. Professor Lowery, UCD School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering said, “We are delighted to have been awarded proof-of-concept funding by the ERC. While the potential benefits of closed-loop DBS are widely recognised these systems have not yet been clinically implemented as feasibility must first to be demonstrated. The funding announced today will enable us commence pre-clinical testing of the closed-loop system we are developing and evaluate commercialisation strategies.” PoC grants can be used in various ways, such as exploring business opportunities, preparing patent applications or verifying the practical viability of scientific concepts. This latest round of grants, totaling €9.3 million in funding, includes the 1000th project, (based in the University of Alcalá, Spain), to receive PoC funding since the scheme commenced in 2011. Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said, “Europe excels in turning money into great science, but still has to improve its ability to turn excellent science into money and benefits to society. For the past eight years, ERC Proof of Concept grants have helped top researchers progress in the world of entrepreneurship. I believe the new European Innovation Council will also be able to assist them in their endeavors.” The new grants were awarded to researchers working in 15 countries: Austria (1), Belgium (3), Denmark (2), Finland (2), France (6), Germany (4), Greece (2), Ireland (2), Israel (3), Italy (9), Netherlands (8), Romania (1), Spain (4), Switzerland (5) and the UK (10). For more information contact Micéal Whelan, Communications and Media Relations Manager, NovaUCD, UCD Research and Innovation, t: + 353 1 716 3712, e: email@example.com.
Thursday, 18 July 2019
A team at NUI Galway has been awarded funding of US$300,000 from The Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s research to develop a novel approach to brain repair for Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s is a condition that primarily affects a person’s ability to control movement leading to a progressive deterioration in ability. The symptoms of the condition are caused by the degeneration and death of brain cells that regulate movement. Brain repair for Parkinson’s involves replacing these dead cells by transplanting healthy brain cells back into the brain, but the widespread roll-out of this therapy has been hindered by the poor survival of the implanted cells. In research that made global headlines recently, Dr Eilís Dowd’s research team at NUI Galway demonstrated that the survival of the cells was dramatically improved when they were implanted into the brain within a supportive gel made from the natural material collagen. The funding from The Michael J Fox Foundation will allow Dr Dowd to take this research to the next level where she will test if the collagen gel can also improve the survival of healthy brain cells generated from adult stem cells. Commenting on the funding award, Dr Eilís Dowd at NUI Galway, said: “In our previous research published in the Nature journal, Scientific Reports, we showed that collagen provides the cells with a nurturing, supportive environment in the brain and helps them to survive the aversive transplant process. This funding from The Michael J Fox Foundation will allow us to test if this approach can also improve survival and reparative ability of healthy brain cells derived from adult stem cells. If so, this could lead to a dramatic improvement in brain repair approaches for Parkinson’s – a field that has been hampered for years by poor transplant survival.” The Michael J Fox Foundation is dedicated to finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease through a funded research agenda and to ensuring the development of improved therapies for those living with Parkinson’s today. The research will be led by Dr Eilís Dowd, in collaboration with colleagues from the Galway Neuroscience Centre and CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices at NUI Galway, and University of Edinburgh. Dr Dowd’s ongoing research in this field featured in the short documentary Feats of Modest Valour which won the coveted Scientist Award at the Imagine Science Film Festival in New York, as well as the Professional Documentary Award at the Raw Science Festival in California. Dr Eilís Dowd has been working in the field of pre-clinical Parkinson’s research for almost 20 years, and her research focuses on understanding the cause of the condition and on developing novel pharmacological, cell, gene and biomaterial therapies for it. She received her PhD from University of Edinburgh, after which she completed post-doctoral research at University of Cambridge, McGill University, Canada and Cardiff University. Dr Dowd is currently president of Neuroscience Ireland, Ireland’s official neuroscience society. She sits on the governing councils of both the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies and the International Brain Research Organization. To view a short trailer of the documentary Feats of Modest Valour, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbMX3QVLwIw For more about The Michael J Fox Foundation, visit: www.michaeljfox.org/
Wednesday, 17 July 2019
CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices at NUI Galway has announced a formal collaboration with Rutgers University, New Jersey regarding complementary medical device programs. The formal Agreement will focus on developing multi-disciplinary collaborations involving research on medical device technologies, commercialisation of medical technologies, and business incubation and acceleration. As global leaders in the field of medical device research, and because of its close collaboration with MedTech industry leaders, CÚRAM's expertise was sought by a delegation from Choose New Jersey, an economic development organisation with a mission to encourage and nurture economic growth throughout New Jersey. The organisation is developing an innovation HUB in New Brunswick which will have two million square feet of office, laboratory and incubator space. Together with Rutgers University, the delegation travelled to NUI Galway to learn from the experience and knowledge of CÚRAM with a view to creating a similar program at the HUB, potentially in partnership with CÚRAM. The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Rutgers and CÚRAM took place with Scientific Director of CÚRAM, Professor Abhay Pandit, Dr James Walsh and Vincent Smeraglia from Rutgers University, and representatives from Rowan University, Hackensack Meridian Healthcare, DEVCO, the HUB in New Brunswick and BioInnovate Ireland. Speaking at the signing, Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director at CÚRAM, said: “This event is a testimony to CÚRAM's position as a global leader in the field of medical device research and we welcome the opportunity to share our expertise with our colleagues in New Jersey. We look forward to working with them further as they develop the HUB.” Dr James Walsh, Senior Director for Innovation, Rutgers University, said: “On behalf of Chancellor Christopher J. Molloy and Provost Prabhas Moghe, we are very excited to launch this alliance with our friends and colleagues in Galway. We believe that together, we can build on the strong links between New Jersey and Ireland’s highly innovative indigenous and multinational MedTech companies. Rutgers’ extensive research capabilities, faculty expertise, and business incubation leadership offer the alliance a strong foundation. We look forward to building on this with our colleagues at NUI Galway and Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology.” For more information about Rutgers University, visit: https://www.rutgers.edu/ and for Choose New Jersey, visit: https://www.choosenj.com/
Monday, 1 July 2019
New €3.9 million NUI Galway-led European consortium to train researchers in developing new treatments for multiple sclerosis Monday, 1 July, 2019: Dr Una FitzGerald, Principal Investigator of the Multiple Sclerosis Research Lab and Director of the Galway Neuroscience Centre at NUI Galway, collaborating with CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices, has secured €3.9 million in EU funding to lead a consortium of researchers across Europe. The project aims to develop novel devices and treatments for the devastating neurological disease multiple sclerosis (MS) and involves researchers from Denmark, Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, Spain and the Czech Republic. MS is the most common neurological disease to affect young adults and there are currently approximately 8,000 people in Ireland suffering from the disorder. The disease usually has two phases, an early “relapsing remitting” phase, during which sufferers undergo impairment, such as double-vision or limb weakness, followed by symptom dissipation for a period. The second phase, termed “progressive MS” is degenerative, when individuals experience deteriorating symptoms, frequently resulting in much-reduced mobility, increased fatigue and cognitive challenges. These worsening symptoms impair quality of life significantly, and in some cases, can lead to an inability to continue in full-time employment or to work at all. There is a plethora of treatments, or disease-modifying therapies, which can help dissipate the many debilitating symptoms of MS during the earlier part of the disease. Sadly, however, there is only one disease modifying therapy, Ocrelubzimab, which is approved for treating the progressive and degenerative phase but is only suitable for a subset of patients. This research programme will combine expertise in biomaterials, neuroimmunology, stem cell biology, neurological disease, biomarkers, computer modelling of cerebrospinal fluid flow and medical device design. The consortium, coordinated from NUI Galway, aims to develop much-needed treatments for the progressive phase of multiple sclerosis. Part of the EU Initial Training Network (ITN), the programme will fund 15 PhD students across Europe, five of whom will be based at NUI Galway under the supervision of Dr Fitzgerald and her co-awardees Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director at CÚRAM and Dr Nathan Quinlan from the College of Engineering and Informatics at NUI Galway. Professor Pandit will contribute expertise in the development of biomaterials for drug release and Dr Quinlan will generate in silico models of biological systems that are integral in the development of medical devices. Together with Dr Fitzgerald’s experience in the field of neuroscience and pathology, this will prove an exciting opportunity for students to train as scientists, as well as developing a novel medical device. Dr Una Fitzgerald, Principal Investigator of the Multiple Sclerosis Research Lab and Director of the Galway Neuroscience Centre at NUI Galway, said: “This award is a huge boost to our multiple sclerosis research efforts here at NUI Galway. By combining our university’s expertise in MS, biomaterials, medical devices and fluid dynamics and computer modelling with that of our partners across Europe, this project could yield PhD graduates who are MS experts and who have helped pioneer a new medical device that could eventually help those suffering from the later stages of MS.” Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director at CÚRAM in NUI Galway, said: “Partnering in this unique consortium provides CÚRAM with the opportunity to combine our unique areas of research excellence to produce real solutions for those who urgently need it. That, combined with the training of PhD graduates with expertise and experience, makes this funding a very exciting award and is testament to Dr Fitzgerald’s excellence in the field of MS research.” This project has been funded by the European Union Horizon 2020 Programme (H2020-MSCA-ITN-2018) under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Initial Training Network and Grant Agreement No. 813263.
