Friday, 16 October 2020

NUI Galway will host the 29th ACM International Conference on Information and Knowledge Management (CIKM 2020) virtually from 19-23 October 2020. With over 700 already registered, CIKM, which started in 1992, is one of the major conferences in the domain of Knowledge Management and Data Science. The conference seeks to identify challenging problems facing the development of future knowledge and information systems, and to shape future directions of research by soliciting and reviewing high quality, applied and theoretical research findings. Professor Mathieu d'Aquin, CIKM2020 General Co-Chair, Data Science Institute, NUI Galway, said: “With AI and Data Science being core components of the university's research strategy, hosting such a prestigious conference as CIKM is very exciting. Having to move to an online conference was a challenge, but it is also an opportunity to reach out to more people around those topics and it fits perfectly with our sustainability theme!” An important part of the conference are the Workshops and Tutorial programs which will focus on timely research challenges and initiatives –bringing together research papers, industry speakers and keynote speakers. This year's themes are sustainability, transparency and fairness, and will feature four keynote speakers: Xin Luna Dong, Principal Scientist at Amazon Dr Michel Dumontier, Distinguished Professor of Data Science at Maastricht University and co-founder of the FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable) data principles Carlo Curino, Principal Scientist Manager at Gray Systems Lab Timnit Gebru, Co-lead of the Ethical Artificial Intelligence research team at Google The conference will feature a research track, applied research track, posters and demos, AnalytiCup challenges, and for the first time a resource track and a doctoral consortium for PhD students to share their research topics. Live Q&A sessions will be provided after the live presentations, where forums and direct messaging will feature on the Whova conference app, and two CIKMConnect sessions will allow sponsors to meet with attendees who are interested in opportunities. To register or for more information on CIKM2020 visit https://www.cikm2020.org/ or follow on Twitter @cikm2020. -Ends-

Thursday, 15 October 2020

NUI Galway researchers and the public work together to answer the question ‘Does reading a book in bed make a difference to sleep compared to not reading in bed?’ The Health Research Board - Trials Methodology Research Network (HRB-TMRN) based in the School of Nursing and Midwifery at NUI Galway has today announced the results of The People’s Trial. The study is one of the first of its kind to involve members of the public in co-creating their own online randomised trial. The overall aim of The People’s Trial is to support the public’s understanding of randomised trials and their processes, so that the public can be better informed as to why clinical trials are important and how they can be used to answer important health questions. Randomised trials are instrumental in providing reliable and robust evidence on the benefits, harms and costs of health care, so that people can make informed choices. Using an online, custom-built, platform, the People’s Trial team at NUI Galway handed every step of the trial process over to members of the public, from selecting the question the trial should try to answer and developing the trial design, to carrying out the trial and reporting its findings. In that way, the public became citizen scientists and carried out their own randomised trial. People representing over 40 countries across the world decided that The People’s Trial would try to find out the answer to: Does reading a book in bed make a difference to sleep compared to not reading in bed? During December 2019, almost 1,000 members of the public from 43 countries agreed to take part in a trial to help tackle this question. These 991 people were put into one of two groups: 496 (50%) went into the ‘reading a book in bed’ group (the Intervention Group) and 495 (50%) went into the ‘not reading a book in bed’ group (the Control Group). Categorisation of participants in each group was decided by chance (called randomisation), which meant that everyone had an equal chance of being in the Intervention Group or in the Control Group. Participants were asked to participate in their category for seven consecutive days. Overall, it was found that reading a book in bed before going to sleep improved sleep. 42% (156 people) in the ‘reading a book in bed’ group felt their sleep improved compared to 28% (112 people) in the ‘not reading a book in bed’ group. Professor Declan Devane, Scientific Director of the Health Research Board - Trials Methodology Research Network, NUI Galway, said: “We set out to meaningfully involve the public in designing, conducting and sharing the findings of their own randomised trial. Over 3,000 members of the public, from 72 countries, participated in The People’s Trial. This shows that initiatives such as this can help the public learn about randomised trials, to understand why they matter, and to be better equipped to think critically about how health research is conducted.” “We are delighted that so many people got involved and because they did, we are able to make a reliable claim that in people similar to those who took part in this trial, reading a book in bed before sleeping, in the manner done in this trial, has a positive effect on quality of sleep compared to not reading a book in bed. Personally, I’m going to start reading in bed again!” To learn more about The People’s Trial visit: https://thepeoplestrial.ie/ and for more information email info@thepeoplestrial.ie or follow on Twitter @thepeoplestrial, Facebook and Instagram. The study is funded by the Health Research Board under the Knowledge Exchange and Dissemination Scheme Award. -Ends-

