Monday, 10 May 2021

Professor Abhay Pandit (NUI Galway) and Professor David Brayden (UCD), Scientific Director and Co-Director of CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices, have been appointed to Ireland’s first National Research Ethics Committees in the areas of Clinical Trials of Investigational Medicinal Products (NREC-CT) by Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly. Ireland’s first NREC was established in March 2020 as part of the national coordinated response to COVID-19. The new NRECs announced this week will address the important area of clinical trials of medicinal products for human use and clinical investigations of medical devices. The establishments of these NRECs will create a national system for research ethics review, which will cultivate the benefits of health research for patients and the public and build a transparent and cohesive research ethics review system that strengthens the national research infrastructure. Professor Abhay Pandit is Scientific Director of CÚRAM at NUI Galway. His research integrates material science and biological paradigms in developing solutions for chronic diseases. “I am delighted to be appointed to this critical committee and to have the opportunity to help shape the research ethics framework that will support more clinical trial work in Ireland that prioritises patient interests.” he commented. Prof Pandit has received numerous awards and distinctions, being 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.  He is the first Ireland-based academic to be bestowed with these honors. He has also been an elected member on the Council for both the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society and European Society for Biomaterials Society. Professor David Brayden is Co-Director of CÚRAM and a Full Professor of Advanced Drug Delivery at the University College Dublin (UCD) School of Veterinary Medicine and a Senior Fellow of the UCD Conway Institute. He has established a critical mass of drug delivery expertise in Ireland and led the SFI Irish Drug Delivery network from 2008-2013. His major research interests are in oral, buccal, and intra-articular peptide delivery using permeation enhancers, nanotechnology, and drug-device combinations. “I’m honoured to be appointed to the NREC, it’s a wonderful opportunity to contribute to and support Irish health research and have a role to play in ensuing that the interests Irish patients and contributors to clinical trials are protected. Ireland is a global hub for MedTech R&D and it’s vital that we have a strong clear ethical framework in place to support further growth” he said. Prof Brayden has also received numerous awards for his work including a Distinguished Service Award from the Controlled Release Society for services to its Board of Scientific Advisors. In 2012, he was the first Irish academic to be inducted into the College of Fellows of the Controlled Release Society. In 2014, he received an award for service to research from the UCD School of Veterinary Medicine. In 2017, he became the first Irish academic to be elected as a Fellow of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Marquis Who’s Who®. In total, 18 members have been appointed to three NRECs – two in clinical trials and one in medical devices. These Committees will be responsible for reviewing the ethics underpinning research proposals in the area of health research. These committees will be tasked with providing expert ethical guidance for the research process that will protect the safety, dignity and well-being of health research and clinical trial participants in Ireland. The remit of the NREC-CTs is to review the submission of ethics applications related to Clinical Trials of Investigational Medicinal Products (CTIMP). This includes interventional studies and low-interventional studies involving medicinal products for human use. The NREC-CTs will initially run concurrently with many local recognised RECs to review CTIMP ethics applications for a defined transition period. This approach will collectively support this important area of research and ensure a smooth transition ahead of the EU Clinical Trial Regulation. The full announcement with details of all 18 nominees is available at https://www.nrecoffice.ie/members-appointed-to-irelands-first-nrecs-for-clinical-trials-and-medical-devices/

Thursday, 1 April 2021

CÚRAM project one of three NUI Galway based programmes funded to engage more than 385,000 members of the Irish public with science in 2021 Three NUI Galway public engagement and education outreach initiatives have been awarded funding of more than €339,000 through Science Foundation Ireland’s Discover Programme. It will fund projects dedicated to inspiring and empowering over 385,000 members of the public in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects. The funding awards were announced by Simon Harris TD, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, as part of a national investment of €5.2 million through the Science Foundation Ireland Discover Programme. NUI Galway Funded Projects CÚRAM ‘Science Waves' Project (€43,719 funding award) CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices will run an education and public engagement programme that aims to raise awareness of its research and increase understanding of preventative behaviours which can reduce the incidence of chronic illness.  The current Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the need for members of the public to better understand science and its impact on their lives. More than ever, there is a greater need for clear science communication. However, the pandemic has exposed the existing divide amongst children who have access to learning material online and those who don't. CÚRAM’s Science Waves project led by Andrea Fitzpatrick, aims to create content which is accessible to everyone and gives clear information about science. Science Waves is a series of six science radio shows co-created by children and scientists for children. CÚRAM will work with children from underrepresented communities to create accessible, engaging, and fun radio shows, which are aimed at children aged 10–12 years old. The radio shows will broadcast later this year on the NUI Galway student radio station, Flirt FM, and will also be released through the CRAOL network of community radio stations. See www.curamdevices.com. Cell EXPLORERS (€267, 636 funding award) Cell EXPLORERS is a successful science education and public engagement programme locally delivering educational science outreach activities to school children and the Irish public. Led by Dr Muriel Grenon, College of Science and Engineering, the programme has the dual benefit of engaging children and the public, while developing graduate student and researchers’ public engagement skills in a way and at a scale that is unique in Ireland. It has reached more than 38,500 members of the public and involved more than 2,250 team members since its creation in 2012. In 2021 and 2022, the programme will run school visits and tailored activities nationally, through its network of 13 teams based in 15 institutes of technology and universities. New partnerships will include the Galway STEAM Project (a joint TUSLA and Foróige project) to provide better reach to those who do not typically engage with STEM.  The programme‘s research shows that many children (aged 10-12 years) have narrow and stereotypical views of what a scientist does and have had few opportunities to meet a scientist. Drawing from these findings and others Cell EXPLORERS will revise both its activities and practices by applying the Science Capital Teaching Approach, a specific way of teaching that employs social justice methods designed to both broaden young peoples’ views of what it means to be a scientist, and widen participation in Science. See www.cellexplorers.com. ReelLIFE SCIENCE (€27,987 funding award) ReelLIFE SCIENCE is a nationwide science video competition, which encourages young people and the general public to discover more about STEM and its impact on individuals, society and the environment, while developing their creativity, communication and digital skills. Young people from schools and youth organisations are challenged to research a STEM topic and communicate it to the public through an engaging and educational three-minute video. Led by Dr Enda O’Connell, College of Science and Engineering, ReelLIFE SCIENCE has enabled more than 16,000 young people from 500 schools and youth organisations all over the country, to engage with STEM in a novel way. In 2021, ReelLIFE SCIENCE will continue to engage students and teachers in primary and secondary schools across Ireland, while also specifically targeting, training and empowering youth workers and leaders in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon youth organisations.  The deadline for submitting this year’s three-minute video entries is Friday, 15 October with the best videos awarded €1,000 and will be screened for the public at the Galway Science and Technology Festival in NUI Galway. See www.reellifescience.com. Professor Jim Livesey, Vice President for Research and Innovation at NUI Galway, said: “Outreach and public engagement are integral to research at NUI Galway. Engagement is a feature of all stages of research, and we value the insight we derive into the pressing scientific and social questions from our partners. Openness is one of our core strategic values. Open research is a proven path to inspire young minds to take on the challenges posed by the sciences and to creatively approach the evident social issues of the moment. These excellent and innovative programmes will create new energy, inspire young people to aspire to careers in the sciences, and broadcast the standards of excellence the community expects of us. I thank Science Foundation Ireland for their support of these programmes and look forward to the events and activities that are planned.” Speaking about the announcement Minister Harris, said: “I am delighted to announce the 49 projects that will receive funding through the SFI Discover Programme. As we continue to live through the Covid-19 pandemic, we are more conscious than ever of the importance of supporting the public to have access to and to understand the issues that impact our collective future, and the role science and technology can play in providing solutions. These projects will play a role in starting conversations about the role of STEM in society and inspiring our young people to explore careers in these areas. I wish all the recipients every success in the roll out of their projects.” Science Foundation Ireland has invested in public engagement projects through the Discover Programme since 2013. This year’s funded initiatives are estimated to reach a wide audience of people in STEM Topic, while 49 diverse initiatives will be supported by this year’s programme, with successful awardees being carefully selected through international peer-review. -Ends-

