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NUIG research projects receive €782,000

NUIG research projects receive €782,000

Eight research projects at NUI Galway have been awarded funding to commercialise their ideas, from renewable energy to treatment of Parkinson’s disease. Under European projects such as Horizon 2020, researchers across the EU have been funded to the tune of millions of euro to help turn their research proposals into fully fledged businesses.

Eight NUI Galway researchers have been awarded a total of €782,279 to commercialise their research for possible benefits to society, looking at the areas of renewable energy and sustainable agriculture, to name a few. The funding has been awarded under the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Technology Innovation Development Award (TIDA) programme run in collaboration with Enterprise Ireland.

TIDA’s aim is to get researchers to focus on the initial stages of an applied research project, and demonstrate the commercial and technical feasibility of their idea.

The eight researchers who have been awarded the funding are:

Dr Brian Ward, School of Physics: Development of an instrument to improve the characterisation of turbulence at tidal energy sites and assisting the tidal renewable energy industry in optimising turbine efficiency.

Prof James O’Gara, School of Natural Sciences: Evaluating new antimicrobials, biomaterials and therapeutic approaches for the treatment and prevention of antimicrobial resistant infections.

Dr Sara Farrona, School of Natural Sciences: The use of beneficial microorganisms to increase crop resistance and yield, using enhanced plant growth and resilience through mediated seed priming.

Prof Paul Murphy, College of Science: Designing and synthesising carbohydrate-based therapies for fibrosis.

Dr Daniel O’Toole, College of Medicine: Developing a nebulised recombinant SOD protein for acute respiratory distress syndrome.

Dr Thomas Barry, School of Natural Sciences: Culturing independent diagnostics technologies for the rapid detection of non-tuberculosis mycobacteria associated with water distribution system contamination.

Dr Andrew Flaus, School of Natural Sciences: Optimising chromatin substrates for epigenetic drug screening.

Dr Leo Quinlan, School of Medicine: Electrical stimulation cueing for freezing of gait correction in people with Parkinson’s disease.

Speaking of the funding, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Mary Mitchell O’Connor, TD, said: “I am delighted to announce this investment in research commercialisation and entrepreneurship training through the SFI TIDA programme. It will enable the research teams to take the first steps in developing new discoveries and inventions with commercial potential.”

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Cork County Council & Cork Smart Gateway launch Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Challenge

Cork County Council & Cork Smart Gateway launch Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Challenge

Cork County Council together with the Cork Smart Gateway initiative and the Age Friendly Alliance have launched the €80k Small Business Research and Innovation (SBIR) Challenge with Enterprise Ireland.

Through this challenge call, Cork County Council wants to explore low cost, innovative and accessible solutions that will help all of its older citizens to maintain a good quality of life and enable them to remain and feel secure in their home. Solutions sought should address one or more of the effects of being/feeling isolated and insecure and in particular increase the resilience of older people to respond to the impacts of critical events.

The SBIR challenge is a joint initiative between Cork County Council and Enterprise Ireland and is open for applications from today 13th April until 2nd June 2017. Successful applicants will be selected by an open competition process run in two phases. The competition is open to any organisation, university and service providers.

Mayor of Cork County, Cllr. Seamus McGrath welcomed the Councils participation in this challenge; noting that “our primary objective as an Age Friendly County is to enable older people to live as independently in their own homes for as long as they wish. We want our older people to remain active and feel safe, secure and respected in their communities”.

James Fogarty, Divisional Manager, Cork County Council and Chair of the Cork Age Friendly County Alliance confirmed that: “This SBIR call complements the work of our Age Friendly County Alliance and reflects the advancement of our Age Friendly County Strategy launched last year which aims to make Cork a great place in which to live and grow old. One of the challenges highlighted through our work with the Age Friendly County Alliance is the sense of insecurity and isolation that some elderly people can experience; in particular at times of distress. This SBIR challenge will enable us to provide seed funding to explore innovative solutions that could help to alleviate this.

Kevin Sherry, Executive Director Global Business Development, Enterprise Ireland said: “Enterprise Ireland is delighted to collaborate with Cork County Council as part of the SBIR Ireland process. While new to Ireland, this is an internationally proven mechanism to develop innovation that could ultimately have positive economic and societal benefits. Through this challenge call, we can harness the ingenuity of innovative companies and seek, in a systematic way, to develop unique solutions for particular challenges faced by Cork’s elderly population that can be applied in everyday life”.

Interested parties can apply on E-Tenders until the closing date of the 2nd June, 2017. An information session will be held on the 28th April, 2017 in the Cork County Council 2 – 4pm. 