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

NUI Galway researchers designed toolkit to identify and address barriers to hand hygiene compliance Research led from NUI Galway has resulted in the publication of a toolkit to help staff in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) to identify barriers to hand hygiene compliance, and the interventions that can be used to addressed these barriers. This toolkit is the accumulation of more than three years of Health Research Board funded research on hand hygiene in the ICU, and was carried out with the collaboration of ICU staff from across Ireland, the public, and national and international researchers. Healthcare associated infections, infections acquired in a healthcare setting such as a hospital, are the most frequent complications experienced by hospital patients, and affect 4% of patients worldwide and account for almost 100,000 deaths annually in the United States. Healthcare associated infections are of particular concern in the ICU, where prevalence rates between 20% and 30% have been reported. Effective hand hygiene practices are considered to be one of the most important strategy for preventing these types of infections. The aim of the recently completed Health Research Board funded project ‘A Moment for Hand Hygiene in the Intensive Care Unit: How Can Compliance Be Improved?’ was to take a scientific approach to identifying how to improve hand hygiene in Irish ICUs. This project was led by Dr Paul O’Connor from NUI Galway’s School of Medicine, with support from leading national and international researchers, and ICU staff- particularly from the Saolta Healthcare group. Dr O’Connor said: “Although hand hygiene practice is simple to carry out, the behaviour related to hand hygiene is complex and is not readily understood, explained, or changed. International bodies, such as the World Health Organization, have made recommendations for how to improve hand hygiene practices. However, there are serious weaknesses in the research evidence to guide the implementation of these recommendations. As a result, interventions to improve hand hygiene practices are often not based on sound scientific knowledge, may be of limited effectiveness, and limited resources are not being used efficiently.” Dr Michael Power, Co-Principal Investigator on the project and Clinical Lead of the National Clinical Programme for Critical Care, stated:  “The project is a rigorous analysis of the factors influencing hand hygiene behaviour in Ireland. We know that hand hygiene interrupts the transmission of bacteria and viruses - it is more important than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic.” The project found that there was potential to improve hand hygiene practice in ICUs. In general ICUs in Ireland had the required equipment and resources to carry out hand hygiene, and ICU staff recognised the importance of hand hygiene in preventing infection. However, it was found that ICU staff may over-estimate how often they engage in hand hygiene practice, and did not think that frequently used approaches to improving hand hygiene such as standardised training packages and audits were effective. It was also clear that each ICU has a unique set of barriers to improving hand hygiene practice. Recognising the issues with improving hand hygiene practice, the project team worked with researchers, ICU nurse, ICU doctors, and members of the public to identify 21 potential interventions for improving hand hygiene practice. These interventions were then rated in terms of how effective they were likely to be. Ensuring the availability of essential supplies was regarded as the most important for encouraging hand hygiene practice. Senior leaders acting as role models, and individual focused training were also well regarded. Punitive methods such as punishment letters were not well regarded. Dr Power added: “This realistic and relevant NUI Galway study of Hand Hygiene is welcomed as an important contribution to Hand Hygiene improvement in the acute hospital setting in Ireland.” Dr O’Connor continued: “Hand hygiene is crucial to infection prevention and control. There is no universal solution to improving hand hygiene practice. There is a need for an intervention to be tailored to the specific needs of a particular unit rather than a one-size fits all approach. The toolkit developed as part of the moment for hand hygiene project will support ICU staff to identify the barriers to hand hygiene practice in their unit, and interventions that are appropriate to address these barriers.” According to Dr Mairéad O’Driscoll, Chief Executive at the Health Research Board: “Covid-19 has forced everyone to think about hand hygiene differently. Compliance with good practice is even more important in Intensive Care settings. Because this toolkit is based on evidence about people’s behaviour and responses to hand hygiene measures in ICU, and it’s tailored based on individual experience, we believe it will be very effective to help address any barriers to compliance.” To download the hand hygiene toolkit visit: https://aran.library.nuigalway.ie/handle/10379/16192, or watch a video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=siiOavW8Czo&feature=youtu.be -Ends-