Wednesday, 12 June 2019
CÚRAM’s Art and Science programme creates links between the scientific and artistic communities to support the art-science discipline while increasing interest in science and current research. Since 2015, CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland funded Centre for Research in Medical Devices based at NUI Galway, has hosted artist residencies in its laboratories. In partnership with the Galway City Arts Office, we are now inviting proposals from artists who are interested in working as part of CÚRAM’s public engagement programme, which supports Science Foundation Ireland’s objective of ‘having the most scientifically informed and engaged public’. We invite artists to propose ideas for an ambitious and contemporary permanent artwork in Galway’s Eastside community in Ballybane and Doughiska. The budget for this project is €10,000. The artist will work with one of the following three themes: • Cardiovascular research – Researcher: Professor William Wijns • Soft and hard tissue regeneration – Researcher: Dr Dimitrios Zeugolis • Biomaterials and the body – Researcher – Dr Manus Biggs The chosen artist will work within the CÚRAM laboratories to learn about CÚRAM’s research and will then spend a period of time working with the Eastside community to realise the project. The artist will be required to undergo Garda vetting. Applications must be received with all material by 5pm, June 21st. Please email all submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org. No submissions will be accepted after this date. All eligible applications will be considered by a selection panel, appointed by Galway City Council and CÚRAM.
Wednesday, 12 June 2019
New facilities established in NUI Galway to accelerate the development of next generation biomaterials and advanced manufacturing technologies Researchers at NUI Galway launched on (12 June 2019) two new facilities, a Pilot Line for Bio-microsystems Development and an Advanced Manufacturing Laboratory, as part of the University’s ever expanding biomedical research and advanced manufacturing infrastructure. Pilot Line for Bio-microsystems Development This integrated advanced manufacturing testbed is the first of its kind globally and will accelerate the translation of laboratory-based research concepts towards pilot production. The printed electronics and printed biomaterials advanced manufacturing facility complements the University’s existing expertise and investments in biomaterials and stem cell manufacturing. The testbed will be used to evaluate advanced manufacturing of two types of biomedical product concepts – smart medical devices and tissue-engineered organs on a chip device. Smart medical devices are of particular relevance to the medical device industry in Galway; these devices are empowered with diagnostic and therapeutic functionalities. An example is a smart woundcare device that enables future smart wound dressings to sense the status of the wound and administer a drug accordingly. The manufacturing testbed enables Galway researchers to demonstrate how scalable printed technologies can be used to realise such devices, customised for each patient’s individual needs, on an economic scale. The manufacturing testbed can also generate arrays of artificial tissue know as tissue scaffolds. These structures are being developed to fully mimic different organs in the body. The ability to produce tissue scaffolds on a scalable platform are of increasing importance in the development of new advanced therapeutic medicinal products. For example, new cell based therapies to cure chronic illnesses can be efficiently evaluated using arrays of tissue scaffolds which mimic disease states in the human body. For example, mesenchymal stromal cells can be used to regenerate damaged tissues. The testbed was developed by Dr Gerard O’Connor, Head of the School of Physics at NUI Galway, over the last five years in partnership with UK manufacturing system integrator *M-Solv (Oxford) Ltd. Dr O’Connor leads the *NCLA Laser Laboratory at the School of Physics. He believes having the ability to integrate electronic, optical, and thermal stimuli in flexible medical devices “will be transformative - changing the way we connect with, and use, future healthcare products.” Dr O’Connor, said: “The new facility enables the NCLA Laser Laboratory to investigate the versatility of using multiple laser patterning, inkjet printing and spray deposition tools in the advanced digital manufacture of next generation smart medical devices and therapeutic devices.” The contribution by M-Solv Ltd., an advanced manufacturing systems company located in Oxford, UK, is very significant. Dr O’Connor and M-Solv have collaborated for 10 years, resulting in several publications, patent filings, and commercial contracts. The company’s CEO, Dr. Phil Rumsby, is excited by applying their significant expertise in hybrid electronics manufacturing to the biomedical sector using the three interconnected manufacturing modules which comprise the testbed. Dr Rumsby said: “The first module, a laser-based micro-machining module creates structured surfaces for microfluidics and embedded electronics. The second module uses laser, inkjet and spray tools to create structured conductive/non-conductive printed electronic features. Finally, a third bio-printing module applies living cells and other life-supporting biomaterials to structured surfaces. This is a major research platform with significant innovative potential, we are pleased to have been able to rise to the challenge.” The testbed is funded by Science Foundation Ireland under the Infrastructures Programme. SFI Research Centres *I-FORM (advanced manufacturing) and CÚRAM (medical devices) are available to provide support for enterprises and academics seeking access to the manufacturing platform. Speaking at the launch of the new testbed, Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director at CÚRAM in NUI Galway, said: “This manufacturing testbed will significantly increase our ability to lead research in the development of novel technologies. CÚRAM will work closely with the NCLA and I-Form to harness this unique platform and continue creating next generation biomaterials that will play a critical role in the treatment of a host of chronic ailments.” The laboratory in which the testbed is located was developed with funding provided under the Atlantic Area Interregional (INTERREG) EU programme under a project entitled AtlanticKETMed. The project is also led by Dr O’Connor and has established an international community of first adopters for the testbed comprising of hospitals, networks of industries, and international research centres. The testbed and its ancillary laboratories are located in the School of Physics. The School’s MSc in Medical Physics is the first European MSc programme to be awarded accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Physics Education Programmes (CAMPEP), the second only programme worldwide outside the USA to do so. Dr O’Connor is keen to recognise the many contributions made by graduate students and technical staff throughout the School of Physics in realising this development. The School has established an MSc programme in Key Enabling Technologies to provide graduate training on the manufacturing testbed. Advanced Manufacturing Laboratory Dr Noel Harrison from the College of Engineering at NUI Galway also launched on (12 June 2019) the new Advanced Manufacturing Lab (AML) in the Alice Perry Engineering Building, which houses a suite of Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing) technologies. The lab has been developed by Dr Harrison (Mechanical Engineering and I-Form Funded Investigator) to advance teaching, fundamental research, and industry collaboration on future sustainable manufacturing technologies, materials and product design. With NUI Galway’s first metal powder bed fusion printer (3D Systems DMP ProX 100), the AML offers new capability for in-house prototyping and experimental manufacturing. Last month, an AM cementless orthopaedic device technology developed and patented by Dr Harrison was licenced to the medtech company Loci Orthopaedics Ltd, also based at NUI Galway. Dr Noel Harrison from NUI Galway, said: “Multiple industries now demand engineering graduates with knowledge and experience in 3D Printing process hardware, software, materials and design. The AML lab is an invaluable resource for our Degree and Masters students and is a state of the art research facility for our PhD student and Postdoctoral researchers.” “Manufacturing is the second largest employer in Ireland and accounts for 36.5 percent of GDP”, said I-Form Director, Professor Denis Dowling. “These new testbeds at NUI Galway are key pieces of infrastructure for the manufacturing research community, and they will ensure that Irish manufacturers continue to have access to leading edge technology for the development of world-class products.” Speaking about the awards supporting both of these facilities, Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said: “Science Foundation Ireland is delighted to support the launch of this state-of-the-art manufacturing testbed, which is funded through our Research Infrastructure Programme. The programme specifically seeks to support researchers by ensuring there are superb technologies and supports in place for them, ultimately facilitating excellent and impactful scientific research. The testbed is a great reflection of collaboration between different stakeholders in the ecosystem, with SFI Research Centres CÚRAM and I-Form collaborating with NUI Galway to enhance our understanding of advanced manufacturing.”
Thursday, 16 May 2019
NUI Galway researcher develops a new bioengineered cardiovascular stent A new type of cardiovascular stent, coated in antibodies to improve its incorporation into blood vessels, has been developed by scientists and engineers in Ireland and Poland. Professor Gerard Wall, a microbiologist and investigator of the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices (CÚRAM), based at NUI Galway, led the EU-funded project which has designed and produced a novel stent. Coronary artery disease occurs when the coronary arteries become hardened and narrowed due to the buildup of plaques on their inner walls. This can lead to stenosis, or narrowing of coronary arteries, reducing blood flow to the heart. This is the most common cause of death in Europe, resulting in approximately two million deaths each year. While surgical insertion of stents to re-open arteries is now commonplace, arteries can become re-blocked over time when cells such as macrophages and smooth muscle cells from the patient’s blood grow over the stent surface. It is this problem that the new stent design addresses: steel stents produced by the manufacturing partner in Poland are coated with human antibodies, produced in the NUI Galway laboratory, to capture endothelial cells from the patient’s blood and the surrounding artery. This leads to stents becoming rapidly “camouflaged” within the walls of the native blood vessels, enabling them to avoid rejection by the patient’s immune system while providing the mechanical strength necessary to keep the artery open. Professor Gerard Wall, Head of Microbiology and CÚRAM Investigator at NUI Galway, explains: “The prototype stent arises from the combined expertise of stent manufacturers, protein engineers and interventional cardiologists. It has demonstrated its effectiveness in preclinical studies and is now under development by the manufacturer in Poland with a view to reducing restenosis (reoccurrence of a narrowing of a blood vessel) events in patients and improving the long-term outcome of surgical interventions.” Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director at CÚRAM in NUI Galway, said: “The development of this new cardiovascular stent addresses a critical patient need, which drives all research at CÚRAM. By partnering with leading research institutions in Europe, this unique team brought together a critical skill set to design and produce a real solution that will have a very significant impact for those who urgently need it. The outcome of this partnership is a testament to the power of collaborative research.” The stent is the first of its kind to use human antibodies for cell capture, to avoid activating the patient’s immune response. The antibodies are isolated in the laboratory using phage display technology, a genetic engineering approach that mimics the human immune system, followed by production in E. coli bacteria for tethering onto the lattice structure of the stent under sterile manufacturing conditions. The work, published in the Journal of Biomedical Materials Research, was carried out at NUI Galway, Poland’s Wrocław University of Technology and Wrocław Medical University, and Comenius University in Slovakia, as well as stent manufacturer Balton in Warsaw. It was funded under the EU’s Marie Curie Industry-Academia Partnerships and Pathways (IAPP) scheme and provided cross-sectoral research training for researchers from the three participating countries.