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Blue skies research funding launched

Blue skies research funding launched

A new programme aimed at providing funding to Irish researchers involved in exploratory blue skies research has been launched. The Laureate Awards programme will initially make €2.5 million available to those who are conducting research into areas where there is no immediate obvious economic impact.

The first call is open to researchers across all disciplines and from anywhere in the world who are at the early and mid-stages of their careers. Scientists in Ireland have for some time been calling for ring-fenced funding for those involved in such frontier research. The Government’s science funding policy is to prioritise research likely to translate into an economic dividend and researchers here argue this has led to a funding squeeze around basic research.

They also argue that it is having a detrimental impact on the development of the careers of scientists who wish to focus on exploratory research. “For too long, this type of research has been chronically underfunded,” said Professor Jane Ohlmeyer, Chair of the Irish Research Council which is administering the Laureate Awards.

“Currently, our research ecosystem holds very few opportunities for exceptional researchers to engage in frontier research. With the new Laureate Awards, that’s all about to change.”

The establishment of such a programme is one of the action points contained in the Government’s science strategy, Innovation 2020. Initial funding of €1.5 million was announced to start the programme by the Government last October as part of Budget 2017. A further €1 million is coming from a fund earmarked for attracting researchers to Ireland as part of the government’s strategic response to Brexit. However, the research community is likely to seek significant increases in the funding levels in the coming years.

“History shows clearly why this type of research is worth funding,” said Prof Ohlmeyer. “In Ireland alone, you can look at examples like George Boole’s work in the 1850s: his system of Boolean algebra is now used in the design and operation of computers and switching circuits.”

“Or there’s Irish physicist Ernest Walton: he designed and built the first successful particle accelerator, which enabled him – along with John Cockcroft – to split the atom in the early 1930s.”

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Izzy Wheels wins 2017 Accenture Leaders of Tomorrow Competition

Izzy Wheels wins 2017 Accenture Leaders of Tomorrow Competition

Ailbhe and Izzy Keane have won the 2017 Accenture Leaders of Tomorrow competition. Through their company, Izzy Wheels, the Galway sisters are on a mission to break down negative stigmas associated with wheelchairs and prove to the world that a wheelchair can be a work of art. Ailbhe is the Founder and Creative Director of the company, while Izzy acts as the Brand Ambassador.

The Accenture Leaders of Tomorrow programme (LOT), now in its 10th year, is designed to nurture and develop innovative ideas which may positively impact some of the challenges facing Ireland today. The competition asks students and graduates to pitch an idea or product, which is developed into a viable business plan over the course of the programme. The prize includes a €5,000 cash injection to the winner’s start-up, a place on the National Digital Research Centre LaunchPad and a tour of one of Accenture’s Global Innovation Centres.

Izzy Wheels provides a range of waterproof, durable and creative spoke guards that can easily be fit onto any manual wheelchair, available through their online store at www.izzywheels.com. Izzy, as a wheelchair user, can identify what is needed to improve the chair while Ailbhe, as a designer, can address these needs and add her creative flair.

Izzy Wheels was born when Ailbhe was in her final year at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin and was given a project brief to use design to enhance the life of someone living with a long-term health condition. Having seen how frustrated Izzy was by the very few options available for her to personalise her wheelchair, Ailbhe began designing creative spoke guards to allow wheelchair users to express themselves and feel empowered.

Commenting on the win, Ailbhe and Izzy said: “There are 40,000 wheelchair users in Ireland and 640,000 in the UK. Until now wheelchair users have been made feel ashamed or even embarrassed of their ugly equipment. Winning this competition will allow us to further break down the stigmas surrounding wheelchair use and allow more users to express themselves – our tagline is ‘if you can’t stand up, stand out!”

Eight finalists were selected to take part in the LOT programme and were mentored and supported through a series of development days before competing in the final pitch presentation, which took place in front of a judging panel comprised of Ireland’s leading industry and business representatives.

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New research claims mobile banking saves billions in charges

New research claims mobile banking saves billions in charges

New research by money transfer service Azimo claims that mobile banking and new digital-only banks are saving consumers billions in various charges. According to a survey of more than 4,000 people in the UK, people in Britain who have turned to technology to help them with banking have saved up to £7 billion every year.

The research suggests that the increased ability banking apps and online services give customers has enabled many to take more control of their accounts and how they spend and save money. The three biggest reasons for savings were identified as the ability to move money instantly between accounts in order to avoid overdrafts and charges, the instant visibility of what you’re spending and being able to budget more accurately as a result, and the ability to better manage direct debits and standing orders more easily.