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

New report shows nature-based solutions can address the triple threats of climate change, biodiversity loss and food security Wednesday, 14 October, 2020: NUI Galway has contributed to the fourth State of the World report from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, which takes a deep dive into the state of the world’s plant and fungal kingdoms globally. The report highlights the pressing need to explore the solutions that plants and fungi could provide to address some of the pressures facing people and the planet. The new data, the result of a large international collaboration bringing together 210 scientists from 42 countries, shows how we are currently using plants and fungi, what useful properties we are missing, and what we risk losing. The authors found that 1,942 plants and 1,886 fungi were named as new to science in 2019. Among these exciting discoveries are species that might be valuable as foods, drinks, medicines or fibres. Kew’s 2016 State of the World’s Plants report estimated one in five plants were at risk but new analyses this year show that extinction risk may be much higher than previously thought, with 39.4% plants estimated to be threatened with extinction. Accounting for under and over-represented plant groups and geographical areas enabled the scientists to estimate extinction risk more accurately. The new approach used by scientists this year predicted the overall proportion of threatened species to be 39.4%, almost double the 21% of global plant species estimated to be threatened with extinction in 2016. Professor Alexandre Antonelli, Director of Science at RBG Kew, says: “The data emerging from this year’s report paints a picture of a world that has turned its back on the potential of plants and fungi to address fundamental global issues such as food security and climate change. Societies have been too dependent on too few species for too long. “At a time of rapid biodiversity loss, we are failing to access the treasure chest of incredible diversity on offer and missing a huge opportunity for our generation. As we start the most critical decade our planet has ever faced, we hope this report will give the public, businesses and policymakers the facts they need to demand nature-based solutions that can address the triple threats of climate change, biodiversity loss and food security.” Dr Karen Bacon, a plant ecologist from Botany and Plant Science at NUI Galway looked at how the responses of plants to environmental upheaval today compares to that of plants millions of years ago during previous major climatic shifts and mass extinction events. Dr Bacon contributed to the international study that reviewed qualitative and quantitative evidence to provide a critical overview of extinction risk estimates for plants and fungi and analysis revealed that approximately two in five plant species are at risk of extinction. Biases in assessment mean that woody perennials (plants that live for more than two years) are over-represented and national endemics (plants only found in one geographic area/nation) are under-represented. For example, plants that are useful to people are more likely to have been assessed than plants that people think are at risk of extinction or threatened in some way. Species are also more likely to be assessed if they are in some geographic regions where it is easy to go to assess plants compared to other areas that are not easy to access. Dr Karen Bacon, Lecturer in Plant Ecology, Botany and Plant Science, NUI Galway, said: “Plants and fungi are essential for life on Earth. The results of the study clearly show that many plants are at risk of extinction. Given that plants have been previously thought to be robust to extinction events when we consider the fossil record, this is concerning. However, by continuing to assess species and learning more about the risks that plants and fungi face, we can take action to help conserve both our species and our ecosystems.” Dr Bacon added: “Our understanding of previous mass extinctions comes from the fossil record. Mass extinctions record spikes in extinction of species, particularly for animals. Today, both plant and animal extinction rates are higher than expected for non-mass extinction levels and are approaching a similar rate to those observed in the fossil record for previous periods of mass extinction. “This is particularly concerning for plants because they are generally thought to be less likely than animals to experience such high extinction rates. Evidence for global trends in plants supports a pattern of ongoing decline, although clades (present unbroken lines of evolutionary descent) show considerable variation with extremes such as the highly threatened cycads and conifers.” Managing risks to plants and fungi, requires updated extinction risk assessments for as many species as possible. Novel artificial intelligence approaches show potential to deliver extinction risk estimates for each species, given that formal assessments seem unlikely for all plants and impossible for fungi on the urgent timescale needed to address modern extinction risk. Other report highlights found that: Medicine – 723 of the plants we use for medicine is at risk of extinction Food and fuel – new data shows we use a tiny fraction of existing species Two in five plants threatened – extinction risk may be worse than previously thought 4000 newly named species – potential new foods, medicines and timber found in 2019 Race against time – pace of finding, naming and conserving species is too slow The report shows that of the 5,411 medicinal plants that have been assessed for their conservation status (out of 25,791 documented medicinal plants), 723 (13%) are categorised as threatened. For fungi, only six medicinal species have been assessed, one of which, eburiko (Fomitopsis officinalis), a wood-inhabiting parasitic fungus with antimicrobial properties, has already been pushed to the brink of extinction. There are 7,039 edible plants which hold potential as future foods, yet just 15 plants provide 90% of humanity’s food energy intake, and four billion people rely entirely on three crops – rice, maize and wheat. Relying on a handful of crops to feed the global population has contributed to malnutrition and left us vulnerable to climate change. The report identified 7,039 plants listed as ‘human food’ from a Kew dataset of useful plants, of which only 417 (5.9%) are considered as major food crops. Meanwhile, for the purpose of producing energy, there are 2,500 identified plants that could be used for fuel or bioenergy, but only six crops – maize, sugarcane, soybean, palm oil, rapeseed and wheat – generate 80% of global industrial biofuel. This landmark report is the first time plants and fungi have been combined in one global State of the World’s assessment, with the underlying data also published in a series of 12 scientific research papers, made freely available in the leading journal Plants, People, Planet.  To download a copy of the State of the World’s Plants and Fungi Report, please click here and read online here: https://www.kew.org/science/state-of-the-worlds-plants-and-fungi. A three-day online symposium on the report findings will take place from 13-15 October. For more information and to register to attend, please click here. -Ends-