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

CARE CONNECT project aims to build on the successful 'ICU FamilyLink' platform in the absence of healthcare face-to-face support during the pandemic Children in Paediatrics have already nicknamed the social robot "SuperMario!" Platform aims to provide support to critical care settings, end-of-life situations, and vulnerable patients that rely on family for support Researchers at CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices based at NUI Galway, supported by global technology company, Cisco's Country Digital Acceleration programme, are launching the CARE CONNECT project that will see social robot 'MARIO', used alongside a video-conferencing platform to improve patient-family communications in Paediatrics. During the first wave of Covid-19, a bespoke video-conferencing platform called 'ICU FamilyLink' was successfully implemented at University Hospital Galway to connect patients in critical care to their families. The CARE CONNECT project aims to build on this successful pilot and extend beyond the Intensive Care Unit to other health care settings impacted by Covid-19 while also looking to the future use of telemedicine in Ireland post-pandemic. Existing technology, including teleconferencing platforms, social robots, and digital tools, have been rapidly adopted since Covid-19. Due to Covid-19, visiting restrictions were introduced in healthcare settings worldwide. These pandemic-related restrictions create a problem as regular face-to-face communication is severely impacted. This problem will likely last for months, even years, due to the unpredictable nature of Covid-19. While restrictions may fluctuate, physical visiting will probably be limited in comparison to pre-pandemic times. Therefore, the need to create effective alternative modes of communication across multiple healthcare settings is immediate, urgent, and, unfortunately, a long-term need. Professor Derek O'Keeffe, CÚRAM Investigator and project lead at NUI Galway explains: "The Covid-19 pandemic has restricted patient's families from visiting them in hospital and healthcare settings and therefore isolating them from their loved ones. Communication is a vital part of providing medical care and addressing patients' biopsychosocial needs and their families. This is particularly important in critical care settings, end-of-life situations, and vulnerable patients who rely on family support. It is widely accepted in clinical care that effective communication is key to reducing the psychological burden for patients and their families and patients. "This CARE CONNECT project also builds on our NUI Galway experience in healthcare robotics using the MARIO platform, which was an EU funded project led by my collaborator Professor Dympna Casey. Our first study will be using social robot MARIO with our video-conferencing platform to improve patient-family communications in Paediatrics, where the children have already nicknamed him "SuperMario"! We will examine the efficacy of using our system to remotely educate parents and family members about the management of newly diagnosed acute medical conditions, such as Type 1 Diabetes." Dr Aoife Murray, clinician-researcher and a NUI Galway BioInnovate Ireland alumna, who was part of the ICU FamilyLink core team, says: "The key to the successful implementation of telemedicine and digital solutions is tailoring the solution to meet patient's and healthcare provider's needs. The Medtech and Technology ecosystem in Galway and longstanding relationships with University Hospital Galway create the perfect environment to develop and test technology to ensure it is effective and appropriate for a healthcare setting." Shane Heraty, Cisco Country Manager, Ireland and Scotland, said: "Helping people remain connected throughout this unprecedented time, and in these challenging circumstances, is something that we are incredibly proud of. This project and our partnership with CÚRAM brings the perfect blend of expertise together to enable us to have a direct and significant impact on patient wellbeing. "We are committed to building a digital and inclusive society, and having successfully implemented the ICU FamilyLink project at the start of the pandemic, we welcome the opportunity to build on it to bring the platform to a broader patient group." For more information on CÚRAM visit www.curamdevices.ie or Follow on Twitter @CURAMdevices.  -Ends-   For Press contact Gwen O'Sullivan, Press and Information Executive, NUI Galway at gwen.osullivan@nuigalway.ie or 087 6601592. Photo AMM-210217-1688.jpg: Social robot 'MARIO' pictured with the CARE CONNECT project team from l-r: Dr Aoife Murray, CÚRAM at NUI Galway, Professor Derek O'Keeffe, CÚRAM at NUI Galway, Mr Frank Kirrane, University Hospital Galway, and Mr Hemendra Worlikar and  Mr Vijay Vadhiraj, CÚRAM at NUI Galway. Photo: Aengus McMahon Photo CARE CONNECT.jpg: Social robot 'MARIO' pictured with the CARE CONNECT project team from l-r: Dr Aoife Murray, CÚRAM at NUI Galway, Professor Derek O'Keeffe, CÚRAM at NUI Galway, Mr Frank Kirrane, University Hospital Galway, and Mr Hemendra Worlikar and  Mr Vijay Vadhiraj, CURAM at NUI Galway. Photo: Aengus McMahon   Notes to Editor About CÚRAM CÚRAM's strategic mission is to establish a world-leading Irish Medical Device Research and Development Centre in the development of diagnostic devices, biomedical implants, cell-device and drug-device combination products to address unmet clinical needs. CÚRAM is also engaging patients and their families in the use of medical devices and technologies that can impact their quality of life. By partnering with local Small and Medium Enterprises and multinational medical device and pharmaceutical companies to increase employment in Ireland. The recent announcement of over €46M in funding for CÚRAM demonstrates the Government's strong commitment to reinvesting in the MedTech industry in Ireland, supporting the continuation of strong academic, industry and clinical collaborations that are central to CÚRAM's work. About The HIVE Lab The Health Innovation Via Engineering (HIVE) Lab at the Lambe Institute for Translational Research NUI Galway was established in 2019 (@HIVE_Lab). It aims to deliver novel health solutions through interdisciplinary collaboration. It is led by Professor Derek O'Keeffe (@Physicianeer), a dual-trained Physician/Engineer whose research work encompasses digital health and clinical care domains. It recently launched the world's first delivery of insulin by drone and several technological innovations during the first wave of COVID19. About Cisco Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) is the worldwide technology leader that has been making the Internet work since 1984. Our people, products, and partners help society securely connect and seize tomorrow's digital opportunity today. Since 2015, Cisco's Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) Program has been developing trusted relationships worldwide. Now active in 34 countries, CDA projects align with a nation's priorities and bring digital solutions to unique societal challenges. By mixing network and technology expertise with partnerships based on trust and close collaboration, CDA helps countries stimulate economic growth and create an inclusive digital future that leaves no one behind. For more information about Cisco's Country Digital Acceleration programme, visit: https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/about/country-digital-acceleration.html.  