A range of mobile only banks, including Atom, Monzo and Starling have all recently launched in the UK and offer customers more detailed insights into their spending habits, as well as notifications when they carry out payments and live budgets from within smartphone apps.

Azimo chief executive Michael Kent said: “Thanks to technology, overcharging consumers when it comes to financial management is now a thing of the past. We’re focused on helping consumers better manage their money both domestically and internationally by making the online transfer experience as frictionless as possible. This new data is proof that technology is continuing to change the world of finance for the better, and although there’s still a way to go to fully digitise the industry it’s great to see the positive impact for consumers.”

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Calls for establishment of new state company to supply rental housing

Calls for establishment of new state company to supply rental housing

The Nevin Economic Research Institute has called for the establishment of a new semi-State housing company to supply the market with more affordable rental accommodation. In its latest quarterly outlook, the Institute said the collapse in building output since the crash had resulted in chronic housing shortages, resulting in spiralling prices and rents. It also said the Government’s policy to date of relying on the private sector to meet demand had “not worked”.

The institute has proposed the establishment of a new semi-state company that would borrow money long-term at low rates. It would use this money to commission the construction of around 50,000 new homes over five years and the purchase of an additional 20,000 vacant dwellings. Tenants would be charged rents commensurate with the finance and construction costs of the properties, which is how similar housing agencies in Europe operate.

Total capital investment required would be around €12 billion, said the Institute, with the initial €3 billion coming from the State via Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI), which would then be used to leverage a further €9 billion.

By claiming “a very significant place” in the market, the new housing company could help exert downward pressure on rent increases and at the same time, contribute to higher supply, it said.

In its report, the institute said the outlook for the Irish economy remained positive, noting domestic demand, the bulk of which comes from consumption and investment, would drive growth in 2017 and 2018. It forecast growth in gross domestic product (GDP) would be 3.8% this year and 3% next year, which was roughly in line other agency forecasts.

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CÚRAM Awarded €150,000 to Tackle Major Global Health Problems

CÚRAM Awarded €150,000 to Tackle Major Global Health Problems

CÚRAM Investigator Dr. Martin O’Halloran has been awarded a second European Research Council (ERC) grant of €150,000 to support the development of a new medical device for the treatment of hypertension (high blood pressure) that can lead to heart disease and stroke, NUI Galway announced on Tuesday.

The project is a collaboration between Investigators Dr Martin O’Halloran and Dr Conall Dennedy at CÚRAM, the Centre for Research in Medical Devices based at NUI Galway. The Investigators aim to bring the novel medical device towards first-in-man trials within the lifetime of the project.

The widespread presence of hypertension in European countries is currently 28-44%. This amounts to between 200 and 327 million Europeans. Excess production of the hormone aldosterone by the adrenal glands (primary aldosteronism) is the most common endocrine cause and accounts for 8-20% of all hypertension. Current treatment regimens are dissatisfactory and costly, involving either surgery or lifelong drug therapy. Therefore, a cost-effective, minimally invasive and definitive management approach for this underlying cause would present a potential cure for an often undiagnosed and unmanaged disease. This is what is being proposed with the new ERC ‘REALTA’ project.

“The REALTA project plan is very similar to that of a start-up medtech company, where as well as technology development, the team will also examine the competitive landscape, the clinical and regulatory pathway, and reimbursement opportunities”, O’Halloran said. “The overarching goal is to gather sufficient technical, clinical, regulatory and commercial evidence over the course of the next 18 months to be able to spin-out a company that is attractive to external investors. Such investment will be required to take the technology through to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval and clinical trials.”

Dr O’Halloran secured his first ERC Starting Grant in 2015 to examine the electrical properties of human tissue, as a platform for novel medical device development in Europe. Supported by a Science Foundation Ireland ERC Support Grant, he established the Translational Medical Device Lab in Galway, the first medical device lab in Ireland to be embedded in a regional hospital, University Hospital Galway, and co-located within the Health Research Board’s Clinical Research Facility. Working closely with Dr Conall Dennedy, Consultant Endocrinologist at NUI Galway, he began to examine the potential of new technologies to treat primary aldosteronism, the most common endocrine cause of hypertension.

Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM said: “The objectives of CÚRAM are to carry out research on the development of innovative ‘smart’ implantable medical devices, which will benefit patients with chronic ailments such as cardiovascular diseases. I would like to congratulate Dr O’Halloran and Dr Dennedy on their continued research success, which is supported by the excellent multidisciplinary team of clinicians, translational scientists and engineers here at CÚRAM and NUI Galway, which reflects the interests and expertise of investigators in CÚRAM.”

