Tag Archive | "UCD"

GMI Launch Genomic Research on Rare Disorders

Irish life-sciences company, Genomics Medicine Ireland Ltd. (GMI) announced on Tuesday that it has partnered with Temple Street Children’s University Hospital and the UCD Academic Centre on Rare Diseases (ACoRD) to launch a groundbreaking research study which will examine children with rare undiagnosed genetic disorders attending Temple Street, and their parents in order to identify the key genetic components of rare disorders. The study will combine advanced scientific technology in genomics, the study of all of a person’s genes, together with detailed clinical information to identify the genetic cause of rare disorders affecting/amongst families in Ireland.

Director of UCD ACoRD Sean Ennis said: “This study will give us a greater understanding of the role of genetics in rare disorders for faster and more accurate diagnoses for patients and to help in the development of more targeted therapies for treating these conditions. Ultimately, in the longer term, we are looking to gain insights that will lead to the prevention of these conditions.”

Rare Disorders affect an estimated 300,000 people in Ireland meaning one person in 12 may have a rare disease at some stage in their lifetime.

Temple Street Children’s University Hospital Research Manager Tara Raftertry said “Genome studies hold significant potential to deliver improvements in the quality of life for future generations of children with rare conditions. The route to diagnosing these disorders often involves multiple tests, some of which can be invasive. We can render these kind of tests unnecessary if we can get better insight to the cause of the rare disorder from the outset.”

Genomics Medicine Ireland hopes to quickly expand the research activity in Rare Disorders beyond the charter study at Temple Street to other research centres in Ireland. It will also be launching additional studies in a number of major chronic and incurable conditions where there is a need to better understand the role genetics and lifestyle play in disease and disease progression.

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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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Origin and UCD Form €17.6 Million Crop Science Research Partnership

Origin Enterprises plc and University College Dublin established a €17.6 million, five-year agriculture and crop science research programme, UCD announced on Monday.

The collaboration combines the leading expertise of UCD in data science and agricultural science with Origin’s integrated crop management research, systems capabilities and extensive on-farm knowledge exchange networks.

“The collaboration provides Origin with a development platform which accesses the very substantial intellectual capacity, advanced data analytics, sensing technologies and modelling resources of UCD Origin CEO Tom O’Mahony said. “The merging of conventional crop science and agronomic application with digital technology and prescriptive data analytics will enhance Origin’s knowledge-intensive offering along with improving the capacity to scale our service.”

A cornerstone of the partnership will be the creation of scalable, dynamic and integrated crop models which incorporate consistent and real-time data-driven and data-analytical approaches that optimise sustainable crop performance through enabling enhanced predictive intelligence capabilities at field level.

“The SFI Strategic Partnership Programme supports unique research partnerships with strong potential for impact on the Irish economy,” said Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government of Ireland Mark Ferguson. “Combining the resources and expertise from these organisations will secure Ireland’s international position in the field of data-driven agriculture. The proposed integrated crop model will have global implications in the sustainable production of crops, addressing the challenge of food production for a rapidly expanding global population,” he said.

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UCD to Lead €4 million European Research Network Developing Mental Health Services Technologies

Technology Enabled Mental Health for Young People (TEAM), a new €4 million research and training network focused on developing new technologies to support the provision of mental health services for young people, was announced on Tuesday, November 22, at University College Dublin (UDC).

A UCD Press release said that numerous international studies have concluded that many people experiencing mental health difficulties do not have access to appropriate support. Young people have been identified as being particularly vulnerable and requiring specific attention. Research suggests that 50% of mental disorders emerge by 14 years of age. Untreated difficulties at a young age also triple the likelihood of further difficulties in later life.

TEAM, which brings together a multi-disciplinary network of mental health experts, computer scientists, designers and policy experts from five countries, (Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Spain and the UK) will provide a doctoral training and research platform for 15 PhD students.

The overall objective of the TEAM network is to train these researchers to deliver more effective, affordable and accessible mental health services for young people. The network will also focus on the design, development and evaluation of new technology enabled mental health services.

TEAM, led by University College Dublin, involves nine partners; four universities (Technical University of Denmark, Technical University Vienna, University of Glasgow and UCD); two university hospitals (Medical University Vienna, Psychiatric Centre Copenhagen (Region Hovedstaden)), two not-for-profit organisations (The Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, ReachOut Ireland Ltd); and one industry research laboratory (Telefonica Alpha).