Friday, 19 March 2021

CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Research Centre for Medical Devices, based at NUI Galway, has announced two new tripartite partnerships as part of the US-Ireland Research and Development Partnership Programme. These partnerships will develop new technologies to treat cardiovascular disease and create new mechanisms for large-scale transport of high-quality therapeutic cells. The US-Ireland Research and Development Partnership is a unique initiative involving funding agencies across three jurisdictions: the United States, The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, with the goal of increasing collaborative Research and Development amongst researchers and industry across the three jurisdictions. This collaboration aims to generate valuable discoveries and innovations that are transferable to the marketplace or lead to enhancements in health, disease prevention, or healthcare. Dr Siobhan Roche, Director of Science for the Economy at SFI, said: "I am delighted to announce these two new partnerships involving CÚRAM. Our national SFI Research Centre network puts Ireland in a firm position to meet and respond to global challenges. International collaborations between leading research institutes such as these can accelerate innovation and create valuable global healthcare advances. We look forward to sharing their successes." The first partnership is the Cardiac Organoid Systems Partnership, driven by a shared understanding of the fundamental need to develop regenerative medicine technologies to treat cardiovascular disease. The primary approach of cardiac tissue engineering is to create cardiac grafts that can be efficiently implanted, regenerating the tissue and giving rise to a fully functional heart without causing side effects. Recently, there has been considerable effort to develop functional scaffolds that are designed for cardiac repair. These scaffolds help recreate or mimic the body's environment to allow cells embedded in the scaffolds to reach their full biological potential. Beyond developing engineered scaffolds for repairing cardiac tissue, the ability to scale-up the fabrication of these scaffolds is critical to their successful translation into everyday clinical practice. Professor David Bishop, Director of the CELL-MET ERC at Boston University, said: "The creation of functional engineered cardiac tissue with electromechanical properties that mimic the human heart on a scalable platform has the potential to transform the treatment of chronic heart disease. The fabrication of scaffolds is an interdisciplinary challenge combining chemical, biological, and physical properties." Professor Gerard O'Connor, School of Physics, NUI Galway, explains: "Of all of the causes of cardiovascular disease, ischaemic heart disease remains a major cause of death worldwide. Cardiac tissue and cells damaged during a heart attack, for instance, cannot regenerate and are usually replaced by fibrotic scar tissue, which means that the only option for patients with end-stage heart disease is whole heart transplantation. Tissue engineering holds enormous promise for restoring functionality in these scarred regions of the damaged heart." The Cardiac Organoid Systems Partnership is a collaboration between the National Science Foundation (NSF) Engineering Research Centre (ERC) for Cellular Metamaterials (CELL-MET), headquartered at Boston University, CÚRAM the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices, and the Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine (WWIEM) at Queens University Belfast. The Global Cell Manufacturing and Delivery Partnership is the second new collaboration for CÚRAM under the US-Ireland Research and Development Partnership Programme. For this three-year project, CÚRAM is collaborating with the National Science Foundation (NSF) Engineering Research Centre (ERC) for Cell Manufacturing Technologies (CMaT), headquartered at Georgia Institute of Technology, and the Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine (WWIEM) at Queens University Belfast. The aim of this research team's partnership is to use their combined expertise in biomaterials, characterisation and production of clinically-relevant cell types, to develop the technology to allow for the transport of high-quality, therapeutic cells at room or ambient temperature. The partners will scale-up, model and test a hydrogel-based system and make it clinical trial-ready. Professor Garry Duffy, CÚRAM project lead and Professor of Anatomy and Regenerative Medicine, NUI Galway, said: "Cell therapies represent the next generation of therapeutic products that have the potential to regenerate damaged or degenerating tissues and treat a broad range of chronic illnesses. One of the global challenges that need to be resolved in order to make these therapies broadly available is the challenge of how to transport and distribute these cells. The key aim of this partnership is to develop a system that will allow us to transport cells for several days in ambient conditions, eliminating the need for cryopreservation for transport." Cryopreservation, which is currently required to transport cells, can negatively affect cell potency. Ultimately this partnership aims to solve a critical challenge of transportation and distribution to improve access to and reduce the cost of these therapies globally. Professor Krishnendu Roy, Director of the NSF ERC, Georgia Institute of Technology, said: "This partnership builds on CMaT and CÚRAM’s complementary expertise and brings together existing industry and academic networks and infrastructure to address a significant unmet need in cell therapy manufacturing and supply-chain. Low-cost, ambient temperature transport of cellular therapies with minimal cold-chain requirement is a global grand-challenge, and by coming together under this partnership, we hope to develop the technical and regulatory knowledge required to address it and improve quality of life for patients with chronic illness worldwide." This unique partnership's broader implications will be the stimulation of an innovation network between the US, Ireland, and the UK in cell manufacturing and cell therapies transport. This project will provide the groundwork for the realisation of greater access to cell therapies and nurture a climate of innovation and creativity in research-led, clinically informed, and industry influenced problem-solving for cell manufacturing. -Ends- For Press contact Gwen O'Sullivan, Press and Information Executive, NUI Galway at gwen.osullivan@nuigalway.ie or 087 6601952. Photo C2C Partnership.jpg: Pictured l-r: Professor Gerard O'Connor, School of Physics, NUI Galway and Professor Garry Duffy, CÚRAM and Professor of Anatomy and Regenerative Medicine, NUI Galway. Photo: NUI Galway   Notes to Editor More about the Cardiac Organoid Systems Partnership This interdisciplinary research team will bring together experts in biomaterials, tissue engineering, nanofabrication and stem cell reprogramming from CELL-MET at Boston University, CÚRAM and WWIEM at Queens University Belfast, will enable breakthrough research in understanding and controlling the directed assembly of cardiac tissue. Professor David Bishop, Director of the CELL-MET ERC at Boston University, will be the project's Principal Investigator, Professor Gerard O'Connor from CÚRAM and Andriana Margariti, Professor of Vascular and Regenerative Medicine at Queen's University Belfast, will be project co-Principal Investigators with Professor Alice White providing support to Professor Bishop and leading the direct laser writing aspects of the project at Boston University. Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM, will provide biomaterials support to the project with Dr Nazar Farid, leading the materials processing programme using advanced laser technology at CÚRAM. More about the Global Cell Manufacturing Partnership Project leads at each institute include Professor Krishnendu Roy, Director, NSF ERC /n CMaT and Johanna Temenoff, Deputy Director of CMaT at Georgia Institute of *-chnology, Garry Duffy, Professor of Anatomy and Regenerative Medicine and CÚRAM Funded Investigator at NUI Galway and Professor Reinhold Medina, WWIEM, Queens University Belfast.