Read the NUI Galway announcement here.

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ARCH Launches Remote Clinical Trials Study for Care Home Patients

ARCH Launches Remote Clinical Trials Study for Care Home Patients

ARCH, the Centre for Applied Research for Connected Health, announced on Wednesday the launch of a collaborative study to assess the feasibility of collecting clinical trial data remotely within a care home environment.

The findings from this connected health study could enhance the design of future clinical trials to make them more patient-centric, more engaging and more convenient for those who participate in them. Researchers will also assess if the remote trial places additional burden on care home staff and patients.

ARCH is undertaking this research study, called REACHES (REmote Assessment of older people in a Care HomE Setting), in collaboration with industry partners; ICON Clinical Research, Kinesis Health Technologies, a University College Dublin (UCD) spin-out company, and Big Cloud Analytics and supported by Dublin-based Physiotherapy Clinic, Fit for Life.

Clinical trials traditionally take place in a hospital setting, which often restricts participation from patients with limited mobility and independence due to problematic logistics and limited travel ability.

An alternative approach is to move the clinical trial beyond the confines of the hospital. Enabling this ‘place-shifting’ may result in wider participation and engagement in clinical trials.

Led by a team of ARCH researchers, this study will assess the feasibility of collecting clinical trial data remotely in a care home, Mount Hybla Private, in Castleknock, Dublin, using a selection of mobile and wearable solutions provided by the collaborating companies.

The QTUG device provided by Kinesis Health Technologies, will assess aspects of mobility, balance and fall risk of participants. The Aging Research App developed by ICON with mProve Health using Apple Research Kit, will be used to deliver an electronic version of the Age-Related Muscle Loss Questionnaire. The Covalence analytics platform from Big Cloud Analytics will allow visualisation and engagement messaging for trial participants and clinicians for overall health and wellness monitoring and improvement.

 

“I’m delighted to see this academic-industry-clinical multi-disciplinary collaboration taking place.,” ARCH Centre Director Michael O’Shea said. “Traditional clinical trial research is becoming financially unfeasible. Sponsors and clinical research organisations (CROs) are looking to decrease costs and improve efficiency. An important strategy is the use of technology in the design and execution of clinical trials. The promise and potential benefits of the ‘Patient Centric’ clinical trial design needs to be traded off against what is referred to as the ‘Patient Burden’.

“The importance of understanding the optimal level of interaction with technology and devices for patients is key to successful trial design and execution and projects like this are a fundamental step in answering this question.”

ARCH, the Irish national centre for applied connected health research, is headquartered at NexusUCD, the Industry Partnership Centre at UCD. As an industry-led technology centre, funded by Enterprise Ireland and the IDA, ARCH provides access to world-class healthcare professionals, academics, patient cohorts and industry networks to explore and evaluate connected health solutions for the global market.

ARCH focuses on the adoption, deployment and sustainability of connected health solutions which will benefit the Irish and international economy and society.

Over 30 industry partners, from start-ups to multinationals, are currently steering ARCH’s research programme.

These industry partners; S3 Group, Vu2Vu, Hermitage Medical Clinic, Novartis, ADA Security Systems, Relate Care, Two Ten Health, Philips Healthcare, ResMed, ICON, SwiftQueue, HealthBridge Technology, Dolmen, PatientMpower, Nurse Buddy, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Salaso Healthcare, McGreal Group, Caragon, Evolve Technologies, nSilico Lifescience, Neuromod Devices, Odyssey Validation Consultants, Kinesis Health Technologies, Medaval, Insulcheck, Foundry Innovation & Research 1 (FIRE 1), 3rd Pillar Clinical, Big Cloud Analytics and IBM; are all actively involved in the connected health sector.

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AbbVie and GMI Announce Landmark Population Genomics Alliance

AbbVie and GMI Announce Landmark Population Genomics Alliance

Biopharmaceutical company AbbVie, life-sciences startup Genomics Medicine Ireland Limited (GMI), and WuXi NextCODE, the global contract genomics organisation, launched a long-term strategic alliance on Monday to conduct population genomics research in Ireland aimed at advancing the discovery and development of novel therapeutic approaches to a range of serious diseases. The 15-year collaboration will focus on major chronic diseases within oncology, neuroscience and immunology that affect hundreds of thousands of people in Ireland and hundreds of millions worldwide.