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

The Hardiman Library at NUI Galway has launched a new archive belonging to the actress and writer, Genevieve Lyons. The archive documents the career in the theatre in Dublin during the 1940s and 1950s, by one of its most acclaimed and talented performers, Genevieve Lyons and includes a range of photographs, annotated scripts, letters, diaries, press cuttings, and other papers from Lyons’ career on the Dublin stage. Genevieve Lyons was born in Dublin in 1930. A diary kept by Lyons in the late 1940s and early 1950s offers a personal insight into the emerging career of a young actress as well as being a social record of life in Dublin city at the time. Working in the city, Lyons’ love of the theatre saw her join the Brendan Smith Academy in 1948, where she learned and honed her craft, graduating with a Diploma in Acting in 1950. Lyons was a central member of the new Globe Theatre Company. Founded in 1954 by Godfrey Quigley and others including Michael O’Herlihy and Dennis Brennan, the Globe was an independent theatre company established in Dublin as “a unique experiment in the Irish theatre”. The company sought to create a space outside of the urban centre of Dublin city for professional theatre. The first play presented by the Globe Theatre Company was the American funeral parlour comedy, The Biggest Thief in Town by Dalton Trumbo (1954). Based primarily at the Gas Works Theatre in Dun Laoghaire, the company regularly performed on major stages such as the Gate Theatre, the Olympia Theatre, the Gaiety Theatre and were frequently part of the annual Dublin Theatre Festival. The group specialised in international theatre, as well as Irish plays, and premiered many new international works for Irish audiences. Key performances by Lyons include the role of Marion in the Irish premiere of J.P. Donleavy’s stage adaptation of his novel, The Ginger Man, famously censored and shut down after three performances in 1959; Lydia Lubey in Arthur Miller’s All My Sons at the Gate Theatre, 1954; Christine in Gabriel Marcel’s A Broken World, 1959; and as Sally Bowles in John Van Druton’s I Am a Camera, which was seen by over 15,000 people at the Gas Works Theatre in Dun Laoghaire in 1956. Lyons married her fellow actor and Globe company member Godfrey Quigley in Autumn 1954. She performed with the company until the 1960s before moving to London. There, while raising her daughter, Lyons taught drama, wrote children’s books and also later wrote over twenty other books and novels. Lyons passed away in London in 2018. Dr Barry Houlihan, Archivist at NUI Galway, said: “The archive of Genevieve Lyons is a really significant collection. Genevieve was a hugely talented actress who brought so many new roles to life on the Dublin stage, from the Globe Theatre to the Pike Theatre, and to great acclaim. It is wonderful to be able to share this archive online with a global audience and preserve the papers among the vast number of theatre collections of the Hardiman Library.” Michele McCrillis, daughter of Genevieve Lyons, said: “I grew up captivated by the many stories my mother told me about the productions and actors she worked with in the 1950s.  Going through her photographs, reviews and papers after her death, I was struck by the richness of this history and I am thrilled by the care the Hardiman Library has taken in preserving its place within this important archive of Irish theatre. I know my mother would be truly delighted that these materials will be available to the academic and theatre community.” A new digital collection from the Genevieve Lyons Archive presents over sixty never seen before photographs from Dublin Theatre in the 1940s and 1950s, from stages such as the Gas Works Theatre in Dun Laoghaire to the famous Pike Theatre on Herbert Lane. The digital collection reveals images now seen for the first time of past stars of Irish stage and screen, including Anew McMaster, Pauline Delaney and Milo O’Shea, as well as key moments from Lyons’ career in the theatre. John Cox, Librarian at NUI Galway, said: “We are delighted to add this important collection to the Library’s family of theatre archives and are very grateful to receive such a diversity of materials relating to the career of Genevieve Lyons. The digital availability of this collection will enhance its use as a valuable resource both on and beyond the NUI Galway campus.” Professor of Drama and Theatre Studies, Patrick Lonergan warmly welcomed the opening up of this collection, saying: “Researchers of Irish history and culture will find this collection exceptionally useful and stimulating. Genevieve Lyons’ diaries, photographs, and other materials offer us a fascinating insight into Irish cultural life during the mid-century period – those important decades when the nation became more open to international influences. “By working with the Gas Works and Pike in particular, Genevieve Lyons played a key role in that process of opening-up, performing in new plays that challenged old orthodoxies. For students of Drama, Literature, Children’s Studies, and History, this resource will be both inspirational and exciting – and for researchers in the same areas it will help us to re-tell the story of Irish cultural history from important new perspectives.” To access the Genevieve Lyons digital collection, visit: https://digital.library.nuigalway.ie/islandora/object/islandora%3A7324 or https://bit.ly/3hWPhT9 -Ends-

Friday, 9 October 2020

NUI Galway interventional cardiologists identify new model to weigh up risk and benefits of surgery versus stenting for treatments of complex coronary artery disease    Findings of research team led by Professor Patrick W Serruys published in The Lancet  Researchers at NUI Galway’s CORRIB Research Centre for Advanced Imaging and Core Laboratory have developed a new model for assessing treatments to improve outcomes for patients with complex coronary artery disease. The group have expanded clinical assessment modelling which may improve the ability of medical professionals to inform patients and their families about the potential risks and benefits of alternative treatments for a disease that causes the death of 17.9 million people worldwide each year. The new assessment model will also support more open and shared decision-making process between doctors, patients and their families. The research is led by world renowned expert on interventional cardiology, Professor Patrick W Serruys, who was the first person to treat patients with a drug-eluting stent in 1999 and further revolutionized the field of interventional cardiology when introducing the use of fully biodegradable drug-eluting scaffolds. This study, ‘Individualized Decision Making between Percutaneous and Surgical Revascularization in Patients withComplex Coronary Artery Disease: Redevelopment and Validation of the SYNTAX Score 2020’, has been published in world leading medical scientific journal The Lancet (today Thursday, 8 October 2020). The research aims to enhance understanding of the optimal treatment strategy for individual patients with complex coronary artery disease. It also aims to negate the bias of individual doctors towards certain treatments (i.e. bypass or stenting), in favour of a more personalized, rounded and better considered method of treatment based on a patient's medical history, condition and other factors.   The SYNTAX Score 2020 analyses a number of factors including age, kidney function, ability of the heart to pump blood around the body, compounding heart disease and diabetes and smoking status. This range is used in order to individually predict the patient's 10-year mortality and 5-year major adverse cardiac events and help the Heart Team in the hospital identify whether the patient would benefit more from bypass surgery or treatment with stents. The research team used data from a landmark SYNTAXES clinical trial to develop a predictive model that explicitly considers baseline outcome risk, so that they can distinguish between patients who benefit from bypass surgery and those who may benefit from stent application.  The SYNTAXES study demonstrated no significant difference in 10-year all-cause death between patients randomized to bypass vs stenting. In contrast, the predictive model from the NUI Galway analysis provides a more nuanced interpretation of the results by identifying patients who derive substantial survival benefit from bypass surgery versus stenting, and those for whom there is little expected difference between the strategies.  Professor Serruys said: “We consider that one treatment (bypass) versus another (stent) is not globally superior, inferior or equal, but a specific treatment is superior, inferior or equal for a specific patient. “For this individualized decision-making, the SYNTAX Score 2020 model generates a prediction of treatment benefit for individual patients based on their angiographic and clinical variables.”  Professor Serruys expands: “The ratios of different treatment choices vary across Europe and even across regions in European countries, where doctors may prefer a particular treatment based on their experience, specialty or background. These do not always represent guideline recommendations, potentially resulting in inaccurate risk assessment and the choice of inappropriate treatments with suboptimal outcomes. “If the Heart Team in a hospital uses our model for a patient, it should enable a more individualized and patient-centered care in patients with complex coronary artery disease.”  Prof Serruys and the extended study team, including Professor Yoshinobu Onuma, Director of Coronary Imaging and Atherosclerosis Research at CORRIB Core Lab at NUI Galway, have recommended further studies based on adequately powered randomized trials of bypass versus stenting, with 5-10 year follow-up using contemporary revascularization techniques, devices and adjunctive medical therapy to prospectively validate the SYNTAX Score 2020 model. Prof Onuma added: “Our new model provides expected probabilities of 5 and 10 year outcomes. This may improve the ability of the Heart Team to inform patients and their families about the potential risks and rewards of alternative treatments for complex coronary artery disease and support a more transparent shared decision-making process.”  The full text of the article is being made available here http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)32114-0/fulltext -Ends- 