Thursday, 14 February 2019
Three MedTrain research projects at CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices based at NUI Galway have been selected for inclusion in the European Commission's Innovation Radar as ‘Key Innovators’. The aim of the Innovation Radar platform is to make information about EU-funded innovations from high-quality projects visible and accessible to the public in one place on a new platform. This will show citizens the many excellent technological and scientific advances being delivered by researchers and innovators around Europe, funded on their behalf by the European Commission. This initiative has the support of EU Members States and so far Ministers from 21 countries have signed the Innovation Radar declaration confirming their support for this initiative. Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director at CÚRAM in NUI Galway, said: “The Innovation Radar platform presents a valuable opportunity for our researchers to highlight the potential impact of their work. Making research information accessible to a wide public audience is a core element of the CÚRAM ethos. We welcome the inclusion of three of our research projects in the platform and hope to contribute more widely to the space in future.” The first of the awarded projects is being carried out by Dr Elaine Waters, supervised by Dr Michelle Kilcoyne, and will address the issue of biofilm infections of medical devices which resist antibiotics, causing devices to be replaced, thereby increasing hospital stays. It will develop new tissue-friendly carbohydrate coatings to prevent biofilm infections of implanted devices. The second project, led by Dr James Wilson, supervised by Dr Andreas Heise, will design a flexible, yet strong soft tissue implantable wet adhesive for tissue repair and regeneration. This technology represents the next generation of fully biodegradable bioadhesives with enhanced wet adhesion properties for the development of new clinical materials and advanced approaches in healthcare. The third of the awarded projects is led by Dr Tania Hidalgo Crespo, supervised by Dr Caitriona O’Driscoll, and will develop a novel, safe and effective drug delivery system. Successful delivery of therapeutic levels of siRNA to the brain, using this novel system, will facilitate the treatment of a wide range of neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, depression and brain tumours. The projects are being developed under the Horizon 2020 project MedTrain, a new Industry-Academia Training, Career Development, and Mobility Fellowship Programme in Medical Device Research and Development at CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices based at NUI Galway. MedTrain offers two-year fellowships to experienced researchers in the broad area of Medical Device Research and Development, including: tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, biomaterials and drug delivery, glyco and protein engineering and neuromodulation. Information about each of the three MedTrain projects at CÚRAM included on the platform are accessible to the public via the new Innovation Radar platform, (accessed via a website or a smartphone app - iOS or Android).
Monday, 4 February 2019
Engineering and Physical Science Research Council Centres for Doctoral Training to link world-leading SFI Research Centres and UK Higher Education Institutions CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices based at NUI Galway, is one of seven SFI Research Centres to have received funding for Doctoral Training as part of a UK-Ireland joint initiative to invest €38.6 million in training future innovation leaders. The award has been made under a new partnership between Science Foundation Ireland and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), which is part of UK Research and Innovation. The investment funding was announced today (4 February 2019) by Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan TD. CÚRAM will work in collaboration with University of Glasgow, Aston and Birmingham, to establish lifETIME: an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Centre for Doctoral Training in Engineered Tissues for Discovery, Industry and Medicine. lifETIME will train future Engineering and Physical Science innovation leaders for the non-animal technology and regenerative medicine sectors. Those trained will possess multidisciplinary, high-value skills in the design, creation and application of new non-animal technology platforms to accelerate therapeutic discovery. The lifETIME Centres for Doctoral Training will train 84 engineering and physical science scientists, clinical fellows and cell engineers across three world-leading centres that specialise in: fundamental bioengineering (Glasgow); microscale bioprocess translation/application (Birmingham and Aston); and medical devices (CÚRAM). 25 of these will be CÚRAM based. The first intake of students will begin in September 2019 with CÚRAM enrolling five students each year. Globally, a strong industrial and clinical need exists to create humanised, non-animal technologies, which are bioengineered, cellular, scaffolds/on-chip systems that can be used in therapeutic discovery, safety testing, functional validation and in some cases in the production of cellular therapies. To meet this need, there is an urgent need to train Engineering and Physical Science students to communicate effectively with, and work alongside, biomedical scientists, and vice versa, and such training will also drive innovation and contribute to the Irish and UK bioeconomy. Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director at CÚRAM in NUI Galway, said: “The establishment of this Centre for Doctoral Training in collaboration with colleagues at University of Glasgow, Aston University and University of Birmingham will produce the next generation of doctoral level researchers across engineering and physical sciences. This unique programme will train leaders who will possess multidisciplinary, high-value skills in the design, creation and application of new non-animal technology platforms to accelerate therapeutic discovery.” Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan TD, said: “I am pleased to announce this new collaboration that will provide training opportunities for doctoral students in both the UK and Ireland. These new PhD training initiatives will provide opportunities for talented students in SFI Research Centres across Higher Education Institutions. Cultivating and maintaining positive research and development collaborations between the Ireland and the UK, as well as the rest of the world, is a priority for the Irish Government, and the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation is thrilled to be working with the EPSRC on this programme.” Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said: “Science Foundation Ireland is delighted to collaborate with EPSRC on this excellent programme. Ireland and the UK are key drivers of impactful, world-leading research and it is important that we continue to strengthen our partnerships. The level of investment in the Centres for Doctoral Training is significant, and represents our commitment to prepare graduates for careers in research and beyond, and the emphasis we place on progressing international alliances and global opportunities for our researchers. I would like to congratulate the seven SFI Research Centres on their success in this programme and look forward to working with EPSRC over the coming years.” The Centres for Doctoral Training represent one of the UK’s most significant investments in research skills, supporting over seventy centres that will equip the next generation of doctoral level researchers across Engineering and Physical Sciences. The seven joint awards between Ireland and the UK will enable doctoral students based in Irish institutions to benefit from training opportunities and collaboration with Higher Education Institutions in the UK.
Tuesday, 29 January 2019
NUI Galway has been awarded almost €420,000 in funding for developing new technology for faster clinical detection and diagnosis of bacterial infections such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a key cause of mortality in Cystic Fibrosis patients. Dr Joseph Byrne from NUI Galway received his award as part of a government investment of €10.8 million in Irish research funding through Science Foundation Ireland’s (SFI) Starting Investigator Research Grant (SIRG), announced by Minister of State for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection, Pat Breen TD. With awards ranging from €376,000 to €425,000 over four years, the projects funded will support 20 researchers and a further 20 PhD students in the research areas of health, energy, environment, materials and technology. Many disease-causing bacteria produce proteins, which are known to interact with sugar molecules. These interactions will allow the design of useful sensors. Dr Byrne’s research will develop novel devices that will indicate the presence of specific bacteria through colour changes, caused by the interactions of their proteins with laboratory-produced sugar-based chemical compounds on the surface of newly-designed materials. This will provide a convenient visual strategy to identify disease-causing bacteria. 3D-printing will be used to create these compact diagnostic devices, which will benefit patient outcomes and quality of life. This new technology could also be deployed in other scenarios such as detecting bacterial contamination of water supplies. Speaking about his funding award, Dr Joseph Byrne from NUI Galway, said: “Rapid diagnosis of bacteria is vital to inform appropriate medical treatment strategies and combat increasing antibiotic resistance globally. By providing a new methodology for rapid diagnosis of bacterial infection, my work will facilitate quicker decision-making on targeted medical treatment strategies for patients. In Ireland this would be particularly valuable for rapid diagnosis of Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections, a significant risk factor for cystic fibrosis patients (as well as others with compromised immune systems). More generally, helping clinicians avoid the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics would help combat the global challenge of increased antibiotic resistance.” Speaking about the awards, Minister Breen said: “I am delighted to announce these SFI Starting Investigator Awards which allow researchers to advance their work and further develop their careers as the next research leaders in Ireland and internationally. These innovative projects demonstrate the impressive cutting-edge research taking place across Ireland, which has significant potential to positively advance Ireland’s economy and society, and further solidify its reputation as a world-leader in scientific advancements.” Welcoming the announcement, Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said: “Science Foundation Ireland supports researchers at every stage of their careers. The SIRG awards help early-career researchers develop the essential skills and experience necessary to lead Ireland’s future research in areas such as health, energy, materials and technology. Having passed through a rigorous competitive international merit review process, these projects continue to advance Ireland’s international research. A native of Newbridge, Co. Kildare, Dr Joseph Byrne joins the School of Chemistry and CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices at NUI Galway, following a Marie Curie Research Fellowship at Universität Bern, Switzerland. His main research focus is developing new technology for faster clinical diagnosis of bacterial infections by exploiting interactions between biomolecules and the innovative sensor materials, which will be designed during the course of this SIRG project. The research will be multidisciplinary, building on fundamental chemistry and biochemical interactions to develop diagnostic devices using 3D-printing technology.