Monday, 15 March 2021

CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices based at NUI Galway, has announced a new research partnership with US-based biotechnology company, Factor Bioscience Inc., to develop and test a new cell therapy for people with severe COVID-19 infections and other serious respiratory illness.  The COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread in resurgent waves globally, and effective therapies are urgently needed. Most people who die from COVID-19 die of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). This devastating inflammatory condition causes the lungs to fill with immune cells and fluid, ultimately making oxygen transfer to the blood impossible. "In recent years, stem cells have been rapidly advanced to testing in clinical trials as a way of treating ARDS caused by, for example, a bacterial infection. However, because of the way these stem cells are prepared from adult human tissues and because there is a limit to the volume of cells that we can produce, the consistency of these cell products and the availability of large doses has always remained a challenge until now" explains CÚRAM Investigator and project lead, Prof John Laffey.   "Our partners, Factor Bioscience, a long-time collaborator of CÚRAM, has developed a novel type of stem cell with almost unlimited production potential. As part of this project, these stem cells will be produced at the Centre for Cell Manufacturing Ireland (CCMI), at NUI Galway, and then tested in CÚRAM laboratories. Ultimately we hope to bring this exciting new cell therapy to a clinical trial for severe cases of COVID-19 and other ARDS patients within the next year." Matt Angel, co-founder and CEO of Factor Bioscience, leads the development of their core technologies. "Building clinical and academic partnerships like this one is critical to our mission. We have an excellent relationship with CÚRAM, and this project brings the perfect blend of expertise together enabling us to have a direct and significant impact on patient health. Factor Bioscience has developed a fast, highly-efficient method for reprogramming somatic cells to a pluripotent stem-cell state, a key invention now recognized by several patents. This technology, which enables the production of patient-specific cells for transplantation, has wide-ranging applications in personalized regenerative medicine." said Dr Angel. Prof Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, welcomed the partnership, saying: "The SFI Research Centres programme positions Ireland as a global leader in innovative scientific research. Investment in centres like CÚRAM has ensured that Ireland is well positioned to respond to the COVID-19 challenge with agility and speed. This sector will be greatly strengthened by the level of cooperation and new partnerships that have been built as a result." The Centre for Cell Manufacturing  at NUI Galway is the only licensed cell manufacturing site in Ireland. Within this custom-built centre, the CCMI team produce stem cell products that are used in human clinical trials designed to test their effectiveness in a range of life-limiting medical conditions. Prof Frank Barry, a collaborator on the project at the CCMI, with over 25 years of experience in cell therapy, says, "This project is a clear example of our commitment to addressing the world's major health challenges by translating cutting-edge biomedical research into new and effective treatments."  The current project is CÚRAM’s second collaboration with Factor Bioscience Inc. CÚRAM's strategic mission is to establish a world-leading Irish Medical Device Research and Development Centre to develop diagnostic devices, biomedical implants, cell-device and drug-device combination products to address unmet clinical needs. In doing so, the Centre partners with local Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and multinational medical device and pharmaceutical companies to increase employment in Ireland.  The recent announcement of over €46M in funding for the CÚRAM SFI Research Centre  demonstrates the Government's strong commitment to reinvesting in the MedTech industry in Ireland, supporting the continuation of substantial academic, industry and clinical collaborations central to CÚRAM's work. ENDS For Press contact Gwen O'Sullivan, Press and Information Executive, National University of Ireland Galway at gwen.osullivan@nuigalway.ie or +353 87 6601592. About CÚRAM CÚRAM is the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Medical Devices,based at NUI Galway. It is a national centre bringing together experts from Ireland's leading universities and research institutes. Our academic partners led by the National University of Ireland Galway includes University College Dublin, University College Cork, Trinity College Dublin, University of Limerick, The Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland, and Clinical Research Development Ireland. For more information, visit www.curamdevices.ie. Find CÚRAM on Twitter, @CURAMdevices. About Factor Bioscience Factor Bioscience is a privately held biotechnology company that develops mRNA, cell-reprogramming, and gene-editing technologies to advance the study and treatment of disease. Factor collaborates with academic and industrial partners to develop therapeutic products based on its technologies. For more information, visit www.factorbio.com.

