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Only one in 10 older adults in Ireland rely on public transport – TILDA

Only one in 10 older adults in Ireland rely on public transport – TILDA

A new report launched by The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) at Trinity College Dublin and supported by the Road Safety Authority shows that most older adults rely on cars for transport, as opposed to public transport. It details major differences in the use of public transport between Dublin residents and those living in rural Ireland and reports a serious level of dissatisfaction with rural public transport amongst the over 50s living outside Dublin.

The report details how patterns of transport use change with increasing age and highlights the importance of accessibility to quality transport options for social participation, mental health and wellbeing. The report authors suggest that as the population ages, there is an increasing need for improved transport networks and services that meet the needs of older adults, especially in rural areas.

Key findings:

Nine out of 10 adults aged 50 years and over in Ireland (89%) travel mainly by car, as a driver or passenger.

Just under one in 10 adults aged 50 years and over (9%) mainly use public transport.

One-quarter of adults living in Dublin city/county rely mainly on public transport compared to just 2% of adults in rural areas, reflecting the vast differences in transport services available.

Quality of public transport: 58% of adults aged 50 and over living in rural areas rate the public transport services in their area as poor or very poor. Common issues include the limited bus routes or threatened closure of existing routes, inconvenient schedules and low frequency of services.

Free travel pass: Almost one in three Dublin based adults with a free travel pass use public transport (29%) compared to just 10% of adults in other town/cities and 3% of those living in rural areas. For a substantial proportion of older adults, a free travel pass seems to have limited benefit.

Effect of age on transport patterns:

As people get older, they are less likely to drive themselves and more likely to rely on lifts from others. This is particularly evident in women where 72% of 50-64 year olds drive themselves compared to 30% of those aged over 75, while 55% of women over 75 travel mainly as car passengers.

Use of public transport increases only marginally with age, which may reflect both the greater convenience of travelling by car and the lack of suitable public transport options available.

Effects on lifestyle and health:

One in five adults aged 75 years and over and living in rural areas (19%) indicate that the lack of local transport facilities affects their lifestyle. 12-18% of the same age group indicate that reduced frequency of driving or no longer driving affects their ability to socialise, attend business-related appointments and health/social care appointments.

Adults whose main mode of transport is driving themselves or travelling by public transport report greater participation in social activities and volunteering compared to those who rely on lifts from others.

Non-drivers (including those who used to drive in the past) report higher levels of depressive symptoms and loneliness and lower quality of life compared to current drivers.

75% of households own at least one car and three quarters of those who drive regularly, do so every day.

Dr Orna Donoghue, TILDA Project Manager and one of the authors of the report, commented: “Many individuals, especially those in rural areas, must travel to access key services such as shops, banks, post offices and health and social care services. In recent years, many of these rural services have closed and moved to larger towns and cities, which can make it more difficult for those who rely on lifts from others and/or public transport to access these services as regularly and as easily as they once did. In many cases, a car is the only way for these individuals to access these services and interact with others in their communities.”

Dr Donoghue continued: “A reduction in mobility, driving or available public transport options can also affect people’s ability to attend events and social occasions and this can represent a huge lifestyle shift for older adults. TILDA reports have repeatedly shown that participation in social and leisure activities outside of the home is important for both health and social benefits”.

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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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Ireland-US research collaboration set to go ahead

Ireland-US research collaboration set to go ahead

Lero, the Science Foundation Ireland-funded research centre for software, is set to join with Fraunhofer Center for Experimental Software Engineering at the University of Maryland to collaborate on “extensive research” in the coming years.

Commenting on the new partnership, Lero researcher Prof Mike Hinchey said his group’s new partner offers “the global hallmark of excellence” in application-orientated research. “It is a tribute to our team of researchers in Ireland that the Fraunhofer Center is committing to this research partnership with Lero in areas of synergy. Fraunhofer research has been adopted by major US organisations, such as NASA and the Food and Drug Administration, amongst others.”

Prof Adam Porter, executive and scientific director at the Fraunhofer Center, said Lero’s “world class research centre” complements his own group’s areas of expertise.

Dublin City University has also said it is adding a new €5 million centre to develop ‘lab-on-a-chip’ technology for the life sciences sector, in collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT in Aachen, Germany. The aim of the new centre will be to focus on contract and collaborative research and projects addressing cost-efficient design, development and manufacture of microfluidic lab-on-a-chip designs.

Technologies like these have increased in applications in recent years, thanks largely to their flexibility and the rapidly decreasing cost of producing them.

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R&D company Cisco celebrates 10 years in Galway

R&D company Cisco celebrates 10 years in Galway

A worldwide technology leader, Cisco is celebrating 10 years in Co. Galway. The establishment of the Oranmore site in 2006 was the brainchild of former Senior Vice President Barry O’Sullivan, star of Dragon’s Den. Galway was recognised as posing a “big opportunity” for Cisco due to the fantastic skillset of workers in the region and the support of the IDA, according to R&D Site Leader Pat Hession.