The alliance will result in the sequencing of 45,000 genomes from volunteer participants across Ireland to seek novel insights into the biological processes that underlie complex disease. AbbVie will use the research database developed by GMI to identify new molecular approaches for therapeutic drug discovery and development as well as to develop companion diagnostics. The alliance builds on AbbVie’s substantial existing presence in Ireland, which includes more than 600 employees and investments of more than $130 million since 2013.

“Genomics is transforming the way we understand some of the world’s most devastating diseases and enabling the discovery of new approaches that have the potential to deliver much greater benefit to patients,” said AbbVie Vice President of Pharmaceutical Discovery, Jim Sullivan. “This alliance is an important part of our research strategy and complements our significant footprint here in Ireland.”

AbbVie is a global, research-based biopharmaceutical company formed in 2013 following separation from Abbott Laboratories. The company’s mission is to develop and market advanced therapies that address some of the world’s most complex and serious diseases. AbbVie employs more than 28,000 people worldwide, almost 600 of which are employed across five sites in Ireland. The company has two manufacturing plants in Sligo and a third in Cork, each of which is uniquely focused on supporting portions of AbbVie’s top 20 products. The company has invested steadily in Ireland since its launch in 2013 announcing capital investments of more than €130m at its three manufacturing centers over the past three years. In late 2015, AbbVie also launched two new therapeutic research collaborations valued at €10 million with academic institutions in Cork and Dublin in partnership with the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI).

Daniel Crowley, acting CEO of GMI, commented: “This partnership validates the vision that created Genomics Medicine Ireland. With AbbVie and WuXi NextCODE we will leverage our deep expertise in life sciences and the unique characteristics of the Irish population to discover critical insights into disease, disease progression, and therapeutic response. The resulting therapies to cure and prevent these diseases will benefit patients both here in Ireland and around the world.”

Founded in 2015, GMI is an Irish life-sciences company leading large-scale, population-based genome research studies on the island of Ireland examining the relationship between genetics, health and disease. It is building a preeminent disease-specific database of population genomics.

“GMI’s alliance with AbbVie demonstrates the potential of GMI to drive world-class innovation in healthcare and provides the opportunity for Irish clinicians and researchers to advance genetic discovery and for patients to benefit from the prospective development of new therapeutics,” said Paul Saunders, Head of Innovation with the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund.

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UCC Awarded Gold Medal for Potential Tropical Disease Vaccine

UCC’s Limited Lactis team was awarded a gold medal recently at the iGEM (international Genetically Engineered Machine) competition in Boston.

More than 600 teams from top universities across the globe, including MIT, Harvard, Stanford, Cambridge and Oxford took part in the competition, which is held up as the gold standard for “research-led education”.

The only Irish entrants in the competition, Limited Lactis used the bacterium Lactococcus lactis, a generally recognised as safe bacterium, commonly used in food production, to develop a potential new vaccine against Leishmaniasis, a neglected tropical disease that is increasing in geographical distribution.

Synthetic Biology is a burgeoning approach to designing and making novel products from biology, which is revolutionising what is possible in tackling world needs in health, energy, food and beyond.

Leishmaniasis affects some of the world’s poorest people and is associated with malnutrition, population displacement, poor housing, a weak immune system and lack of financial resources. An estimated 900,000–1,300,000 new cases and 20,000-30,000 deaths occur annually. Leishmaniasis is linked to environmental changes such as deforestation, building of dams, irrigation schemes, and urbanisation.

The UCC team worked voluntarily, engaging with people in disease-affected regions such as Honduras, where diseases like Leishmaniasis is a serious problem. Team instructor, Yensi Flores, a PhD candidate at the Cork Cancer Research Centre and APC Microbiome Institute, travelled to Honduras to gain an insight into the realities of developing a suitable treatment for Leishmaniasis. She connected the team with various stakeholders on the ground. The team also engaged in significant outreach work, teaching Cork school pupils about synthetic biology and conducting charity fundraising activities.

The team, which was comprised of students from UCC Pharmacy, Medicine, Genetics, and BioMedical Science andhosted by the APC Microbiome Institute, Cork Cancer Research Centre and the School of Biochemistry, received financial support from the APC Microbiome Institute, Breakthrough Cancer Research, UCC College of Medicine & Health, Fyffes, the EU, Janssen and Eli Lilly.

Mark Tangney of Cork Cancer Research Centre & APC Microbiome Institute, sadi: “I was blown away with how much was achieved in such a short time by undergraduate students, and how sophisticated the resulting technology is, all due to the enthusiasm of the students and the power of Synthetic Biology.”

Posted in Food, Healthcare, Innovation, Medical Research, News0 Comments

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