Tuesday, 9 March 2021

Three CÚRAM PhD graduates; Paolo Contessotto, Juhi Samal and Mark Fernandez, have been awarded the Julia Polak European Doctorate Award 2021 of the European Society for Biomaterials (ESB) and will be presented with their awards at the General Assembly of the next ESB conference to be held from 5-9 September 2021 in Porto. They are the latest CÚRAM graduates to receive this acknowledgement, following in the footsteps of six earlier CÚRAM alumni. The award is given by the ESB council and presented annually at the conference event. Candidates nominated for the award needed to demonstrate that they have received high standard research education and training at a European level in Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering and that they are also able to produce scientific results deserving recognition by being published and accepted in high-quality journals and conferences. To this end, candidates will have had to spend at least one month of research work in a country outside the country of their home institution, have produced at least two peer-reviewed international publications as the first author and have participated at least twice at an international scientific meeting as presenting author, during their PhD. Dr Contessotto's PhD research focused on developing an injectable hydrogel to repair the heart muscle after a heart attack. His research has recently been published in the prestigious Science Translational Medicine Journal and has received extensive media coverage. Dr Samal's research focused on investigating several biomaterial constructs for therapeutic delivery and enhanced graft survival in the brain, which resulted in three research publications and grant funding success. Both were supervised by Prof Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM. Dr Manus Biggs supervised Dr Fernandez's doctoral research that focussed on developing a synthetic fibrous scaffold to promote tendon repair. The technology developed was specifically designed to address the biological, mechanical and adhesions issues in rotator cuff tendon repair and used electrospinning to generate a highly structured and porous scaffold made from an inert synthetic polymer. "It is very gratifying for any researcher to have their work recognised in this way, and I'm extremely proud that CÚRAM graduates continue to be acknowledged for the quality of their training and research outputs. All of our researchers put extraordinary amounts of energy, time and effort into their work, and I'd like to congratulate Paolo, Juhi and Mark on this award which they richly deserve," said Prof Pandit. Since its establishment in 1976, the ESB conference has been a significant event for the biomaterials science community. ESB 2021 will once again bring together all major disciplines of biomaterials science and enabling participants to network with colleagues, establish new collaborations, exchange knowledge, and discuss recent advances in emerging biomaterials-related topics. CÚRAM's research focuses on developing diagnostic devices, biomedical implants, cell-device and drug-device combination products to address unmet clinical needs. The recent announcement of a €46M reinvestment in CÚRAM by Science Foundation Ireland in February 2021 demonstrates the Government's strong commitment to the MedTech industry in Ireland, supporting the continuation of substantial academic, industry and clinical collaborations and the education and training of high-quality graduates for the sector. For more information, follow us on Twitter @CURAMdevices or visit www.curamdevices.ie

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Call for researchers, at undergraduate or early postgraduate level, to apply for the first All-Ireland MS Research Network Research Summer Scholarships Researchers in NUI Galway, Queen’s University Belfast and RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences have launched the All-Ireland MS Research Network today (24 February 2021). The All-Ireland MS Research Network will join together the largest number of scientists, clinicians, healthcare professionals and people with multiple sclerosis (MS) to accelerate collaborative research across the island of Ireland. Going from the patient to the bench and bringing discovery research forward to the patient, the network holds potential to limit the progression of multiple sclerosis, to train future generations of researchers and to contribute to global multiple sclerosis research. Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, immune-mediated condition of the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord and optic nerve). In multiple sclerosis, myelin damage results in a range of symptoms including impairment of mobility and vision as well as cognitive difficulties and severe fatigue. As one of the most common causes of neurological disability in young people, multiple sclerosis is increasing in incidence and prevalence around the world. Currently, there are approximately 13,500 people on the island of Ireland living with multiple sclerosis (4,500 in Northern Ireland and 9,000 in the Republic of Ireland). The goals of the All-Ireland MS Research Network are to: Deliver cutting-edge research in multiple sclerosis that focuses on limiting disease progression Train the next generation of leaders in multiple sclerosis research Communicate multiple sclerosis research activities and discoveries to the public, research community and key stakeholders Collaborate on multiple sclerosis research programmes nationally and internationally to achieve the mission of the network Founding investigators Professor Denise Fitzgerald, Dr Alerie Guzman de la Fuente and Dr Yvonne Dombrowski (Queen's University Belfast), Dr Claire McCoy (RCSI) and Dr Una FitzGerald and Dr Jill McMahon (NUI Galway), reached out to dozens of multi-disciplinary multiple sclerosis researchers across the island of Ireland, North and South. Network members are drawn from hospitals, multiple sclerosis day-care centres, Universities, and from those who have multiple sclerosis. Dr Una Fitzgerald, Biomedical Engineering, College of Science and Engineering, NUI Galway, said: “The founding members have worked tirelessly over the last 12 months to define the All-Ireland MS Research Networks's goals, aspirations and research mission. We firmly believe that closer collaborations and sharing of ideas and expertise across the network will lead to exciting discoveries that better explain multiple sclerosis pathology and symptoms, and that could be the basis of new approaches to MS disease management. The network will facilitate excellence in new multiple sclerosis research discoveries that might otherwise not happen.” Dr Chris McGuigan, consultant neurologist, St. Vincent’s University Hospital, UCD Clinical Professor, and a network participant, said: “The formation of All-Ireland MS Research Network is an exciting new venture that will promote and accelerate  research into multiple sclerosis on the island of Ireland, enhancing our reputation for research excellence worldwide. It will provide coordinated information on developments in multiple sclerosis research nationally including the latest laboratory research outputs and novel technical advances. The network is multi-disciplinary, cross-sectoral and cross-community, and will partner with global collaborators to ensure continued opportunities to participate in the latest bench-to-bedside studies to improve care for people living with multiple sclerosis and inspire, engage and train a new generation of clinical and academic researchers in Ireland.” Alexis Donnelly, has lived with progressive multiple sclerosis for nearly 30 years, and is excited by the formation of All-Ireland MS Research Network. “This network will facilitate multiple sclerosis researchers throughout the island to cooperate across institutional and disciplinary boundaries, linking them not only with each other but with international colleagues and allowing fresh results and insights to flow back and forth. This can only accelerate the pace of research into progressive multiple sclerosis both nationally and internationally. “I am reminded of the story of Professor Alan Thompson, Professor of Neurology in University College London and chair of the Scientific Steering Committee of the International Progressive MS Alliance, of which I am a member. Alan's interest in progressive multiple sclerosis was piqued initially by the discovery, in the basement of a Dublin Hospital, of an empty room labeled ‘MS research’. This network promises to replace that empty room with a vibrant community of multiple sclerosis researchers. It will hasten the day when no more people have to bear the burdens of progressive multiple sclerosis. I am also impressed by the equal status that people with multiple sclerosis themselves will enjoy in that effort. Our own experiences and perspectives will enrich this initiative and the focus of its work.” MS Research Summer Scholarships Coinciding with the launch, the network is opening a call for budding multiple sclerosis researchers, at undergraduate or early postgraduate level, to apply for the first All-Ireland MS Research Network Research Summer Scholarships. Following a generous donation from Eamonn Haughton and Declan Smith, of Chemical Systems Control Ireland, the first scholarship will be awarded in 2021 to a successful candidate who is considering a multiple sclerosis-focused research career. Eamonn Haughton, Chemical Systems Control Ireland, said: “New therapies for multiple sclerosis will be built on state-of-the-art research. Funded junior researchers will spend time in research groups based in at least two of the participating organisations. It is hoped that the seeds sewn by this research will help to bring multiple sclerosis treatments to the next level.” For more information visit www.aims-rn.org and for more details about the scholarship call see www.aims-rn.org/funding or follow on Twitter @aims_rn. -Ends-