Beginning with just four employees, Cisco employs just under 200 people. Now a major innovation hub and R&D site for Cisco’s Global Collaboration business, the site is home to leading innovations that remove barriers to accessing and using technology for work-based activities.

“We’re doing very high-end research and development here which is a very positive thing for the region. It says a lot for the skillset and the people we have,” says Mr Hession.

The US global leading technical company recently won ‘Best Workplace’ in Ireland for medium sized businesses at a ceremony in Dublin. Commenting on the company’s 10 year anniversary, IDA Chief Executive Martin Shanahan said, “Over the past 10 years Cisco has thrived in Galway and the company brand has since become synonymous with innovation. Cisco has contributed significantly to the local economy and enhanced the reputation of the county as a prominent tech hub.”

In the last three years, the company has placed a major focus on cloud computing including voice and video communications, new technology areas which are strategically important for the future of the business and which are now centrally developed in the Galway site under the brand name of Cisco Spark.

Cisco is also a major sponsor and presence at the annual Galway Science and Technology Festival and members of Cisco staff were instrumental in the establishment of the Atlantec conference. Cisco also help to support IT skills for all ages, including ‘Age Action’ complimentary computer classes for elderly members of the local community, provided by staff, supporting ‘Girls in Tech’ programmes with local secondary schools and engagement with university students across multiple initiatives. Its recent birthday celebrations also included a ‘Bring Your Kids To Work’ event, attended by nearly 100 children.

The company and Cisco Galway site are “in a great position moving forward”, but Mr Hession stressed that there is a need to prioritise broadband services in rural areas, to enable more people to work from home. “We build technology that allows people to work from anywhere and as part of that, we need to continue to improve our broadband especially in the more rural areas.”

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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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Government to Grant More Than €28m in Awards for Agri-Food, Marine and Forest Research

Government to Grant More Than €28m in Awards for Agri-Food, Marine and Forest Research

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, announced on Thursday awards of over €28 million for collaborative inter-institutional research projects under the Department’s competitive research funding programmes.

The 43 awards involve collaborations between 19 different institutions and organisations including Teagasc, a number of universities and institutes of technology.  The research investment announced will provide direct employment for 186 people including 65 contract researchers and 83 post graduate research opportunities in the form of PhDs (66) and Masters degrees (17).

The content of these grants were heavily influenced by strategic research and innovation agendas drawn up by industry-led, stakeholder advisory groups.  The projects cover a number of key overarching themes including; sustainable food production and processing; managing for environmental protection and enhancement; sustainable forest management; delivering food safety & food quality; and food for improved nutrition and health.

Additonally, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Northern Ireland, has teamed up with DAFM to provide funding of over €2 million to enable 3 research performing organisations north of the border to participate in 7 of the successful  research projects.

Announcing the awards at a briefing in Dublin, Creed said “today’s research awards brings the total investment made by my Department over the last five years to just over €124 million.  This research is a key component in delivering on the ambitious targets set out in the Food Wise 2025 and the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs”.

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SEAI Doubles Sustainable Energy Research Fund to €2 Million in 2017

SEAI Doubles Sustainable Energy Research Fund to €2 Million in 2017

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) announced on Thursday a doubling of its Energy Research, Development and Demonstration fund for next year to €2 million. The fund is open to Irish researchers in industry and academia to support sustainable energy research. Priority areas include energy efficiency, citizen engagement and energy storage with the programme open to a wide range of proposal types – including technology RD&D, field research, and feasibility studies.

SEAI Head of Low Carbon Technologies Dr Eimear Cotter said: “This comes on foot of a heavily oversubscribed programme in 2016 with high quality applications across a broad range of sustainable energy research and development. This is a really strong indicator of the vibrancy of Ireland’s energy research environment across academia and industry.

“Irish researchers have already drawn down €27m in funding in energy-related research under Horizon 2020, for which SEAI is the National Delegate.  We expect this success to continue for the duration of the project.”

The 2016 research programme is currently drawing to a close and is providing valuable outputs, enhancing the evidence-base in areas such as community energy project models; solar energy; land-use planning and energy infrastructure; bioenergy and geospatial energy datasets.

Since 2002 SEAI has provided €26 million funding through its Energy RD&D programme.  Recent supported projects include:

NovoGrid which have developed an intelligent control system that enables PV solar generators to deliver more energy by minimising thermal impacts on the electrical distribution network.

NVP Energy, which is developing an innovative wastewater treatment technology. Funding was provided to validate NVP Energy’s low temperature Anaerobic Digestion technology at full scale to ensure the technology meets expected treatment levels, as seen in pilot studies.