Thursday, 8 October 2020

NUI Galway has been awarded €7.5 million in funding this week for its ‘ASPIRE: Next Generation Graduates’ project as part of the Human Capital Initiative funded by the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science. The goal of ASPIRE is to enable every student to succeed in the future world of work. ASPIRE will ultimately empower every student to design their personalised skills development pathway, and to have their transversal skills achievements recognised on graduation alongside their degree. This approach, if more widely adopted, could position Ireland as a leader in innovative, student-centred and enterprise-engaged education in Europe. ASPIRE will initially transform undergraduate Arts and Science programmes and then building out to all students. Innovative methods of teaching and delivery will be promoted in this project, so that learners will benefit from improved quality and more engaging ways of learning on enterprise-focused courses, providing lifelong learning and upskilling opportunities for all. Human Capital Initiative Pillar 3, Innovation and Agility is the final pillar to be announced of this initiative and commands a total budget of €197 million over the 5-year period, 2020 to 2024. Human Capital Initiative Pillar 3 will deliver 22 projects in higher education institutions, 17 of which involve collaborations between institutions. Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, said: “I am delighted to be able to announce the broad range of projects that will be funded under the HCI Pillar 3. These projects will develop and change teaching and learning. This global pandemic has reinforced the need for us all to be agile and diverse. Crucially though it requires us to develop new skills and equip the next generation with the critical importance to the economy and the workplace of the future.” Caroline Loughnane, Secretary for Governance and Academic Affairs, NUI Galway, said: “We are delighted to receive this funding and endorsement of our approach for a student-centred skills development programme. ASPIRE will establish education partnerships with enterprise, address education gaps identified by student union officers and staff alike, and adopt best practise from leading universities abroad. We look forward to collaborating with our campus community and in our region to make this happen.” Higher Education Authority CEO, Dr Alan Wall, has congratulated all of the higher education institutions receiving funding under the HCI scheme: “It is great to see the culmination of this process as it represents hundreds of hours of work by the Higher Education Authority working with the higher education institutions and our international panel.” The ASPIRE: Next Generation Graduates project is led by NUI Galway, partnered by a consortium of large and small enterprises, and draws on best practice in design thinking and trans-disciplinary learning pioneered by Stanford University and Georgia Institute of Technology in the US and the University of Strathclyde in Europe. ASPIRE is strategically aligned with NUI Galway’s ambition to transform undergraduate education, starting with Arts and Science. All of the West of Ireland’s key industry clusters are represented in this project including Medtronic and Boston Scientific, Aerogen, Veryan Medical, Mbryonics, SAP and Channel Mechanics, Rent the Runway and Galway International Arts Festival. -Ends-

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

NUI Galway research project is aimed at understanding the mental health needs of Irish and Italian frontline healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic NUI Galway researchers in collaboration with the University of Milano-Bicocca, Milan, are leading The Frontline Worker Support (FLoWS) project to develop guidelines for alleviating psychological distress in frontline healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. To inform these guidelines, the researchers are seeking Irish and Italian frontline healthcare workers who came into repeated contact with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients during the pandemic to share their experiences. This includes frontline workers of all professional backgrounds such as doctors, nurses, paramedics, cleaning or catering staff working in the health service, and levels of experience in their profession ranging from junior, intermediate and senior staff. Recent findings (from a number of international studies) have indicated the COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the mental health of frontline healthcare workers due to worries about contracting the virus and spreading it to loved ones, long working hours, and being unable to effectively treat patients due to limited treatment options. In order for mental health practitioners to effectively address these symptoms, it is necessary to understand the risk factors for psychological stress (such as age, type of occupation and professional experience), the types of psychological distress symptoms being experienced, and the most effective methods for promoting resilience in healthcare workers. However, due to a scarcity of research, the specific mental health needs of frontline healthcare workers remain poorly understood. Professor Brian McGuire, Professor of Clinical Psychology, NUI Galway, said: “As we will be living alongside COVID for some time, the development of guidelines to support the long-term psychological wellbeing of healthcare workers is crucial. We need healthcare workers to contribute to the project to ensure these guidelines will accurately reflect and address the worries and issues that they are experiencing as a result of the pandemic.” The FLoWS project will comprise of two studies that will collect information concurrently over the coming weeks; an online survey will assess symptoms of psychological distress, personal and professional experiences throughout the pandemic, and insights into how psychological distress can be most effectively alleviate; and an interview study where researchers will meet virtually with healthcare workers to discuss their experiences in more depth. To participate in the study, please visit www.flowsproject.eu or email info@flowsproject.eu.  -Ends-