Wednesday, 23 January 2019
CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices based at NUI Galway will be involved in three key industry projects worth almost €5 million (€4.8 million) following the recent announcement of the Government’s Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund. CÚRAM teams, in collaboration with industry partners, will be driving disruptive innovation on the key areas of medtech and connected health. Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director at CÚRAM in NUI Galway, said: “This funding of €4.8 million to CÚRAM research labs is a strong recognition of our pivotal role in the development of the next generation of medical devices and implants that target chronic illnesses. This funding is also a reflection of the close collaborative relationship we have with key industry partners with whom we will continue to work closely with on the development of these disruptive technology projects.” Partnered with industry, the AURIGEN project will see €5.9 million being invested in a solution for persistent Atrial fibrillation of the heart. Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common heart rhythm disturbance in the US and Europe, significantly affecting the lives of those afflicted, causing symptoms that range from palpitations to fatigue, weakness and activity intolerance, and substantially increasing the risks of stroke, congestive heart failure, dementia and death. The consortium of AuriGen Medical (a BioInnovate Ireland spin out based at NUI Galway), the Translational Medical Device (TMD) Lab at NUI Galway and Tyndall, UCC have unique experience, expertise and proprietary technologies, which place this group in an unprecedented position to deliver a uniquely effective therapy capable of addressing both the stroke and arrhythmia risk associated with Atrial fibrillation. The second project also sees the TMD-Lab partnering on the SMART CARDIO research project with AtriAN Medical who are also based at NUI Galway. The team will seek to develop and optimise ablation technologies for the minimally invasive treatment of particular cardiac disorders. Dr Martin O’Halloran, Director of the TMD-Lab at NUI Galway, said: “These exciting research projects with a combined value to the TMD-Lab of almost €2 million are further evidence of NUI Galway establishing itself as a world-leader in ablation medical technology. The funding will bring an additional 10 senior post-doctoral ablation engineers to Galway, and in collaboration with our industry partners, will drive significant employment in the sector. The research will draw on expertise from both Engineering (Dr Adnan Elahi) and Medicine (Dr Atif Shahzad and Dr Leo Quinlan) from NUI Galway to deliver these disruptive technologies.” The third project, ARDENT II will create a new therapy for patients suffering from rhinitis, an inflammatory disease which presents as nasal congestion, rhinorrhoea, sneezing and nasal itching. Congestion and rhinorrhoea are the two most impactful symptoms on a patient’s quality of life, which are usually present lifelong. Affecting tens of millions of patients worldwide, an effective treatment does not exist for moderate or severe suffers, creating a multi-billion-euro opportunity for disruptive technologies. A consortium of Neurent Medical Ltd (a BioInnovate Ireland spin out) and the Biggs lab at CÚRAM will benefit from the €2.8 million in Disruptive Technologies Innovation Funding which will be invested in the development of a new medical device technology, to address this inflammatory nasal condition through an innovative neuromodulation approach. Dr Manus Biggs from CÚRAM at NUI Galway, said: “We are excited to work with Neurent Medical on the development of a novel approach to a significant global medical challenge. The commitment of the Irish government to the development of forward thinking disruptive technologies has the potential to place Ireland at the forefront of biomedical engineering research and development.” The Government’s Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund, setup as part of the Project Ireland 2040 capital investment plan, aims to provide finance to projects that tackle national and global challenges in a way that will create and secure jobs into the future.
Tuesday, 20 November 2018
CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices based at NUI Galway and Galway Film Centre’s 2018 ‘Science on Screen’ documentary, A Tiny Spark will have its world premiere at Pálás Cinema in Galway on Saturday, 1 December at 1pm. Directed by Niamh Heery and produced by Caroline Kealy of Swansong Films, A Tiny Spark examines the effect of cerebrovascular illness and stroke on people’s lives and specifically looks at research into the blood clots that cause stroke. With a mixture of dramatic first person accounts and beautiful animation sequences highlighting the functions of the various parts of the brain, A Tiny Spark is a film about science’s ability to affect real change for human life. A Tiny Spark focuses on stroke and cerebrovascular research being led by Neuroscientist, Dr Karen Doyle from CÚRAM and Galway Neuroscience Centre in NUI Galway, which involves analysis of removed blood clots to see what information they may yield. This is the first study of its kind in the world and is an international collaborative study between NUI Galway, hospital partners in Beaumont Hospital and throughout Europe, and the Mayo Clinic in the US. The research is carried out in partnership with Cerenovus. This documentary highlights the groundbreaking research being carried out by Dr Doyle and her research team at NUI Galway. For the first time ever they are analysing thousands of stroke-causing blood clots collected from patients around the world. These little bundles of cells could carry a wealth of information, which could point to big improvements to people’s lives by improving stroke prevention and treatment. In the film we meet three incredibly brave stroke survivors who show us that it is sometimes the little things that people miss in life after a stroke, or the small victories during recovery that mean so much. Contributors to the documentary feature individuals who have had a stroke: Rebecca Slattery from Limerick, who had a stroke shortly after she turned 30 and became a new Mum; Trevor Neville from Limerick, a father of two who had a stroke aged 31; and Helen Liddy from Clare who suffered a stroke aged 63 in 2016. Dr John Thornton, Consultant Neuroradiologist, Beaumount Hospital, and Helena Heffernan, Stroke Group Coordinator, Irish Heart Foundation also feature in the documentary. Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM at NUI Galway, said: “This year’s film will focus on stroke and clot research which is yet another area of research which will have a significant impact on audiences all over the country. These stories, narrated through our Science on Screen documentaries, show the real challenges that people face when living with chronic illness but also how we are trying to address them here at CÚRAM, to improve quality of life for all.” Galway Film Centre Manager, Alan Duggan, said: “The Science on Screen commission scheme shows the real human side of the application of science. We are delighted to continue working with CÚRAM on this scheme and we will be supporting Niamh, Caroline and the filmmaking team in bringing ‘A Tiny Spark’ to the screen this year.” The 2018 ReelLife Science primary school winning videos will be screened before the world premiere of A Tiny Spark, followed by a Q&A with Dr Karen Doyle and her research team, and with documentary producer, Caroline Kealy and director, Niamh Heery. To view a short trailer of A Tiny Spark, visit: https://vimeo.com/291731458/072c556b3d To book free tickets for the world premiere on Saturday, 1 December at Pálás Cinema, Spanish Arch, Galway, visit: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/a-tiny-spark-premiere-screening-tickets-52811744349 The Science on Screen scheme has been running since 2016 and has awarded €35,000 each to three previous documentaries on topics such as Parkinson’s disease (Feats of Modest Valour), tendon injury (Mending Legends) and diabetes (Bittersweet: The Rise of Diabetes). The films have reached audiences of over half a million people and have received success at festivals internationally. Full details on all previous Science on Screen films can be found here: www.galwayfilmcentre.ie/category/science-on-screen and http://curamdevices.ie/curam/public-engagement/science-on-screen/. -Ends- For more information about Science on Screen 2018 contact Gwen O’Sullivan, Press and Information Executive, NUI Galway at email@example.com or 091 495695. Notes to Editors Niamh Heery is an award-winning Irish filmmaker. Her film work with diverse communities and international NGOs often inspires the range of themes and subjects she explores as a director, in both fiction and documentary. Caroline Kealy is a producer, coordinator and researcher for films and television. She has produced a number of short films, documentaries and music videos which have been shown at festivals worldwide. Dr Karen Doyle is a Senior Lecturer in Physiology and Principal Investigator at CÚRAM and Galway Neuroscience Centre in NUI Galway. Her research involves studying neurovascular stress, the causes of neuronal loss and investigating novel strategies to protect brain tissue from damage. Dr Doyle’s focus is on understanding the pathophysiology of occlusive stroke, the characteristics of human blood clots that cause occlusive strokes and also the effect of cerebral hypoperfusion and reperfusion strategy on the survival of brain tissue. Dr Doyle is the founder leader of Galway Neuroscience Centre, is a former Vice President of Neuroscience Ireland and Vice Dean for Graduate Studies in the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, NUI Galway. To see Dr Doyle’s talk about her research into removing blood clots that can lead to stroke in a study that is the first of its kind in the world, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXZjRI6dfqM
Thursday, 8 November 2018