South Dublin County Council were funded to develop an ‘Energy Masterplan’ for Clonburris in Dublin, offering the potential to support cost-competitive low carbon heat and electricity alternatives that can be mirrored by other Councils around Ireland.

Terrag GeoServ Ltd are developing a hybrid ground source and solar thermal system for the Irish market. Funding was provided to develop the system which will introduce a cost competitive alternative to the Irish ground source heat pump market, with greater long term performance and improved operating costs.

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Medicine Research Network Launched at UCC

Medicine Research Network Launched at UCC

The UCC School of Pharmacy-led PEARRL (Pharmaceutical Education and Research with Regulatory Links) Network officially launched this week. The network, funded by Horizon 2020 and Marie Sklodowska-Curie innovation programme, aims to achieve earlier patient access to new medicines, has been launched.

The PEARRL project brings together 18 leading European institutions, including Pharma industry, academia and regulatory agency partners to deliver a unique research and training programme.

Fifteen early stage researchers will be recruited in PEARRL, to focus on research into developing drug formulation strategies to enable accelerated approval and reduced cost of development, in turn facilitating earlier patient access to breakthrough therapies.

Project Coordinator of PEARRL Dr Brendan Griffin, from the School of Pharmacy, UCC, said: “Within PEARRL, our research will develop novel drug delivery technology, new screening methods and innovative models to forecast drug levels in humans, which will collectively streamline the development of new oral medicines. In addition, PEARRL will provide a unique training network for developing the next generation of leading pharmaceutical and regulatory scientists.”

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EpiCor Therapeutics wins UCD Start-up of the Year Award

EpiCor Therapeutics wins UCD Start-up of the Year Award

Biotech start-up EpiCor Therapeutics won the UCD Start-Up of the Year Award 2016 on Thursday, November 17. It received a €20,000 prize as part of the overall winner award of the UCD VentureLaunch Accelerator Programme. The start-up is aiming to develop a treatment for hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy (HOCM), a significant cause of sudden cardiac death.

HOCM is a disease in which a portion of the heart muscle is enlarged without any obvious cause resulting in impairment of the heart. Symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain and heart palpitations. In the US alone, HOCM currently affects around 175,000 people with associated annual healthcare costs amounting to over $1 billion.

EpiCor Therapeutics is currently focused on repurposing an existing drug, 5-azacytidine, for the treatment of HOCM. It will also investigate the use of biomarkers to deliver targeted treatment for individuals.

EpiCor Therapeutics was founded by Dr John Baugh, Dr Nadia Glezeva, Dr Chris Watson, Dr Mark Ledwidge and Professor Ken McDonald, all of UCD School of Medicine.

“It is an honour for EpiCor Therapeutics to win the 2016 UCD Start-up of the Year Award,” said Dr John Baugh. “It is a great endorsement for us going forward as we work to develop treatments to target a variety of heart diseases, including our initial focus on hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy.

The disease has no approved disease-modifying therapeutics, is a significant cause of sudden cardiac death of individuals in any age group and a leading cause of such death in young athletes.

EpiCor Therapeutics is now seeking to raise €750,000 in seed funding to enable pre-clinical bridging studies. Following additional fund raising, it plans to proceed with a clinical proof-of-concept study to support its approval as a treatment for HOCM.

UCD’s annual VentureLaunch Accelerator Programme aims to support and accelerate the launch of sustainable and profitable new ventures based on intellectual property emerging from the university.

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Irish startup gets €500k investment to research medical benefits of cannabis

Irish startup gets €500k investment to research medical benefits of cannabis

GreenLight Medicines has secured €500,000 from a consortium of Irish investors to fund research into the potential medicinal benefits of cannabis extracts.

The Irish pharmaceutical start-up, founded in 2015, has also secured €1.35 million in cannabidiol (CBD) hemp oil from Swiss-American firm, Isodiol. The CBD, which comprises around 40% of the cannabis plant’s extract, will assist GreenLight in conducting its research studies in Irish universities over the next five years.

GreenLight is the first indigenous company to focus on the production and sale of molecules from marijuana. Founder and CEO, Dr James Linden, says: “There’s mounting evidence that cannabinoids are an effective form of treatment for many illnesses, including Multiple Sclerosis (MS), glaucoma, arthritis, epilepsy and cancer.

“Our private investors have a track record in pharma investment in Europe and the US, and their knowledge and financial commitment, in addition to Isodiol’s investment, will enable us to complete our initial research modules into cannabinoid treatment for inflammation, eye disease and pain relief amongst other conditions.”

Since its inception, Linden and his team at GreenLight has focused on collaborations with Irish universities, such as UCD, UCC and NUI Galway, with this month seeing the beginning of the first research projects for these potential treatments.

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