Monday, 5 October 2020

Researchers are asking the public for their views to develop an online programme to support healthy behaviours to prevent Diabetes Researchers from the School of Psychology in NUI Galway are inviting people to share their views on Diabetes, diet, physical activity, and a programme that uses a smartphone app and live health coaching to help people improve their health.   The PRE-T2D (Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes) study is a 15-minute online survey that is open to all people aged over 18 living in Ireland and findings will be critical to the development of an online Diabetes Prevention Programme to be delivered in Ireland. According to the Healthy Ireland Survey, over 800,000 adults over 40 in Ireland either have, or are at risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. This condition can be prevented through healthy eating and regular physical activity. However, maintaining healthy behaviours can be challenging, particularly during a pandemic. Luke Van Rhoon, PhD Candidate in Health Psychology, Health Behaviour Change Research Group, NUI Galway, said: “We aim not only to prevent Diabetes, but help people to better manage their diet, exercise, and daily stress in the long run. This is particularly important as we currently face many new physical and psychological challenges due to the emergence of Covid-19. Technology is becoming increasingly vital in the self-management of our health and how we communicate with health care professionals, friends, and family. Although online Diabetes Prevention Programmes have been successfully implemented in other countries, it is important to create a unique programme that suits the needs of the Irish population.” This study is funded by the Irish Research Council and is supervised by Professor Molly Byrne and Dr Jenny McSharry, Directors of the Health Behaviour Change Research Group at NUI Galway. Professor Molly Byrne, said: “In Ireland, like in many countries around the world, we are seeing an increasing prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes in the community, linked with growing levels of obesity and lower levels of physical activity. Developing new programmes which people really want to engage with to prevent Diabetes is a priority for our health services. “Online programmes can overcome some of the challenges affecting face-to-face programmes and we now know from the research that digital health interventions can be effective in increasing physical activity, changing diets and promoting weight loss. Our research which is being conducted in collaboration with the National Programme for Diabetes, will provide really important findings to ensure that online Diabetes Prevention programmes which are developed in Ireland are usable by the people who will benefit most from them.” For more information about the Diabetes Prevention Study visit, http://www.pret2d.com/survey or to request a paper-based survey with free return postage, contact Luke Van Rhoon at l.vanrhoon1@nuigalway.ie. All participants will be entered into a draw to win one of two €100 One4All gift cards. There is also the opportunity to participate in a follow-up phone or video interview study, if participants choose to do so.  -Ends-

Monday, 5 October 2020

Researchers recommend to NPHET that communications emphasise positive outcomes of adherence to guidelines  Research from NUI Galway as part of a global study of attitudes towards Covid-19 public health guidelines shows that threats of arrest, fines or quarantine do not help encourage people to behave in line with the advice. The International Covid-19 Awareness and Responses Evaluation (iCARE) research is being carried out in collaboration with the Montreal Behavioural Medicine Centre (MBMC) in Canada to understand the socio-demographic, behavioural and economic determinants of adherence to physical distancing guidance. Wave 5 of the iCARE survey is currently underway. To find out more and to take part visit https://mbmc-cmcm.ca/covid19. Data from the study is being fed back to the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) Subgroup on Behavioural Change, which is advising the Government on its communications strategy. Dr Hannah Durand, iCARE collaborator and behavioural science researcher at NUI Galway said: “The research is yielding tangible and useful results as it helps to provide data-driven recommendations to governments on how to optimise policy and communication strategies. “After half a year of observing physical distancing, working remotely and wearing masks, one of the starkest warnings from the research is that we have evidence that a fatigue is setting in. “Tellingly, people are consistently reporting the best motivator of adherence to physical distancing and other preventive measures is receiving feedback on how their behaviour is slowing the spread of the disease and saving lives. It suggests that behaviour may be changed by highlighting signs of success. “We have also seen a surprising twist in how campaigns are received by the public. Threats of arrest, fines or quarantine do not appear to be helpful. Likewise, messages about the negative consequences of ignoring health recommendations - like an elderly relative will get sick and die - were found to be less effective than those that emphasised positive outcomes. “This needs to be reflected in the ways we communicate with the public to bring about change in behaviour.” Some of the key findings of the iCARE study to date include – :: The vast majority of people are doing the right things, such as following government and health authority directives designed to limit the spread of the virus. Of all prevention measures, wearing a mask had the poorest adherence (49%). :: Respondents say they are following safety measures less rigorously now than they did in March. :: Just over 16% of people who tested positive for Covid-19 or suspect they have the virus have reported not self-isolating. :: Most people reported they are adhering to physical distancing guidelines, specifically staying two metres away from others (84%) and avoiding large gatherings (90%), most of the time. :: Adherence to hand hygiene guidelines (89%) and good coughing etiquette (86%) was also high. :: The top concern for people was that a relative who they do not live with would be infected with Covid-19 - eight in ten were somewhat or greatly concerned about this. :: More than half of the people surveyed (58%) were somewhat or greatly concerned about being isolated. Dr Simon Bacon, co-lead of the iCARE study, said: “The research is showing that it tends to be men more often than women, usually in their 20s and early 30s who are not following the isolation measures in full. There are several explanations for this, including greater risk-taking propensity among young men. However, we must acknowledge that young people are more likely to work in low-paid, public-facing jobs that make it difficult to adhere to restrictions. They are a key group of people we need to re-engage with.” NUI Galway iCARE collaborator Dr Durand added: “Based on the results so far we believe targeted messaging is key to getting populations to follow public health guidelines. Government-sponsored efforts at encouraging adherence must be customised to the group they are designed to reach.” Dr Kim Lavoie, co-lead of the iCARE study, said: “A one-size fits all message does not seem to be reaching everyone. Some are motivated by health concerns, others by economic and social concerns. The trick is figuring out what message will resonate with whom and tailoring accordingly.” Ends