CÚRAM’S award winning Science on Screen documentary, Bittersweet – The Rise of Diabetes will broadcast on RTÉ 1 on Wednesday, 14 November at 11.10pm on World Diabetes Day. CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices, based at NUI Galway and Galway Film Centre together run the partnership project Science on Screen, which aims to facilitate, promote and increase the inclusion of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) content in Irish film and TV production. Bittersweet is a half-hour documentary directed by Hugh Rodgers and produced by both Anna Rodgers and Zlata Filipovic of Invisible Thread Films. The film captures the Irish health system’s fight to treat the rising number of diabetic patients, and warns against this troubling epidemic facing our population. It follows the personal stories of young people who are living with diabetes and their daily struggle to manage it. Over the course of the documentary, it highlights the ground-breaking research and development in pharmacology and biomedical science at NUI Galway and other universities to treat diabetes, capturing the important work of CÚRAM’s Professor David Brayden and his team at UCD’s Veterinary Hospital, where they are developing new ways of delivering insulin to the body. The documentary also gives an insight into the treatment and management of diabetes featuring expert clinicians Professor Derek O’Keeffe and Helen Burke from NUI Galway, who use cutting edge technology to care for young people with diabetes, helping them to manage their chronic condition, through diabetes clinics at Galway University Hospital. Hugh Rodgers is an award-winning Director based in Dublin. In 2016 he directed The Story of Yes, a documentary on the marriage referendum, and it went on to be nominated for Best Single Documentary at the Irish Film and Television Awards (IFTA) 2016 and was commended at the prestigious Radharc Awards 2016. His work is notable for its emotive quality, finding the personal and engaging stories even within the most unexpected of topics. Anna Rodgers is an IFTA award winning director and producer, and has worked in documentary film and television for over 16 years. She won Best TV Director at the IFTAs, 2014 for her sensitive portrayal of sexuality and disability in the RTÉ documentary Somebody to Love. Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director at CÚRAM in NUI Galway, said: “One of the key goals at CÚRAM is to provide easy access to our latest research findings and emerging technologies, so that the Irish public can stay informed about advances in science and healthcare. Science on Screen and our partnership with Galway Film Centre is one of our core public engagement programmes. It is really important for us to ensure that there’s a two-way flow of information happening between our researchers and members of the public, and the filmmakers have succeeded brilliantly in helping us do just that.” Professor Derek O’Keeffe, Consultant Physician, University Hospital Galway and NUI Galway, said: “This innovative diabetes documentary “Bittersweet” shows the silent burden of chronic disease on patients and their families. As a clinician my role is to help patients on this journey and to empower them to manage their medical conditions by harnessing the latest innovations, to allow them to live their best life. CÚRAM through its world class disruptive technologies program and public education partnership with Science on Screen and Galway Film Centre has again demonstrated the best of Irish research which will improve clinical care for all of our benefit.” Alan Duggan, Manager of Galway Film Centre, said: “We are delighted to facilitate the Science on Screen documentaries and to help CÚRAM showcase the incredible work and research carried out at the centre in NUI Galway. Hugh, Anna and Zlata did an incredible job in giving an insight into the research, treatment and management of diabetes through their wonderful film Bittersweet.” In 2015, CÚRAM joined forces with Galway Film Centre and Galway UNESCO City of Film, to invite filmmakers to make science films. The pilot of the ‘Science on Screen’ initiative, funded through Science Foundation Ireland’s Discover Programme, resulted in two high quality 26-minute science documentaries in 2016 that incorporated areas of research currently taking place in CÚRAM: Feats of Modest Valour and Mending Legends, followed by Bittersweet in 2017. Later in November the 2018 Science on Screen documentary will be announced and will have its world premiere in Galway in December. The award of €35,000 for the Science on Screen commission is funded by CÚRAM, and is helping to establish Ireland as a global hub of research expertise in medical device technology. CÚRAM aims to develop affordable, innovative and transformative device-based solutions to treat global chronic diseases and radically improve the quality of life for patients living with chronic illness. Bittersweet will broadcast on RTÉ 1 on Wednesday, 14 November at 11.10pm. To view a short video on Bittersweet, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3zMT_Te_Ys -Ends- For Press contact Gwen O’Sullivan, Press and Information Executive, NUI Galway at firstname.lastname@example.org or 091 495695. Photo Science on Screen.png: Suvi and Rosie Coffey who feature in the Science on Screen documentary, ‘Bittersweet - The Rise of Diabetes’. Photo: NUI Galway Notes to Editors Further success of Feats of Modest Valour and Mending Legends Science on Screen films 2016 Science on Screen films, Feats of Modest Valour and Mending Legends have gone from strength to strength, scooping broadcast slots with both TG4 and RTÉ, screening at numerous film festivals in Europe and the US and are being used extensively and continuously as part of CÚRAM’s public engagement programme. Screenings have taken place at community events and schools, as well as at academic conferences both in Ireland and abroad. The filmmakers have been invited to represent Ireland at festivals overseas including dokumentART in Germany, and have been nominated for awards like the Short Lens Competition, Guth Gafa. Over 200,000 people have viewed the films and over 40 screenings have been held to date. Feats of Modest Valour also won the AAAS Scientist Award as well as the runner up People's Choice Award at the prestigious Imagine Science Film Festival in New York City. About World Diabetes Day World Diabetes Day is commemorated yearly by the International Diabetes Federation; an umbrella organization of over 230 national diabetes associations in 170 countries. It represents the interests of the growing number of people with diabetes and their vision to live in a world without the disease and they work to promote diabetes care, prevention and cure worldwide. About NUI Galway The University was established in the heart of Galway City, on the west coast of Ireland, in 1845. Since then it has advanced knowledge teaching and learning, through research and innovation, and community engagement. Over 18,000 students study at NUI Galway, where 2,600 staff provide the very best in research-led education. NUI Galway’s teaching and research is recognised through its performance in international rankings. The University is one of the few Irish Universities to have risen in the rankings in four of the last five years including the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings and the QS World University Rankings. With an extensive network of industry, community and academic collaborators around the world, NUI Galway researchers are tackling some of the most pressing issues of our times. Internationally renowned research centres based here include CÚRAM Centre for Research in Medical Devices, Insight Centre for Data Analytics, Whitaker Institute for Innovation and Societal Change, Moore Institute, Institute for Life course and Society and The Ryan Institute for Environment, Marine and Energy. NUI Galway has been listed as one of the most beautiful universities in Europe according to Business Insider. For more information visit www.nuigalway.ie or view all NUI Galway news here. *The University's official title is National University of Ireland Galway. Please note that the only official abbreviation is NUI Galway.
Monday, 24 September 2018
The Companion Diagnostics Codex4SMEs Roadshow took place on Tuesday 18th September in Galway. The event was hosted by CÚRAM Centre for Research in Medical Devices and WestBIC. Speakers included Dr Elaine Kenny (CEO of Elda Biotech) on the impact of developing a cancer diagnostic in the Irish setting, and Diarmuid Cahalane (Metabolomic Diagnostics) on the impact of the new regulations on companion diagnostics. The Interreg North-West Europe project Codex4SMEs (Companion diagnostics expedited for small and medium-sized enterprises) aims at improving healthcare by the enhanced adoption of Personalised Medicine. The objective is to establish a network, which supports SMEs along the value chain of companion diagnostics development. Companion diagnostics (Cdx) are an indispensable tool for optimum application of Personalized Medicine: they enable the determination of the molecular causes of a disease before starting a treatment. However, thus far the development of Cdx has been highly time-consuming and costly. As a result, at present these tools are only used in the context of very few treatments. Codex4SMEs will establish a transnational network of nine partners and two sub-partners from seven countries and expedite the development of the SMEs’ products in the field of Cdx. There is a need to improve the innovation capabilities and raise the international competitiveness of North-West Europe SMEs in a global market currently dominated by US companies - Codex4SMEs will directly address this challenge. To join the Codex4SMEs network and get involved visit: www.nweurope.eu/codex4smes
Tuesday, 18 September 2018
CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Medical Devices at NUI Galway, are teaming up with the National Aquarium, (Galway Atlantaquaria) to showcase the science behind the shores of Galway Bay for Culture Night 2018. The event, ‘Sea-search: Marine Inspired Research’, will take place in conjunction with both Culture Night and Galway's first ‘Loving Galway – Celebrating our Green and Blue Spaces’ festival at Galway Atlantaquaria on Friday the 21st of September. The Sea-search event will be an interactive, educational science investigation of the links between marine science and medical devices. Researchers taking part in the event will talk about a range of research across these two fields currently underway in Galway, from microplastics and animal regeneration, to drug delivery and barnacle inspired glues! “Research at CÚRAM aims to radically improve quality of life for people living with chronic illness by developing new medical implants and devices” said Prof Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM. “We are designing materials systems that engage the body at a cellular and molecular level to control chronic conditions like heart disease, Parkinson’s disease and diabetes. We take a great deal of inspiration from nature for our work, for example, we try to mimic nature’s own adaptive systems and often use natural materials including marine resources to develop the next generation of medical devices. Sea-search gives us an ideal opportunity to show the public how marine resources are used in medicine today.” The ‘Loving Galway – Celebrating our Green and Blue Spaces’ festival, held for the first time in Galway this year, celebrates our natural heritage, under wide ranging themes including Climate Change, Energy, Biodiversity, Mobility, Water, Air and Waste. The walk through the Salthill seascape will be followed by a trip to the Galway Atlantaquaria to learn about how marine life has inspired modern advances in medicine and technology. Participants will meet at 5:45pm on Grattan beach. Sea-search is an ideal family event where participants of all ages get to experience the worlds of medical and marine science and discover amazing facts and experiments designed to inspire the next generation of ‘Sea-searchers’. All events are free for the public to attend, although parental or guardian guidance is required. For further information please visit www.seasearch.ie or email email@example.com.