Dr David Coyle, TEAM project co-ordinator, and a researcher in human computer interaction at UCD’s School of Computer Science said, “We are not going to address all of the challenges in youth mental health in just four years. But we do aim to train a new generation of researchers, with a unique combination of skills, who will be at the forefront of this challenge in the coming decades.”

He added, “Technology can play an important role in improving mental health services, but only if we get the details right. It was critical that TEAM had an appropriate balance of mental health experts, computer scientists and designers. Throughout the project we will work in close partnership with mental health services and with people with experiences of mental health difficulties.”

The TEAM research programme is built around four key themes: assessment, prevention, treatment and policy. It aims to deliver new technologies that can support rapid, early and large-scale assessment, prevention and treatment of mental health difficulties in young people.

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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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UCD professor’s paper makes the10 most cited papers of all time

Irish professor Des Higgins and his work on bioinformatics has placed him in the journal Nature’s top 10 most cited research papers of all time, making him the only Irish person in the ranking.

The University College Dublin (UCD) professor first broke the 100,000 citations mark last year with his paper entitled Improving the sensitivity of progressive multiple sequence alignment through sequence weighting, position-specific gap penalties and weight matrix choice.

By doing so, he has joined an elite list of academics who have led the way in their particular fields and, in Higgins’ case, the world of bioinformatics, which is fast becoming one of the most exciting fields in science. Nuritas founder and CSO Nora Khaldi, for instance, recently highlighted the field at Silicon Republic’s Innovation Ireland Forum in Dublin.

Working in this area of science since 1985, Higgins developed the original Clustal programme for aligning protein sequences in 1988, which has now become the most cited work in bioinformatics among academics working within this realm of science.

One of the innovations of the Clustal programme is the algorithm designed to work on personal computers, which greatly increased its use among scientists and has meant it could be used in laboratories everywhere, quickly becoming the industry standard.

Another paper by Higgins also made it into the top 30, in 28th place, The CLUSTAL_X windows interface: flexible strategies for multiple sequence alignment aided by quality analysis tools.

Speaking of Higgins’ achievement, Prof Orla Feely, vice-president of Research, Innovation and Impact at UCD said, “Des has delivered profound impact, not only academically, but also in new technology and product development. His success across the fields of biology and computer science is testament to the true interdisciplinary nature of his research.”


Click image to see full-size image of top 100 infographic by Kyle Bean with design by Wesley Fernandes/Nature



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AIB forges seven-year research alliance with UCD

AIB has invested in a seven-year Partnership and Innovation Initiative with UCD that will see the bank and the university work on original research across a number of sectors.

This new innovation partnership covers two main areas – expertise and scholarship.

Firstly, it seeks to support academic and innovation expertise that can enable initiatives designed to improve the economic and social well-being of the country. Secondly, it will promote scholarship in the areas of leadership, service to the community and knowledge transfer.

“Recognising the contribution of academic expertise and the importance of education and scholarship to the national recovery, this innovation partnership between UCD and AIB is a practical demonstration of our commitment to the national agenda,” explained UCD president Professor Andrew Deeks.

Research collaboration

Under the terms of the agreement, AIB will collaborate with the university including on original research in areas such as agriculture, food, medicine, information and communications technology (ICT), biopharma, business and entrepreneurship.

The partnership will support research to identify and develop the most effective higher educational environments to produce graduates who can thrive in the national and international marketplaces.

Some of the funds will be earmarked for scholarships to support access to education for the economically disadvantaged, people with a disability and mature students.

The bank also announced it was launching the AIB/UCD Student Life Fund, working in partnership with the university.

AIB has a long-standing relationship with UCD. The bank was a founding sponsor for Nova UCD – the university’s incubation and technology transfer facility – which has supported over thirty spin-out companies in the past ten years.

The collaboration will also see the establishment of a new AIB student branch.

“The new AIB branch on UCD will be a landmark student branch, co-designed with input from students themselves. Customers will have access to the latest in banking technology and will benefit from extended opening hours,” said David Duffy, CEO of AIB.

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UCD ranked 5th university in Europe for VC-backed entrepreneurs

Dublin’s University College Dublin (UCD) has been ranked fifth in a list of European universities that have produced venture capital (VC)-backed graduates.

Private equity research firm PitchBook in its report Top Universities for VC-backed Entrepreneurs, which covers January 2009 to August 2014, noted that 31 UCD graduate entrepreneurs established 26 companies that raised US$112m in funding.

UCD is the only Irish university in the top 10 list of European universities.