Monday, 5 October 2020

NUI Galway, OmniSpirant Limited and Aerogen Limited have been awarded major funding to develop a new aerosol treatment with potential benefits across acute and chronic lung diseases, including COVID-19 An Irish consortium involving NUI Galway, OmniSpirant Limited, a start-up biotechnology company and Aerogen Limited, have been awarded €11.6 million under the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund (DTIF). The funding will be used to develop a new exosome based inhaled treatment for Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) which is responsible for the vast majority of COVID-19 deaths. Research from the JAMA Internal Medicine suggests that more than 40% of individuals in the study hospitalised for severe and critical COVID-19 developed ARDS, and over 50% of those diagnosed died from the disease. This cutting edge treatment also has the potential to treat Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). COPD is a disease that affects hundreds of millions of patients worldwide, it is the third leading cause of death globally and is currently lacking any effective treatments. The Global Burden of Disease Study reports a prevalence of 251 million cases of COPD globally in 2016. Globally, it is estimated that 3.17 million deaths were caused by the disease in 2015, 5% of all deaths globally in that year. The three-year grant funded programme aims to complete Phase 1 clinical trial studies in ARDS patients and to complete the preclinical development needed to support clinical studies in COPD patients. Professor John Laffey, Professor of Intensive Care Medicine at NUI Galway and Consultant in Intensive Care Medicine, Galway University Hospitals, said: “Current pharmacologic therapies are of marginal benefit for COVID-19 patients suffering with ARDS, and advanced support of respiratory function in Intensive Care Units remains the main therapeutic approach. Aerosolized delivery of engineered cell products that can target the inflammatory response to COVID-19 could prevent or even reverse severe COVID-19 induced respiratory injury, which would be game-changing in reducing mortality from this devastating infection. It also shows very promising anti-infection benefits, which in addition to having knock-on benefits for COPD patients, could also be applied to other aggressive lung conditions such as Cystic Fibrosis patients.” OmniSpirant will provide the technological expertise to produce exosomes from genetically modified stem cells. OmniSpirant have also developed a method to enhance the delivery of these exosomes into lung tissues. These exosomes will then be delivered by an inhaled aerosol to recode diseased lung cells in patients, using Aerogen’s expertise and best in class technology in this area. The Centre for Cell Manufacturing at NUI Galway will industrialise the scalable manufacturing process for this new treatment. Gerry McCauley MPharm, MPSI, CEO OmniSpirant Limited, said: “We have entered the age of advanced therapeutics, where cell based and gene therapies have curative potential for complex diseases. Our proprietary technologies unlock huge potential to effectively deliver novel treatments into the lung to address many serious lung diseases. Specifically, the DTIF funding is aimed at developing OS002, an innovative treatment which could address two major global pandemics. The death rate for ARDS shows that it has a mortality rate of 30-40% of those diagnosed with the disease. This currently lacks effective treatments and due to COVID-19 is causing a devastating global death toll. Even in a world without COVID-19 ARDS affects an estimated three million people every year. Secondly, OS002 could also prove transformational for chronic lung diseases, particularly the 100’s of millions of COPD patients globally who are currently suffering with no access to effective treatment options.” Aerogen Ireland was founded in 1997 and are world leaders in the field of aerosol delivery devices. Drug delivery of cell therapies by aerosol of this nature has traditionally been complex and Aerogen are partnering on this new and novel treatment to provide the expertise and the technology which will be used to develop devices to deliver the exosome treatments by aerosol. Dr Ronan MacLoughlin, Head of Respiratory Science at Aerogen Limited, said: “Aerogen are delighted to be involved in this potentially transformative project that leans on a unique combination of disruptive technologies. Over 12 million patients have benefited from Aerogen technology to date and we look forward to bringing to bear Aerogen’s unique expertise in this field and working with OmniSpirant and the Centre for Cell Manufacturing Ireland at NUI Galway over the coming years in bringing this technology to patients worldwide.” The Centre for Cell Manufacturing Ireland (CCMI) at NUI Galway is the first and only approved cell manufacturing facility in Ireland. This purpose built fully-licensed centre is designed to manufacture Advanced Therapeutic Medicinal Products, such as stem cells, for use in human clinical trials. Dr Janusz Krawczyk, Clinical Director of the Centre for Cell Manufacturing Ireland (CCMI), NUI Galway, said: “In collaborating with OmniSpirant and Aerogen, the CCMI will apply our unique expertise to develop the manufacturing process of exosome-based therapy. The Centre is ideally placed, with experience and expertise in bringing treatments such as this from bench to pre-clinical stage to early clinical trials. I am delighted to see the CCMI involved in a second DTIF project which ensures that this unique resource in Ireland fulfils its translational potential in stem cell therapy and regenerative medicine. The programme is also aligned with NUI Galway’s ambition to partner with national and multinational industry to ensure that research discoveries have a beneficial impact on patient care. This partnership will confirm the University’s leadership in world-class research and positions Ireland as a strategic global leader in the development of new regenerative medicine technology.” Dr Imelda Lambkin, Enterprise Ireland, said: “The Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund administered by Enterprise Ireland is a big opportunity for both large companies and SMEs to collaborate with research bodies to produce technologies that have the potential to really change a market or sector. Indeed, the funding awarded to OmniSpirant Limited, Aerogen Limited and NUI Galway to develop a new treatment for Covid-19 will potentially save lives. The third call for the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund will open later this month and we strongly encourage companies and researchers with a disruptive idea or technology to apply.” The Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund is a €500 million Project Ireland 2040 fund confirmed under the National Development Plan in 2018.  -Ends-

