Tag Archive | "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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University College Cork to create student hub in €15m extension

Work begins in an extension to one of University College Cork’s oldest buildings on a €15m one-stop shop for most student services .

The six-storey student hub will put facilities for the students union, clubs and societies officers, the Campus Radio station, and other student-led activities in one location on the campus for the first time.

Other services, including those supporting students with disabilities and mature students, will also be relocated. In addition, modern teaching facilities will allow students from different disciplines across UCC schools and departments to work together in new technology- enriched spaces.

Following planning approval granted by Cork City Council in May, preliminary work on the site to get under way today will require the removal of extensions to the back of the Windle Building.

Built in the 1860s, it stands parallel to the west wing of UCC’s main quadrangle building, and work will also be done to ensure its safe conservation during the project

The new extension is being built at the other side of the Windle Building, close to UCC’s science building. The space between the Windle Building and the quadrangle building will become a new pedestrian zone, requiring the removal of car parking and restrictions on through traffic.

The 2,400sq m extension will see four upper floors rising out of two ground floors being built to the west of the Windle Building, which is also being refurbished.

The student hub has been designed by O’Donnell + Tuomey architects. Construction is scheduled to begin next January with a target date to open in May 2018.

The largest of five spaces in the resultant 3,800sq m student hub will be the relocated student-led activities. The others will be a one-stop shop welcome zone, teaching and learning zones, an employability and development zone, and student success centre.

“By bringing together previously dispersed services and unconnected activities and programmes, the student hub will provide new spaces to support our students in a more efficient and effective manner,” said UCC’s acting head of student experience, Dr Michael Byrne.

He said it would also significantly increase opportunities for students to take part in activities that impact on helping students stay on at college and their employability.

The works are being funded by a loan from the European Investment Bank, which has supported capital projects at a number of Irish universities in recent years.

The repayments over 23 years will be strongly assisted by part of student fees set aside for the project, following a pattern used in the past to help finance the Mardyke Arena sports facility and the Áras na Mac Léinn student centre.

Some services like chaplaincy, student health, and counselling are not relocating, and Mr Byrne said decisions about uses of vacated buildings would be made over the next two years as the project nears completion.

The university may face a challenge in handling parking issues, due to the loss of 78 parking spaces on campus.

The college withdrew plans to provide 30 additional spaces at a small riverside car park near the Western Road side of the campus after concerns from the city council with that aspect of the original planning application last December.

The planning conditions attached to permission for the project in May include a requirement for a piece of contemporary art.

As part of efforts to improve efficiency and student access to academic administrative services, a parallel project is under way to improve online access for students to various services, such as academic affairs, fees, and other facilities.

University College Cork – National University of Ireland, Cork is a constituent university of the National University of Ireland. The university is located in Cork. The university was founded in 1845 as one of three Queen’s Colleges located in Belfast, Cork, and Galway.

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Tyndall and TSSG plan €82m fund for 10 internet start-ups

Waterford Institute of Technology’s TSSG and University College Cork’s Tyndall Institute have signed a memorandum of understanding to target €82m in EU funding to support 10 internet of things start-ups.

The research bodies aim to draw down the €82m from the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme.

“Our combined staff of 580 hardware and 120 software engineers, support staff and scientists, together with Tyndall and TSSG’s world-class infrastructure make this partnership uniquely qualified to deliver,” said Dr Kieran Drain, CEO of the Tyndall National Institute.

“At Tyndall we passionately believe that Irish technology companies have the potential to lead on the internet of things (IoT) and that it is our role to facilitate and accelerate their growth from product conception through to commercial reality. This MoU will accelerate the development of new technologies, generating new growth opportunities for indigenous industry, while also encouraging further foreign direct investment.”

The rapidly expanding internet of things market – where physical objects interact with the internet – was valued at US$613m (€473m) last year alone and will be worth an estimated US$7.1trn (€5.5trn) between now and 2020.

Tyndall National Institute CEO Dr Kieran Drain, Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation Damien English TD and the director of Waterford IT’s TSSG, Willie Donnelly

Prof Willie Donnelly, founder, director and chair, TSSG, said a key focus of the joint plan is to create technologies that will extend beyond the internet of things and into an everyday future for the citizens of tomorrow’s societies.

“The partnership will place Ireland at the centre of the IoT conversation, positioning Ireland as a location of preference for the IOT industry. TSSG are delighted to be partnering with Tyndall and we look forward to what will be a very exciting future with them.”

