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