Tuesday, 11 September 2018
The Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Medical Devices (CÚRAM), at NUI Galway is now enrolling for its third Teachers in Residence Programme, with applications being accepted up to October 19th 2018. During the residency, teachers work directly with world class researchers and get private tours of CÚRAM laboratories to learn about the medical device research and its impact on healthcare in Ireland and globally. The residency runs from October 2018 until March 2019 for nine evenings. As part of the residency, teachers and their students are invited to attend interactive workshops run by CÚRAM, and participants of the programme will be granted a small honorarium to assist with any travel costs. Teachers from all disciplines are invited to participate, in support of encouraging multidisciplinary approaches to teaching science. CÚRAM’s Teachers in Residence has ten places available for five primary and five secondary school teachers this year, with priority placement given to teachers from DEIS schools. 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. Teachers in residence work with CÚRAM researchers to develop high quality content for the classroom that is relevant, exciting, practical and easy to use. Lesson plan kits developed from previous years’ teachers can be downloaded at: http://www.curamdevices.ie/curam/public-engagement/teachers-in-residence/. “We have been delighted with the innovation and creativity shown by the primary and secondary teachers who have participated in the first two years of the programme” says Prof Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM, “The lesson plans and resources developed for both primary and secondary school classrooms have now been fully evaluated and are available to primary and secondary teachers nationwide. If we can 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”. In 2018, CÚRAM has also partnered in the Department of Education and Skills’ Junior Cycle for Teachers (JCT) STE(A)M in Junior Cycle initiative, to develop a CPD workshop for Junior Cycle teachers around MedTech research and career opportunities. The JCT STEAM workshops will 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 information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday, 15 August 2018
CÚRAM Investigator Prof Afshin Samali, with a team of scientists from the Apoptosis Research Centre at NUI Galway have found that targeting the IRE1 stress response pathway may improve the response to chemotherapy and reduce relapse for patients with triple negative breast cancer. These first in world research findings were published today (15 August 2018) in the internationally renowned Nature Communications journal. Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) is one of the most aggressive and difficult to treat forms of breast cancer. This type of breast cancer accounts for around 15% of all breast cancers diagnosed and occurs more frequently in younger women. Unlike other forms of breast cancer, there are no targeted therapies available for triple negative breast cancer. Currently, chemotherapy is the mainstay treatment, and although initially successful, a large percentage of TNBC patients relapse within one to three years of treatment and have a poor long-term prognosis. The exact mechanism of the tumour relapse post chemotherapy remained unknown until now. In this study, the research team, led by CÚRAM Investigator Professor Afshin Samali at NUI Galway, have shown for the first time that IRE1, which is a cellular stress sensor that normally acts to alleviate short-term stresses within cells, such as lack of nutrients or oxygen, is a central driver of treatment-related relapse. Professor Afshin Samali, Director of the Apoptosis Research Centre and CÚRAM Investigator at NUI Galway, said: “This study is the result of extensive laboratory experiments, analysis of breast cancer patient samples, testing pre-clinical models of triple negative breast cancer and collaboration with our international and industry partners. The new era of precision oncology aims to tailor treatments to individual cancer patients and here at NUI Galway, we are excited to identify a new therapeutic strategy for triple negative breast cancer patients who are most in need of better treatment options. Furthermore, this strategy may benefit many other cancer patients whose cancer cells rely on activated cell stress responses to survive.” Dr Susan Logue, SFI Starting Investigator and first author of the study at NUI Galway, said: “This work has uncovered a previously unknown role for IRE1 and suggests that it may represent a good therapeutic target for the treatment of triple negative breast cancer. While further research is needed, this work is a great example of how curiosity-driven basic research can lead to translational outcomes with real potential to impact on patient treatment.” The team discovered that chemotherapy can activate the IRE1 stress response in triple negative breast cancer, leading to the production of survival signals that are pumped out of the cell to support the growth of new cancer cells. Most importantly, the study showed that this process can be halted by specifically inhibiting IRE1 using a clinically-relevant, small molecule drug called MCK8866 that not only improves the effectiveness of the initial chemotherapy treatment, but also reduces relapse of this aggressive form of breast cancer. Using triple negative breast cancer cells treated with chemotherapy, the research team found that blocking IRE1 activity reduced the production of survival signals, and in turn reduced the growth of new cancer cells by 50%. Furthermore, in a pre-clinical model of TNBC, the drug increased the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatment, leading to regression of 8 out of 10 cancers compared to regression of just 3 out of 10 cancers using chemotherapy alone. The combination of the MCK8866 drug with chemotherapy also reduced tumour relapse in this pre-clinical model of triple negative breast cancer. In addition to these laboratory-based experiments, an analysis of 595 patient tumours revealed that triple negative breast cancer tumours displayed the highest IRE1 activity compared to other subtypes, suggesting that IRE1 may be of particular importance in TNBC. This discovery suggests that combining chemotherapy with IRE1 inhibitors could offer substantial benefits for triple negative breast cancer patients. The study was funded by Science Foundation Ireland, Irish Cancer Society and Horizon 2020 with initial funding from Breast Cancer Now. To read the full study in Nature Communications, visit: http://www.nature.com/ncomms -Ends- For more information about the study contact Professor Afshin Samali at email@example.com or Dr Susan Logue at firstname.lastname@example.org. For Press contact Gwen O’Sullivan, Press and Information Executive, NUI Galway at email@example.com or 091 495695. Notes to Editors Apoptosis Research Centre, NUI Galway The Apoptosis Research Centre is located in the Biomedical Sciences Building at NUI Galway, is an interactive network of researchers investigating cell stress responses and cell death and their relationship to cancer. It is the only Cell Death Research Centre in Ireland. Led by Professor Afshin Samali, the goal of the Centre is to understand how cancer cells have adapted to promote their own survival, and using this knowledge, to uncover new ways to combat cancer progression. For more information, visit: http://www.apoptosis.ie About CÚRAM CÚRAM, the SFI Centre for Research in Medical Devices is part of the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre network. It aims to radically improve the quality of life for patients living with chronic illnesses, by developing the next generation of smart, implantable medical devices. CÚRAM’s academic partners include the National University of Ireland Galway, Royal College of Surgeons Ireland, Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, University College Cork, University Limerick and Clinical Research Development Ireland. 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. CÚRAM brings together clinical, industry and research teams with expertise in biomaterials, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, glycoscience and device design. Read more at www.curamdevices.ie or follow on Twitter @curamdevices.
Wednesday, 4 July 2018
New film will focus on research into removed blood clots that can lead to a stroke which is currently underway at NUI Galway and the first study of its kind in the world Wednesday, 4 July, 2018: CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices based at NUI Galway and Galway Film Centre are delighted to announce A Tiny Spark as the recipient of the 2018 Science on Screen scheme. The selected film, A Tiny Spark, to be directed by Niamh Heery and produced by Caroline Kealy of Swansong Films, will examine the effect of stroke on people’s lives and will specifically look at research into clots. This year’s Science on Screen applicants were invited to submit ideas for a documentary that engages with research into cardiovascular illnesses and stroke, currently underway at CÚRAM. A Tiny Spark will focus on research, being led by Dr Karen Doyle from the Discipline of Physiology at NUI Galway, which involves analysis of removed blood clots to see what information they may yield. This is the first study of its kind in the world and is an international collaborative study between NUI Galway, hospital partners in Beaumont Hospital and throughout Europe and the Mayo Clinic in the US. Contributors to the documentary will include individuals who have had a stroke, as well as the scientists and clinicians who work in the stroke area in Galway and Dublin. Filming will take place in Dublin, Limerick and Galway throughout July 2018. The Swansong Films team has an adventurous plan to 3-D animate the brain highlighting the functions that the various parts serve such as the Amygdala, which is the emotional part of the brain and is responsible for affection. They will also use this method to highlight the journey of blood clots and their potential for destruction. Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM at NUI Galway, said “This year’s film will focus on stroke and clot research which is yet another area which will have a significant impact on audiences all over the country. These stories, narrated through our Science on Screen documentaries, show the real challenges that people face when living with chronic illness but also how we are trying to address them here at CÚRAM, to improve quality of life for all.” Galway Film Centre Manager, Alan Duggan, said: “The Science on Screen commission scheme shows the real human side of the application of science. We are delighted to continue working with CÚRAM on this scheme and we will be supporting Niamh, Caroline and the filmmaking team in bringing A Tiny Spark to the screen this year.” The Science on Screen scheme has been running since 2016 and has awarded €35,000 each to three documentaries on topics such as Parkinson’s disease (Feats of Modest Valour), tendon injury (Mending Legends) and diabetes (Bittersweet: The Rise of Diabetes). The films have reached audiences of over 0.5 million and have received accolades at festivals internationally. The 2017 Science on Screen film, Bittersweet: the Rise of Diabetes, directed by Hugh Rodgers and produced by Anna Rodgers and Zlata Filipovic of Invisible Thread films will be screened at the Galway Film Fleadh on Wednesday, 11 July at 11am in the Town Hall Theatre. A Tiny Spark will premiere in Galway in November 2018. Video of Dr Karen Doyle speaking about her stroke research: https://youtu.be/vXZjRI6dfqM -Ends- For more information on Science on Screen 2018 contact Claire Riordan, Science Engagement Manager, CÚRAM, NUI Galway at firstname.lastname@example.org or 091 494414. For Press contact Gwen O’Sullivan, Press and Information Executive, NUI Galway at email@example.com or 091 495695. Notes to Editors Follow Science on Screen on Twitter at: #ScienceOnScreen @curamdevices @galwayfilmcentr @GalwayCityFilm @niamhzer @carolinekealy About Dr Karen Doyle, Discipline of Physiology, NUI Galway Dr Karen Doyle is a Senior Lecturer in Physiology and Investigator with CÚRAM. Her research involves studying neurovascular stress, the causes of neuronal loss and investigating novel strategies to protect brain tissue from damage. Dr Doyle’s focus is on understanding the pathophysiology of occlusive stroke, the characteristics of human blood clots that cause occlusive strokes and also the effect of cerebral hypoperfusion and reperfusion strategy on the survival of brain tissue. Dr Doyle is the founder leader of Galway Neuroscience Centre, is a former Vice President of Neuroscience Ireland and Vice Dean for Graduate Studies in the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, NUI Galway. About the Swansong Team: Caroline Kealy is a producer, coordinator and researcher for films and television. She has produced a number of short films, documentaries and music videos which have been shown at festivals worldwide. Follow on Twitter @carolinekealy Niamh Heery is an award-winning Irish filmmaker. Her film work with diverse communities and international NGOs often inspires the range of themes and subjects she explores as a director, in both fiction and documentary. Follow on Twitter on @niamhzer About CÚRAM CÚRAM, the SFI Centre for Research in Medical Devices is part of the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre network. It aims to radically improve the quality of life for patients living with chronic illnesses, by developing the next generation of smart, implantable medical devices. CÚRAM’s academic partners include the National University of Ireland Galway, Royal College of Surgeons Ireland, Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, University College Cork, University Limerick and Clinical Research Development Ireland. 