Tyndall and TSSG are currently collaborating on several projects across the energy, agriculture, environment and health sectors to deliver a tangible connection for people between two worlds, the physical and connected.

The advent of wearable technologies, smart appliances and services, along with dynamic sensors, all indicate the need for Ireland to capitalise on its reputation as a digital hub and lead on IoT technologies.

This MoU encapsulates that goal, said Damien English, TD, Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation.

“This strategic partnership adds great strength to the position of Tyndall and TSSG as leaders in the development of new technologies and companies in the ICT sector,” English said.

“It is the responsibility of the Government to ensure that Irish innovation continues to be at the forefront of technological development and that through the facilitation of such projects and collaborations, commercialisation opportunities are maximised and job creation is accelerated.”

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UCC scientists developing multi-use vaccine patch

Scientists from University College Cork (UCC) have developed a micro-needle patch that lowers the amount of vaccine needed for the treatment of malaria and could potentially be used on other lethal viruses.

The small patch, which contains a number of tiny needles, uses two existing vaccine technologies to remove the need to make and use multiple different vaccine types to induce protective immunity.

This could potentially lead to a significant reduction in logistical and production costs by removing the need for different methods of introducing the vaccines to the patient, many of which could also help prevent the spread of some of the world’s deadliest diseases, including influenza and Ebola.

The skin patch’s micro-needles are designed to painlessly create temporary pores in the outermost barrier layer of the skin, permitting the vaccine to flow into it, which is rich in cells of the immune system.

The experimental vaccine has been based on a live adenovirus similar to those that can cause a common cold, but is engineered to be safer and to deliver a protein from the malaria-causing parasite to the immune system.

Lead researcher on the project, Dr Anne Moore, will soon be flying to Silicon Valley, California, to meet venture capitalists and leading technology companies with a view to commercialising the research.

Moore describes the potential as ‘exciting’.

“What’s exciting from this work is that administration of this vaccine with the micro-needle patch did not induce this strong anti-adenovirus immunity, even though very potent immunity to the malaria antigen is generated.”

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UCC team develops medical device alternative to open-heart surgery

The University College Cork (UCC) Centre for Research in Vascular Biology has developed a medical device that promotes the bypass of arterial obstructions, potentially removing the need for open-heart surgery.

Director of the centre Prof Noel Caplice, himself a practising interventional cardiologist, led the research project in UCC, which included collaborators in the Mayo Clinic in the US.

Caplice began this project in the Mayo Clinic, where he and his colleagues designed a mesh device that could be attached to a stent, which could deliver millions of cells and promote bypass in an obstructed artery.

Since his return to UCC in 2005, Caplice has further developed this technology so it can be delivered using a catheter.

The vascular cell delivery device can be inserted via a keyhole procedure through the artery to the site of the obstruction. The implanted device can then promote micro-bypass of the obstruction over a four-week period, resulting in the return of normal heart function and a recovery of full exercise capacity.

The device has been tested successfully in a large animal model with similar-sized arteries to humans, and the next phase of this research will involve testing on patients who require bypass surgery but have been deemed unfit to undergo the procedure.

About 3m open-heart coronary bypass and peripheral artery bypass operations are carried out each year around the world. However, around 20pc of patients who need this surgery are unable to undergo the procedure due to poor status of arteries or a co-existing illness making the risk too great.

“If reproduced in humans, this device would offer an alternative to open surgical bypass operations with implications for treatment of patients who are currently inoperable,” said Caplice.

“It also has the potential to reduce costs and time spent in hospital,” he added.

This research, which could be a major step forward in the treatment of coronary disease, has been published in the journal Biomaterials.

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Irish researcher to showcase medical support app at TEDMED

Siobhán O’Connor is going to TEDMED to spread the word about the Supporting LIFE app being developed through an Irish-led project.

Medicine and smartphones are obvious bedfellows. Apps can make it easier for clinicians to learn new skills, to pull up patient records, and even track the rise or fall of diseases simply by tapping the screen.

But plenty of work goes on behind the scenes, as Siobhán O’Connor knows. Next month, she will be in Washington, DC, to spread the word at the prestigious annual TEDMEDconference about a new mobile health app called ‘Supporting Low-cost Intervention For disEase control (LIFE)’, which is being developed to support healthcare workers in remote and low-resource areas.