The University of London ranked the best overall university in Europe with 71 graduate entrepreneurs establishing 67 companies that raised just over US$1bn in funding.

Stanford ranked No 1 globally according to this report, with 378 entrepreneurs establishing 309 companies raising just over US$3.5bn.

The PitchBook VC database includes the educational backgrounds of more than 13,000 founders worldwide.

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UCD wins ESA contract to reduce vibrations in space rockets

Researchers at University College Dublin have won a €250,000 contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) to reduce not-so-good vibrations during rocket launches.

When you are sending a rocket into space, every gram costs. But the resulting push to build lighter rockets has a knock-on effect: vibrations on take-off can potentially damage the payload or even alter the trajectory of the rocket itself.

A team at University College Dublin has been contracted by the ESA to develop a smart ‘control algorithm’ that can reduce these not-so-good vibrations.


Sending rockets and their ‘payloads’ of scientific experiments or satellites into space involves a trade-off between the mass of the launcher and the payload itself, explains researcher Dr David McKeown, a research engineer in UCD School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering.

“Every bit of extra mass used to build the launcher means there is a little less mass available to be used for carrying the payload,” he says. “So the push is to make launchers lighter, but this in turn increases the flexibility of the rocket and the vibrations during lift-off.”

As part of ESA’s Future Launchers Preparatory Programme, McKeown and Dr William O’Connor at UCD are developing the algorithm to monitor the rocket structure in real-time and ‘tell’ the rocket’s engines to fire in a way that reduces the vibrations.

“Our research is about making the flight of the rockets smoother by eliminating the vibrations caused by the engines and the sloshing of the fuel in the tanks,” says McKeown.

“Our approach measures the vibrations using sensors on the rocket itself, then the algorithm uses this information to tell the engines and thrusters on the rocket to fire in a way that dampens shaking and bending even as the rocket flies through the Earth’s atmosphere at 28,000 km/h. Effectively, this algorithm uses maths to control the rocket dynamically.”

Reducing the vibrations has other benefits too, according to McKeown.

“It keeps the rocket on course following the correct trajectory more closely on its way into orbit,” he says. “It also means the payload is better protected – these rockets can carry delicate instruments as their cargo and they may be sensitive to vibrations, so having fewer vibrations helps there. Also, if you are able to control for the vibrations caused by lighter, more flexible materials, it allows for lighter rocket designs that require less fuel and that cost less to launch.”

McKeown and O’Connor have previously worked with ESA on the control of a large X-ray observatory (IXO, now ATHENA) and on a prototype flexible robot arm concept for a future ESA Mars rover mission (DExtrous LIghtweight Arms for exploratioN, or DELIAN).

The €250,000 project to reduce rocket vibrations will last two years and is expected to inform the design of the next generation of European launchers, but the work should have an impact on current launchers too, explains McKeown.

“A lot of the focus is on the design of the Ariane 6 rocket, but the work will also be fed back into current designs that are already launching satellites into space, such as such as VEGA and Ariane 5,” he says.

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Irishman Inducted Into ‘Internet Hall of Fame’

Physicist Dr Dennis Jennings has become the first Irish person to be inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame.

Dr Jennings has been named an Internet Pioneer at the Internet Society’s 2014 Hall of Fame awards in Hong Kong.

He joins some of the great internet developers and visionaries including Sir Tim Berners-lee (inventor of the World Wide Web), Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn (recognised as fathers of the internet) and former US vice president Al Gore.

The Internet Hall of Fame celebrates the accolades of innovative thinkers from around the world who have contributed to the development and advancement of the internet.

Established by the Internet Society in 2012, the awards programme has created a virtual museum which “celebrates the living history of the internet… its worldwide availability and its transformative nature.”

“This programme honours individuals who have pushed the boundaries to bring the Internet to life and make it an essential resource used by billions,” said Kathy Brown, chief executive of the Internet Society.

Dr Jennings is celebrated for his role in the early design and development of the internet and research networking in Europe.

He took leave from UCD in 1985/86 to work for the US government as director of networking at the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Washington DC. As director he was responsible for a number of key decisions including the creation of the NSFnet programme which developed high speed computing and high performance computers for academic researchers around the US.

Dr Jennings was also responsible for the development of the .ie domain name service. He was director of UCD computing services from 1977 to 1999 but left academia to pursue commercial interests in investment.

He currently serves as a non-executive director on the boards of a number of companies and chairs the UCD Choral Scholars steering committee

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