Friday, 19 February 2021

Researchers at CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices based at NUI Galway, and BIOFORGE Lab, at the University of Valladolid in Spain, have developed an injectable hydrogel that could help repair and prevent further damage to the heart muscle after a heart attack event. The results of their research have just been published in the prestigious journal Science Translational Medicine. Myocardial infarction or heart disease is a leading cause of death due to the irreversible damage caused to the heart muscle (cardiac tissue) during a heart attack. The regeneration of cardiac tissue is minimal so that the damage caused cannot be repaired by itself. Current treatments lack an effective method to prevent death and subsequent cardiac tissue repair following a heart attack. "This project involved the development and testing of an elastin-based hydrogel derived from a naturally occurring biomaterial in the human body", explains Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM and project lead. The hydrogel is based on a family of unique biomaterials, called elastin-like recombinamers, that BIOFORGE-UVa had developed in the search for advanced hydrogels for regenerative medicine. "The hydrogel was developed to mimic the environment around the heart following an infarction and then customised to have the ability to protect and promote regeneration of the cardiac tissue", he explains. The therapeutic effect of multiple injections of this hydrogel into the cardiac tissue was assessed during the first-ever preclinical study of its kind, demonstrating its efficacy for cardiac tissue remodelling following a heart attack. The international research team, which included researchers from Ireland, Spain, Sweden, France and Italy, were able to show that if their hydrogel was injected into the heart muscle shortly after a heart attack, it resulted in less fibrosis (scarring of the cardiac tissue) and an increase in the generation of new blood vessels in the area. They were also able to observe the rise in the preservation and survival of cardiomyocytes, a type of cell that allows the heart to beat, in the affected area. Professor Pandit added: "This project demonstrates the efficacy of a unique biomaterial-only system able to induce a positive healing effect on cardiac tissue following a heart attack event. The functional benefits obtained by the timely injection of the hydrogel supports and highlights the potential use of this treatment in the clinic. The next step will be to develop a prototype for a delivery system for the hydrogel." Professor Mark Da Costa, Cardiothoracic Surgeon and senior co-author of the study, said: "In this study, we employed a model to specifically look at a type of heart attack that has increased in incidence and is not often treated until the acute phase resolves. Scar tissue that forms after the heart attack often remodels negatively, causing future problems like heart failure. The timely injection of this hydrogel appears to change the way the heart muscle heals after a heart attack. There is a significant positive histological, biological and functional recovery of the injured heart muscle. Work is progressing now to deliver this to the sites of injury in different clinical settings and will be followed with translation into a clinical trial.” The full research team also involved John Newell, Michelle Kilcoyne, Peter Owens and Peter Dockery from NUI Galway, CÚRAM PhD graduate Paolo Contessotto, Doriana Orbanić and José C. Rodríguez-Cabello from the BIOFORGE Lab at the University of Valladolid in Spain, Chunsheng Jin and Niclas G. Karlsson from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, Sandrine Chantepie and Dulce Papy-Garcia from the Laboratory Cell Growth, Tissue Repair and Regeneration at the University Paris Est, Créteil, France, and Clizia Chinello and Fulvio Magni from the University of Milano-Bicocca, Vedano al Lambro, Italy. CÚRAM's research focuses on developing diagnostic devices, biomedical implants, cell-device and drug-device combination products to address unmet clinical needs. The recent announcement of a €46M reinvestment in CÚRAM by Science Foundation Ireland in February 2021, demonstrates the Government's strong commitment to the MedTech industry in Ireland, supporting the continuation of substantial academic, industry and clinical collaborations that are central to CÚRAM's work. To access the full paper, visit https://stm.sciencemag.org/content/13/581/eaaz5380 -Ends- For Press contact Gwen O'Sullivan, Press and Information Executive, National University of Ireland Galway at gwen.osullivan@nuigalway.ie or +353 87 6601592. Follow us on Twitter @CURAMdevices and visit www.curamdevices.ie

Friday, 12 February 2021

CÚRAM SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices based at National University of Ireland Galway, will present a webinar and series of panel discussions with EU policy makers and MedTech industry leaders in the European Union. The event takes place online, on Tuesday, 16 February. The webinar will bring together leading researchers from industry and academia, along with policymakers and regulators to consider a consolidated research agenda for medical devices within the context of the European Union’s Horizon Europe programme, which began in January 2021. The titled webinar 'A Research Agenda for Medical Devices in the EU' will present key recent developments in next-generation medical device technologies and their potential to impact health outcomes and improve the quality of life for patients with chronic illnesses. It will also consider the enabling policy and the regulatory environment necessary to sustain the competitiveness of this highly innovative European sector. The webinar will be hosted by Prof Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM. High profile speakers attending the event include Sean Kelly MEP, Maria da Graça Carvalho, MEP, Prof Mark Ferguson, SFI Director General, Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland and Chair of the European Innovation Council Advisory Board and Karina Angelieva, Deputy Minister of Education and Science, Bulgaria. The webinar will consist of eight panel sessions led by research and industry leaders across US and EU and will be attended by MEPs. The panel topics include ; Medical Device Research in Europe, Artificial Intelligence Medical Devices, Advanced Therapy Medicinal Products, Global Perspectives: Medical Devices for the Sustainable Development Goals, Regulation, Research, Data Infrastructures and Science Capacity Building for Medical Devices, Skills and Education for a Competitive Future. In advance of the webinar, CÚRAM has launched a consultation White Paper providing stakeholders with the opportunity to contribute to a medical devices research agenda for the European Union. This research agenda aims to help inform EU level decision-making, such as the implementation of Horizon Europe (the research and innovation framework programme running from 2021-2027), as well as national and regional research agendas. It will also serve as a reference document to advance partnerships and innovative collaborations to address pressing global challenges. CÚRAM aims to radically improve health outcomes for patients by developing ‘smart’ medical devices and implants. It develops these devices through collaborations with industry partners and hospital groups to enable their rapid translation to clinics, positioning Ireland as the driver in developing medical device technologies that will provide affordable transformative solutions for chronic diseases. CÚRAM’s researchers are designing and manufacturing implants to respond to the body’s environment and delivering therapeutic agents exactly where they are needed. CÚRAM’s outputs will particularly benefit patients with chronic ailments such as heart disease, wound healing, diabetes and musculoskeletal diseases. For full agenda and speakers details, visit: https://cordis.europa.eu/event/id/148320-a-research-agenda-for-medical-devices-in-the-eu -Ends- For Press contact Gwen O'Sullivan, Press and Information Executive, National University of Ireland Galway at gwen.osullivan@nuigalway.ie or +353 87 6601592. For more information about the webinar contact Claire Riordan, CÚRAM SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices at claire.riordan@nuigalway.ie.

