Apr 09 2020 Posted: 13:00 IST

A joint investment of €12 million has been announced through a tripartite research and development partnership between the United States of America (USA), Republic of Ireland (RoI) and Northern Ireland (NI). The US-Ireland Research and Development Partnership, launched in July 2006, is a unique initiative that aims to increase the level of collaborative R&D amongst researchers and industry professionals across the three jurisdictions.

CÚRAM Investigators Dr Michael Conall Dennedy and Prof Martin O’Halloran are amongst the four awards announced, which will support over 40 research positions across 10 research institutions, for three to five years.

Dr Dennedy, lead researcher at the adrenal research laboratory, NUI Galway and Prof O’Halloran, Director of the Translational Medical Device laboratory at NUI Galway will partner with Ulster University (NI) and Kansas State University (US). The collaborative team of clinicians, scientists, engineers and mathematicians will research an image-guided approach for minimally invasive microwave thermotherapy (MWT) of aldosterone producing adenomas (APAs) for the treatment of secondary hypertension or high blood pressure. They will also develop machine-learnt techniques for identifying APAs and monitoring therapy using nanocontrast technology.

The commonest specifically treatable cause of high blood pressure is known as primary aldosteronism (PA). This is a condition of hormonal excess whereby the kidney retains salt and water to increase blood pressure. It is caused by small benign nodules on the adrenal gland called aldosterone producing adenomas (APA). Surgical removal of APAs can cure complicating high blood pressure. In this study, the team of researchers will develop new methodologies for diagnosing and treating aldosterone producing adenomas which avoid the need for surgery and improve patient outcomes and experience.

Welcoming the announcement, Prof Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said: “The continued success of the US-Ireland R&D Partnership Programme demonstrates the strong open relationship between our countries and highlights Ireland’s scientific standing internationally. I would like to congratulate all of the award recipients and their collaborators, who are forging innovation and discovery across the Atlantic, with the potential to greatly benefit our collective societies and economies.”

Commenting on the award, Dr Dennedy remarked "This US-Ireland R&D Partnership award will provide the resources necessary to carry out detailed research into the area of thermal therapy of functioning adrenocortical tumours. From a translational viewpoint, it is highly important that we develop methodologies to intervene in conditions such as primary aldosteronism safely and in a manner which preserves as much normal adrenal gland as possible while disrupting the disease causing benign tumour. Ours is the first cross-disciplinary group across science, medicine and engineering to focus specifically on this area, and to receive this funding is a welcome endorsement of our work to date, and our plans for the future.”

The US-Ireland Research and Development partnership agencies in the Republic of Ireland are Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), the Health Research Board (HRB) and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM). The partnership is facilitated by the National Science Foundation (NSF), US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), within the US Department of Agriculture in the USA. In Northern Ireland, the Health & Social Care R&D Division (HSC R&D), the Department for the Economy (DfE), and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) are partners.

For more information on the programme, visit https://www.sfi.ie/funding/funding-calls/us-ireland-rd-partnership/.

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