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. CÚRAM brings together clinical, industry and research teams with expertise in biomaterials, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, glycoscience and device design. Read more at www.curamdevices.ie or follow on Twitter @curamdevices About Galway Film Centre Galway Film Centre is a non-profit, members-based organisation dedicated to the development of film as an artistic medium in the West of Ireland. To this end, we support filmmakers and community and youth groups through education and training, equipment provision, funding schemes and information. The Film Centre also runs the UNESCO City of Film designation on behalf of Galway City and County Councils. We are a member of Screen Talent Europe, an international network of support centre for filmmakers across Northern Europe. More information at www.galwayfilmcentre.ie or follow on @galwayfilmcentr or @GalwayCityFilm About NUI Galway The University was established in the heart of Galway City, on the west coast of Ireland, in 1845. Since then it has advanced knowledge teaching and learning, through research and innovation, and community engagement. Over 18,000 students study at NUI Galway, where 2,600 staff provide the very best in research-led education. NUI Galway’s teaching and research is recognised through its consistent rise in international rankings. The University is placed in the Top 250 of both the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2016/2017 and the QS World University Rankings 2016/17. With an extensive network of industry, community and academic collaborators around the world, NUI Galway researchers are tackling some of the most pressing issues of our times. Internationally renowned research centres based here include CÚRAM Centre for Research in Medical Devices, Insight Centre for Data Analytics, Whitaker Institute, Moore Institute, Institute for Life course and Society and The Ryan Institute for Environmental, Marine and Energy. NUI Galway has been listed as one of the most beautiful universities in Europe according to Business Insider. For more information visit www.nuigalway.ie or view all NUI Galway news here. *The University's official title is National University of Ireland Galway. Please note that the only official abbreviation is NUI Galway.
Tuesday, 12 June 2018
David Mooney Interview: June 12th 2018 Prof. Mooney is the Robert P. Pinkas Family Professor of Bioengineering at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. He plays an active role in the major biomedical and chemical engineering professional societies, serves as an editorial advisor to several journals and publishers, organizes and chairs leading conferences and symposia, and participates on several industry advisory boards. His current projects focus on therapeutic angiogenesis, regeneration of musculoskeletal tissues, and cancer therapies. In 2009, his team developed the first vaccine ever to eliminate melanoma tumors in mice. It is a tiny bioengineered disc filled with tumor-specific antigens that can be inserted under the skin where it activates the immune system to destroy tumor cells. While typical tissue engineering involves growing cells outside the body, his novel approach reprograms cells that are already in the body. How did you choose and start off your career? Early on I had some people who were influential and at least explained to me what the possibilities were. I do not come from a technical background. My parents did not attend college, but all my siblings did, but when I went to college I had no idea what I wanted to do. I did not have one of those planned out careers. I went to a large public university, the University of Wisconsin and I had a great advisor in first year and on the tests he said ‘well you did really well in chemistry and math and have you ever thought of chemical engineering?’ At that stage I did not really know what that was, but his question led me down that path and I ended up realising that I really enjoyed chemical engineering, learning chemistry and particularly how to apply the sciences which I found very exciting. In my undergrad I was a co-op student, which means that you alternate semesters spending one going to school and the next working for a company. I did that also for financial reasons, I needed to pay my own way through college. I had planned to go to work for the company that I was co-op for, but in my last year one of my professors asked me to stay after class one day and asked if I had thought about graduate school. He explained what it was and said that he thought that I might enjoy it. He convinced me to apply and so that led to me enrolling at MIT. I originally intended just to stay for a Masters, but in that time I got exposed to a lot of research and in particular learned of this emerging field of tissue engineering, that was really just getting started and I got really enthused about the possibility of working in that space. The idea of being able to use my engineering background not to just make some product maybe faster and cheaper, but to actually have an impact on people’s lives was very compelling to me. So I decided to go into that research area. I still had no intention of becoming a professor at that time, I assumed I would just go and work in industry when I was done, but near that end of my time at graduate school I got a couple of phone calls from Universities that were interested in my general research space had heard me give a talk at a conference. They wanted to know if I would be interested in applying for a faculty position. I did apply but was also looking at positions in industry because I had really enjoyed my time in industry, but I decided that the freedom to pursue my own ideas in academia was the main draw for me. I have stayed in an academic position where I do a lot of teaching because I found that I really enjoy engaging with the students. One of the things I like about academia is the diversity of activities, so I will walk into a classroom for an hour, engage with brilliant undergraduates and get a chance to see their excitement and enthusiasm and help them see some opportunities, and then you might engage with your PhD students and talk about the research projects you have underway, or talk to collaborators, do some consulting for governments, have a chance to learn what is happening in other universities, companies and settings, so the diversity of experiences and the ability to work with young people and to teach, has been a lot of fun. Tell us a little about the research you are currently working on? We work in a lot of different areas but what holds all the work together is that we design materials that act to control biology in the body. At the end of the day we are trying to direct biology down certain pathways and we use these materials as our tool to try and achieve that goal. It ends up taking a lot of different directions and themes. One theme that has been very important in the laboratory for the last several years has been the idea of being able to pursue cellular therapies and the ability of cells to be very potent agents to address disease and to do this where we interface with those cells directly in the body. Really we’re trying to bypass the need to do ex-vivo cell manipulation which is a big issue in terms of cost and complexity and in making cell therapies broadly useful in the treatment of disease. So we are trying to simplify that by using materials to do that in-vivo. One way to think of it is as making cell factories within the body where we have a material and we bring in cells that already exist in the body and we manipulate those cells and then let them loose to go someplace else and do something useful. A big context for this has been in the area of immunotherapy, particularly cancer immunotherapy, where we’ve been trying to develop materials that can function as therapeutic vaccines to generate immune responses against pre-existing cancer. In that activity we are really targeting a particular kind of immune cell called the dendritic cell and now, we are increasingly beginning to target T-cell biology as a means of regulating immunity. Another theme that’s been in existence in the laboratory for quite a while is the use of stem cells in trying to induce regeneration. We are now beginning to look at the intersection of immune cells and stem cells and how cells of the immune system, T cells, regulate regeneration. Another prominent area that we do research in is what I would call ‘mechano-regeneration’, which is where instead of using chemical cues or signals like drugs, we use mechanics to drive regeneration. So we are studying how mechanical properties of tissues vary in disease and how we can then make materials that have specific types of mechanical properties to enhance regeneration. These studies look at the intrinsic mechanical interaction between a cell and a material, how when a cell attaches it pulls and feels how stiff its surroundings are, but we are also then using materials to impose forces on cells to try to induce regenerative situations. How do you see it developing in the future? In ten years, the ideal scenario is that some of our immunotherapies, in the context of cancer will be established as effective means to treat cancer in patients. We’re at the very early stages of that now, at first clinical trials at this point in time. In ten years hopefully that’s enough time for us to understand if these really are effective in humans. For some of our stem cell therapy approaches, my hope is that in ten years we would be in the midst of clinical trials, evaluating. We will not know in ten years, but at that point we are at least on the path to figuring that out. What do you see as the key strength of a centre like CÚRAM? I’ve been really impressed with the ability to couple an understanding of biomaterials and fundamental biological principles with medical devices. It’s very exciting and clearly where the field is headed. I think CÚRAM has also done a wonderful job of bringing together the right players, many places cannot do that because they don’t have such a strong medical device industry presence or they do not have the combination of engineering, life sciences and clinical sciences but here you have all of the different facets you need to have an impact. I have been really impressed with the leadership at CÚRAM in terms of its vision of where this field can go and how you bring people together to make it happen. So the intellectual part is there, the different players are there and then it seems that the infrastructure both in terms of facilities and the financial part has come together with the Irish Government engaged and recognising the importance of the work. I have been very enthused about how all the different components you need for a recipe to be successful are here and I think CÚRAM is seeing a lot of success. I have also met with some of the students and they are doing some really exciting projects that have both a lot of basic science implications but which could also potentially lead directly to new types of medical devices and therapies. What do you think is the key to successful collaboration? Finding common goals, often different types of researchers have very different objectives for their research. For collaboration to work you need to find a common ground where there’s something everyone is excited about, for example a new materials system being developed here, that then allows different applications and needs to be met depending for a variety of perspectives. I think this ability to bring people together and find common interests is really important and then having a forum to train the students in the different fields is critical. If the students aren’t appropriately exposed and trained in a multidisciplinary style approach, then it’s not going to work for the future as they are the ones doing the research. What is the greatest challenge in your area of research? The biggest challenge is that there are a lot of things you could do and so it’s trying to figure out what the most important thing to do is and where you should really invest your time. A very important skill to learn as part of that is learning to fail quickly. It is impossible, at least for me, to predict what’s going to be the most important thing to do, but if we can learn to quickly screen ideas to figure out which ones are not going to be useful , do the definitive experiment quickly, fail that and then know to move on and spend your time someplace else. What areas of research would you like to see tackled in the future? We’ve come a long way in translational research but there is still a long way to go. I think the funding mechanisms are not that well aligned and perhaps even the reward structure in academia is not set up to allow people who spend all the time and effort in translational work, collaborative work in these teams, to get the credit that they need to get. At this point in time this research in the US anyway, is largely a luxury for senior faculty members. Junior faculty members have to be very careful, because it does not result in papers or publications and that’s what the academic reward structure is set up around. We need to find the right way to not only foster but reward people who do this type of collaborative, multidisciplinary research. What advice would you give to a secondary school student who is unsure what career path to choose? There are two things I would say. The first is to do what you are excited about. Don’t do what people tell you is the right thing to do just because this area or that area will be important in the future. At every stage of my career I have just done what I was excited about at that stage and at least for me it’s worked out OK. The second is to realise that you are not making an irrevocable choice! You are probably going to go in a lot of different directions in your career, so do not get too worried or stressed about making this choice.