Monday, 1 February 2021

CÚRAM SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices at NUI Galway has received a significant funding award of €46,372,380 from Science Foundation Ireland. The investment was announced today (1 February 2021) by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD.     150 projects to date completed by CÚRAM, resulting in 43 patent applications     CÚRAM has published 1,712 journal publications, secured 10 licence agreements and five spin-outs     CÚRAM researchers have matched over €40 million in EU grant funding in its first six years The announcement demonstrates the Government's strong commitment to reinvesting in CÚRAM and the MedTech industry in the West and Ireland, supporting the continuation of strong academic, industry and clinical collaborations that are central to CÚRAM's work. The investment will support up to 520 researchers at CÚRAM over the next six years. CÚRAM's strategic mission is to establish a world-leading Irish Medical Device Research and Development Centre in the development of diagnostic devices, biomedical implants, cell-device and drug-device combination products to address unmet clinical needs. In doing so, the Centre partners with local Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and multinational medical device and pharmaceutical companies to increase employment in Ireland. CÚRAMs Research Programme aims to enhance researchers' creative, entrepreneurial, and innovative potential and focus on the translation of key CÚRAM technologies into clinical devices. Research is focused on three clinical areas of chronic cardiovascular, neural and soft tissue pathologies. These pillars have been structured to meet patients' current clinical needs with the aim of developing devices to improve daily management of chronic conditions. Research activities are enhanced through entrepreneurship and public engagement programmes and are informed by market, patient and clinical needs. Centre Growth The first phase of CÚRAM, established in 2015, has positioned the Centre well to exploit its innovation and commercial potential. The centre has had many significant scientific accomplishments in Phase one that contribute to advances in knowledge and the development of medical devices for the treatment of unmet clinical needs. Based at NUI Galway, CÚRAM is becoming recognised globally as a 'go-to' Centre for undertaking medical device research. The collaborative partnerships established to date indicate the value that the industry is already seeing in its partnerships with CÚRAM. CÚRAM currently employs 190 researchers in 10 partner institutes and to date has 38 industry partners that include 15 multinational corporation partners and 23 SME's . A total of 150 projects to date have been completed resulting in 43 patent applications; 1,712 journal publications; 10 licence agreements; and five spin-outs. In addition CÚRAM’s funding has been matched by its researchers securing over €40 million in EU grant funding in its first six years. President of NUI Galway, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, said: "I'm delighted to be attending today's Government announcement and would like to congratulate Professor Pandit and his excellent team at CÚRAM on being awarded this significant funding from Science Foundation Ireland. This reinvestment to sustain CÚRAM in the next phase recognises and respects our standing as a global leader in medical device research in and for the world. We know now more than ever that research in health and wellbeing is critical to our humanity. The values of excellence, openness, respect and sustainability are strategic values to which we aspire at NUI Galway. CÚRAM's dedication to world class research and development of medical devices to treat a diverse range of health needs in society is testament those values." Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director, CÚRAM, NUI Galway, said: "We are very much looking forward to the next stage of CÚRAM's journey. The Centre has matured significantly over the past six years and the foundation which has been laid down over that period now positions CÚRAM well for making a continued global impact and developing novel and innovative medical devices to meet clinical needs. The transition from a Centre having a highly diverse set of projects, to a focused Centre with a balanced portfolio of prototype devices will be exciting, challenging and rewarding to our ecosystem." Today's Government announcement sees an investment of €193 million in five SFI Research Centres that includes CÚRAM for a further six years. This investment by Science Foundation Ireland will support approximately 1,060 graduate and Post-Doctoral students and Research Fellows employed by the Centres. Speaking today, Minister Harris said: “I am delighted to announce this significant Government investment in five SFI Research Centres, which reflects Ireland’s position as a world leader in research and innovation. The investment will ensure that we are prepared for the changes and disruption that we are facing in addressing global societal and economic challenges. “The five centres will also work to promote science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) to the wider public through extensive Education and Public Engagement outreach. These initiatives include summer computer camps, developing secondary school education modules, and residency programmes for filmmakers, artists and teachers to forge collaborations between researchers and the community. “ "SFI Research Centres promote discovery and impact, as well as collaboration between academia, government and industry across the Island of Ireland and internationally. This support will further enhance the important work these Centres have already achieved, so they continue to play a pivotal role in the years ahead in protecting the wellbeing of the population and the economy."  A panel of stakeholders attended today's launch including Cameron Keighron, an NUI Galway student and member of the young adult panel with the Public Patient Involvement research programme, PPI Ingite@NUIGalway, who took part in CÚRAM's 2020 Science on Screen documentary, The Patient Effect. Mr Keighron, said: "CÚRAM's work in opening up their research to the public raises awareness about the world class research happening right here on our doorstep. The Centre's public engagement programme invites participation and contributions from community members and patient groups which have been empowering for audiences, and I really look forward to staying involved as the Centre continues to grow" he commented." Michael Gilvarry, General Manager at the Neuro Technology Centre in Galway for CERENOVUS, part of Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices Companies, also spoke at today’s event about the industry benefits of partnering with CÚRAM. "We began our collaboration with CÚRAM in 2017 and the partnership has had a significant impact on our ability to grow and scale our centre of excellence. I’d like to wish CÚRAM every success in the next stage of its evolution and look forward to continued partnerships and collaborations in the future" he said. Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said: “To maintain and build on Ireland’s global standing in research, innovation, and discovery, it is crucial that we invest in excellent ideas and research with impact. SFI Research Centres support both basic and applied research, spanning a wide range of sectors at varying levels and stages, and as a country we have benefited from their considerable contributions in the recent Covid-19 pandemic. “They have made transformational progress in just six years, with increased academic and industrial collaboration, extensive training of PhD students for future skills needs, winning competitive funding from the EU, producing excellent scientific results and driving vital public engagement. We look forward to further strengthening our ability to positively impact our society and economy through excellent scientific research, with continued support from the Government and industry in the years ahead.” For more information about CÚRAM visit: www.curamdevices.ie or follow on twitter @CURAMdevices -Ends- For Press contact Gwen O'Sullivan at gwen.osullivan@nuigalway.ie or 087 6601592. For more information about CÚRAM, contact Claire Riordan, Public Engagement Manager, CÚRAM at claire.riordan@nuigalway.ie. Photo 0Abhay Pandit  CUüRAM  (4).jpg: Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director, CÚRAM, NUI Galway. Photo: Andrew Downes Xposure.ie Photo 0Abhay Pandit  CUüRAM  (9).jpg: Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director, CÚRAM, NUI Galway. Photo: Andrew Downes Xposure.ie   About NUI Galway Established in 1845, NUI Galway is a bilingual university comprised of four colleges, 19 schools, five research institutes, 19,070 students, 3,308 international students, 2,200 staff, research collaborations with 3,267 international institutions in 114 countries, 110,000 alumni, while 98% of graduates are in employment or further study within six months.  For more information visit www.nuigalway.ie or view all NUI Galway news here.        