O’Connor, who is doing a joint PhD at the Department of Accounting, Finance and Information Systems in University College Cork, says she was “ecstatic” to be awarded a TEDMED Frontline Scholarship to attend the event and take part in activities there.

“TEDMED only issues a handful each year and the scholarship is open to people from all disciplines and backgrounds so it’s very competitive and I was delighted to receive one,” she says. “I have been watching TEDMED online for years so to get the opportunity to attend in person is really exciting.”

In Washington, O’Connor will be highlighting the Supporting LIFE app, which is based on theCommunity Case Management Programme developed by the World Health Organisation. The existing programme helps frontline workers in low-resource settings to assess, diagnose or treat young children who present with illness, she explains, but an app could make it easier in practice.

“The current guidelines are paper-based, which is cumbersome and slow to use,” she says. “So by digitising them we want to make the process more efficient and effective, and lead to better health outcomes for children.”

As well as making the information more readily available, the team hopes to use the app in other ways too, notes O’Connor.

Dr Tim O’Sullivan, the senior software engineer on the project, is currently developing a training platform that will be integrated into future versions of the Supporting LIFE app to educate and empower local healthcare workers in community case management,” she says.

“The app will also double up as a real-time disease-monitoring solution as the data it collects can be used to track a variety of childhood illnesses, such as malaria, pneumonia and infantile diarrhoea, to name a few.”

The idea for the app came from Dr Joe Gallagher, an Irish doctor who worked in the Billy Riordan Memorial Clinic, according to O’Connor.

“(Joe) saw the need for better training and resources for frontline healthcare staff working in rural clinics,” she explains.

“In Malawi, the doctor-patient ratio is about 1 to 88,000, so community healthcare workers take on a lot of responsibility in managing day-to-day healthcare. But their training is limited and they often work in isolated areas with a finite amount of equipment, drugs and other resources, so they face challenges every day in delivering good quality healthcare.”

Gallagher contacted UCC health informatics researcher Dr John O’Donoghue and the Supporting LIFE project came to life in a four-year FP7-funded project involving UCC, the University of Oxford,Lund UniversityMzuzu UniversityLuke International Norway and Ungweru.

Last year, as part of the project, O’Connor and colleagues went to Malawi and held workshops with community healthcare workers.

“They gave us great feedback on how to improve the app to make it more practical for them to use in rural clinics,” she says.

A feasibility study is planned for next year in the Mzuzu district of Malawi and the ultimate goal is to carry out a randomised controlled trial in early 2016.

“This approach is the gold standard in clinical trials and will provide us with clear scientific evidence on whether the Supporting LIFE app improves health outcomes for sick children in Malawi,” says O’Connor. “It will also help us examine how community healthcare workers use the mobile device and how mhealth (mobile health) can be deployed in low-resource settings.”

More immediately, O’Connor will be showcasing the app while at TEDMED.

“While the presentations on stage are amazing and insightful, a lot of the creative work goes on behind the scenes where innovators, researchers and industry get to network and make new contacts so I’m really looking forward to that,” she says.

“I will be able to promote the Supporting LIFE app at TEDMED on behalf of everyone in UCC and hopefully we might secure additional investor or philanthropic funding to continue our work in Malawi or make new research partnerships with institutions in the United States.”

The Kanturk, Co Cork, native, who studied business information systems and nursing at UCC and worked in telecommunications and the international financial services industry, is currently in the first year of a PhD in health informatics, which combines her interests in health and IT.

“My research interest lies in the blurring of boundaries between traditional healthcare systems and more open user-driven healthcare supported by mobile technology,” she says. “This is especially the case for healthcare professionals who get very conventional training but they can now use mobile devices to support and educate themselves in clinical practice and for continuing their professional development.”

As well as working on the Supporting LIFE project, O’Connor has been developing another smartphone app, which she worked on during a Health Research Board summer student scholarship in 2012.

The ‘iAmAStudentNurse’ app, which she expects to launch in 2015, aims to help nursing students in Ireland with information about anatomy, physiology and step-by-step instructions and references for important skills, such as blood pressure measurement, aseptic technique and wound care.

The variety she has experienced in her own career means she would encourage any students to consider working in STEM.

“(It) is a really exciting area to work in, it’s constantly evolving, which keeps your work interesting and it has great long-term career options that can take you all over the world,” she says. “You’ll never be bored working in STEM.”

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