Wednesday, 6 June 2018
On Tuesday June 12th, CÚRAM the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre in Medical Devices will be hosting Professor David Mooney as part of its Distinguished Seminar Series at NUI Galway. Prof Mooney is the Pinkas Family Professor of Bioengineering in the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and a Core Faculty Member of the Wyss Institute. The basic question that drives Mooney's research is: how do mammalian cells receive information from the materials in their environment. He studies the mechanisms by which chemical or mechanical signals are sensed by cells and alter their development to either promote tissue growth or destruction. Results from these studies are to design and synthesize new biomaterials that regulate the gene expression of interacting cells for a variety of tissue engineering and drug delivery projects. His current projects focus on the therapeutic development of blood vessels, regeneration of musculoskeletal tissues, and cancer therapies. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Medicine, and the National Academy of Inventors and has won numerous awards, including the Clemson Award from the SFB, MERIT award from the NIH, Distinguished Scientist Award from the IADR, Phi Beta Kappa Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, and the Everett Mendelsohn Excellence in Mentoring Award from Harvard College. His inventions have been licensed by numerous companies, leading to commercialized products, and he is active on industrial scientific advisory boards “We are delighted to be hosting a speaker of David’s caliber” said Prof Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM. “We are continuously building our research, industry and clinical networks at CÚRAM and David’s work aligns perfectly with our aim to translate exciting work in the laboratory to raise quality of life for people living with chronic illness.” The seminar, entitled ‘Building Immunity with Biomaterials’ will take place at 4.00pm, Tuesday, 12th June, 2018 in the Seminar Room in Biomedical Sciences, NUI Galway. Ends About CÚRAM CÚRAM, the SFI Centre for Research in Medical Devices is part of the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre network. It aims to radically improve the quality of life for patients living with chronic illnesses, by developing the next generation of smart, implantable medical devices. CÚRAM’s academic partners include the National University of Ireland Galway, Royal College of Surgeons Ireland, Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, University College Cork, University Limerick and Clinical Research Development Ireland. 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. CÚRAM brings together clinical, industry and research teams with expertise in biomaterials, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, glycoscience and device design. Read more at www.curamdevices.ie or follow on Twitter @curamdevices.
Wednesday, 30 May 2018
CÚRAM PhD graduates, Dr Dilip Thomas and Dr Isma Liza Mohd Isa have both been awarded the 2018 Julia Polak European Doctorate Award, as part of the 29th Annual Meeting of the European Society for Biomaterials in Maastricht, the Netherlands in September. They are the fifth and sixth CÚRAM graduates to receive this distinction. The award is given by the European Society of Biomaterials Council and is presented annually at the event. Candidates nominated for the award must demonstrate that they have received a high standard of research education and training at a European level in the fields of Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering, and that they have also made significant scientific contributions having their research published in high impact journals, and accepted to present at top tier conferences in the field. Dr Mohd Isa’s PhD research focused on developing a potential new hydrogel treatment for lower back pain caused by disc degeneration, using a substance called hyaluronan (hyaluronic acid). Her research was recently published in the journal Science Advances. Lower back pain is the second leading cause of disability worldwide and a common reason for lost work days. Over 48% of Europeans and 80% of US citizens experience lower back pain due to degenerative intervertebral discs at some point in their lives, with associated healthcare expenditure estimated over $100 billion annually in the US and €5.34 billion in Ireland alone. Commenting on her award, Dr Mohd Isa from CÚRAM at NUI Galway, said: “I’m delighted to receive this award from the society. Our hope is that the success of this research could have an impact in the spinal research community and lead to potential treatment for people suffering degenerated discs and chronic back pain.” Dr Thomas’ doctoral research focused on the development of a microgel-based cell delivery device for the treatment of Critical Limb Ischemia (a severe obstruction of the arteries). The research adds to the current knowledge on cell encapsulation strategies (where transplanted cells are protected from immune rejection by an artificial membrane) by investigating the potential of biomaterials for this therapy. As a therapy, microgels would not only help faster tissue repair but also provide treatment for more patients. Dr Thomas is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Cardiovascular Institute at Stanford University where he currently works on disease modelling using stem cells. Speaking about his award, Dr Thomas from CÚRAM at NUI Galway, said: “It is an honour to receive such a prestigious award from the European Society of Biomaterials and it is a testament to the excellent training I received from my advisors, Professor Abhay Pandit and Professor Timothy O’Brien, and my colleagues at NUI Galway.” The theme of this year’s European Society of Biomaterials conference will be ‘Materials for Life’, which expresses the challenge the field of biomaterials is currently facing, which is to provide effective and affordable biomaterials-based methods to repair and regenerate damaged and diseased tissues and organs. -Ends-
Thursday, 10 May 2018
CÚRAM Investigator Dr Martin O’Halloran, Director of the Lambe Translational Medical Device laboratory at NUI Galway is the only Irish scientist among fifty in Europe awarded European Research Council top-up funding, through a Proof of Concept Grant, to develop a novel hydrogel to treat chronic pain. The Proof of Concept grants, worth €150,000 each, are part of the EU’s research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020. The top-up funding award will allow Dr O’Halloran to develop the results of his scientific hydrogel concept to file patent applications and attract capital to make the research marketable, and explore the commercial and societal potential of the product. Chronic nerve pain can significantly worsen people’s quality of life. According to international studies, one in five adults in Europe suffers from chronic pain which amounts to 95 million people. The novel gel being developed during this project can be used to treat many different types of peripheral nerve pain. One common type of chronic pain is Trigeminal Neuralgia (TN), a prolonged debilitating condition caused by a trauma to the trigeminal nerve, resulting in sudden attacks of excruciating shooting facial pain. It is infamously called the “suicide disease” due to the high number of suicides associated with it. Dr Martin O’ Halloran will use his Proof of Concept Grant to seek to develop this novel hydrogel, which aims to provide long-lasting and drug-free treatment for this condition and other areas affected by chronic nerve pain. Speaking about the project, Dr Martin O’ Halloran, Techrete Senior Lecturer in Medical Electronics at NUI Galway, said: “We are delighted to receive this funding for our chronic pain project, given the tremendous impact the condition has on patients in Ireland. This project concept was co-developed with Dr Alison Liddy, an engineer-chemist at NUI Galway with a particular expertise in chronic pain. Given that this project marks our fourth European Research Council grant in four years, it is a great testament to the quality and hard work of the researchers in our laboratory.” A recently released independent review of this European Research Council innovation scheme showed that the initiative is “sound in concept and effective in practice”, helping ERC-funded scientists set up new companies, file patent applications and attract capital to make their research marketable. The new grants were awarded to researchers working in 12 countries: Austria (2 grants), Finland (3), Germany (7), Ireland (1), Israel (8), Italy (3), Netherlands (3), Norway (1), Spain (5), Sweden (3), Switzerland (3) and the UK (11). The grant scheme is only open to European Research Council grantees who can apply for funding in one of the three rounds of the call every year. The results of this first round of 2018, in which the European Research Council evaluated 114 applications. The budget of the 2018 competition is €20 million. For more information about the funded projects, visit: https://erc.europa.eu/erc-proof-concept-grant-2018-project-examples and to read the independent review of the ERC innovation scheme, visit: https://erc.europa.eu/news/review_praises_erc_poc_scheme -Ends-