Monday, 1 February 2021

Dr. Georgina Gethin, a Funded Investigator at CÚRAM, the SFI Centre for Research in Medical Devices, Senior Lecturer in the School of Nursing and Midwifery and Director of the Alliance for Research and Innovation in Wounds, has recently been appointed as the new Editor of the Journal of the European Wound Management Association (EWMA) www.ewma.org, a leading and globally recognised organisation for the advancement of wound care. The EWMA is a European not-for-profit umbrella organisation, linking national wound management organisations, individuals and groups with interest in wound care. Central to EWMA’s objectives is to support implementation of interdisciplinary and cost effective wound care of high quality. EWMA works to reach its objectives by being an educational resource, organising conferences, contributing to international projects related to wound management, actively supporting the implementation of existing knowledge within wound management and providing information on all aspects of wound management. As Editor, Dr. Gethin’s role will be to support the development of the journal, which provides a platform to share up to date developments in research, education, practice, organisation of care, economics and policy change. A key priority being the continued development and promotion of the journal. As such, Dr. Gethin is calling on CÚRAM researchers to consider submission of a manuscript to the journal. Currently the journal is freely available through our website and is listed in CINAHL and Google Scholar with plans to have the journal MEDLINE indexed. The journal has a double-blind peer review process and once a manuscript is accepted with aim to make this available early on-line. As Dr. Gethin explains: “We accept all types of manuscripts including protocols and original case reports of unusual case presentations. In particular I would really like to see more basic science articles or articles that explain basic science to a more general audience, in addition to some articles around medical devices and their pathway to approval.” Full details of the submission process are available on the EWMA website (www.ewma.org) The journal does not have any publication charges and is distributed at the EWMA annual conference. The journal is also circulated electronically to a vast mailing list with articles promoted across the organisations social media platforms thus ensuring high visibility of published work.

Wednesday, 16 December 2020

CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices at NUI Galway, was awarded the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) Youth Arts Explorer Grant to develop and deliver a STEAM Fashion project aimed at young people aged 10-12 in Galway City. For 8 weeks, artist Andrea Fitzpatrick, who runs CÚRAM’s Artist in Residence programme, worked with a group of young people at Foróige, Ballybane to introduce them to medical devices as a point of inspiration to create fashion works influenced by research being carried out the CÚRAM. CÚRAM researchers, Jack Schofield, Chris Lally, Maura Tilbury, and Delphine Antoine, created videos talking about their research which were then played during workshops.  Due to COVID-19 restrictions, a blended in-person and online method was used for the workshops. A video containing footage and photographs taken by the young people was created and was launched as part of this year’s Galway Science and Technology Festival programme.  You can see the video here. STEAM Fashion was one of 16 successfully funded Youth Arts projects from 11 counties across Ireland and began in September. The project was carried out alongside Foróig youth worker John Rooney, and Colette Green, a youth worker in training. 

Wednesday, 16 December 2020

CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices at NUI Galway has released a short film documenting the CÚRAM community art science commission by artist, Karen Conway for Ballybane and Doughiska. The film, created by the filmmakers, Alice McDowell and Julie Flavin, features the artist, Karen Conway, CÚRAM researchers, Dr Pau Redon Lurbe, and community member, Liam Boyle.  The commissioned works will be installed in their permanent locations in the Ballybane Library, the Ard Family Resource Centre, and the Merlin College school, in 2021.  See the film here. Images of Karen’s work were projected onto Comerford House, the Spanish Arch, and at the Castle Building, Brothers of Charity, Ballybane as part of National Science Week and the Galway Science and Technology Festival on November 14th. Award winning artist, Karen Conway, was selected in 2019 to create the CÚRAM community art science commission for the east side communities of Ballybane and Doughiska. Karen worked closely with Dr Pau Redon Lurbe, a CÚRAM researchers working with Professor Williams Wijns. Prof Wijns is an expert in cardiology and is leading a research project to develop wearable sensors to alert patients at high risk of heart attacks to triggers such as stress or high blood pressure. In addition to cardiovascular research, Karen also looked at staining techniques with Dr Jill McMahon, while Dr Olena Kudina helped Karen with research in the CÚRAM labs. As part of the community art science commission, Karen delivered workshops at the Ballybane Library, Ard Family Resource Centres and at Merlin College School. Karen also incorporated the theme of active travel into her work for the commission following a meeting with community representatives. CÚRAM’s public engagement programme ‘Breaking Barriers’ supports the Science Foundation Ireland goal of having the most engaged and scientifically informed public. For more information please visit www.curamdevicesengage.ie or follow us on twitter @CURAMdevices

Thursday, 19 November 2020

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

Monday, 16 November 2020

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

Tuesday, 10 November 2020

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

Monday, 9 November 2020

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

Monday, 2 November 2020

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

Tuesday, 27 October 2020

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

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

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

Monday, 21 September 2020

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

Friday, 21 August 2020

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

Thursday, 30 July 2020

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

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

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

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

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

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

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

Friday, 1 May 2020

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

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

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

Monday, 20 April 2020

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

Friday, 10 April 2020

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