Monday, 5 October 2020

Survey led by NUI Galway and the Western Development Commission is seeking participants to give their experience of remote working six months after lockdown Researchers from the Whitaker Institute at NUI Galway and the Western Development Commission have launched the second phase of the national remote working survey. The survey will gather data on employees’ experiences of remote working six months after lockdown. The survey is led by Professor Alma McCarthy and Dr Katerina Bohle-Carbonell at NUI Galway, and Tomás Ó Síocháin and Deirdre Frost at Western Development Commission.  The study will provide insights on how remote working has changed employees work and employment experiences. The second survey builds on the survey the research team undertook in April this year soon after the national lockdown which mandated remote working for those employees who could do so. The second phase survey will enable trend analyses on changes in employees’ experiences between Phase 1 (April 2020) and now, six months later (October 2020) in what has become a prolonged change in work habits for many employees who continue to work remotely. Data will also capture commuting habits and how remote working impacts emissions and the environment. Speaking about the second national survey, Professor Alma McCarthy, Professor of Public Sector Management, J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics,  said: “The first survey we did in April 2020 was of huge interest to the public and we got over 7,200 responses from employees who were working remotely across the country. 83% of respondents at that time indicated they would like to continue to work remotely for some or all of the time after the crisis is over. The crisis potentially presents a game-changer for how organisations manage their workforce and employee workplace preferences. It is now timely to examine remote working six months on from lockdown.”  Tomás Ó Síocháin, CEO of the Western Development Commission, said: “The information collected in these surveys will help to ensure that the correct measures are in place to support those working remotely. Identifying the opportunities and challenges will mean that remote working infrastructure such as broadband and remote working hubs, for example, will allow both individuals and communities to minimise the challenges and to make the most of this fundamental shift in the way we work.” The research team will analyse the findings of the second national remote working survey and make them publicly available on both NUI Galway’s Whitaker Institute and the Western Development Commission websites by the end of October. The report and key statistics from the first national survey are also available on these websites. The remote working study findings will be available to inform employers about employee experiences of remote working. The research team will provide recommendations for employers on how to better manage remote working in the current crisis as well as more generally. To complete the survey visit https://bit.ly/3kXjH9w.   To view both surveys on the Whitaker Institute’s Project page, visit: https://bit.ly/3nbxSK8. -Ends-

Friday, 2 October 2020

Free online events will challenge the various stereotypes of young people - from being ‘snowflakes’ who lack resilience, to being uncaring ‘COVID delinquents’  The School of Psychology at NUI Galway will host a series of Youth Mental Health lunchtime webinar events from 5-9 October, leading up to World Mental Health Day on Saturday, 10 October. Some of the questions being addressed at the webinar events include: Why do young people feel the need to meet up so much, even when this is apparently disregarding COVID-19 related public health advice? Why are anxiety levels so high among Irish young people? How can we effectively respond to their needs for support using online and other strategies? Professor Gary Donohue, School of Psychology at NUI Galway, said: “A variety of perspectives and studies will be presented and discussed to expand our understanding of young people, their mental health, and their health service needs. Challenging the various stereotypes of young people - from being ‘snowflakes’ who lack resilience, to being uncaring ‘COVID delinquents’ - this conference will present latest evidence on psychological development and mental health. It will touch on the variety of factors that influence wellbeing, the supports necessary, as well as the challenge for mental health services in responding to those needs.” Professor Margaret Barry, Head of the World Health Organisation’s Collaborating Centre for Health Promotion Research at NUI Galway will discuss the need to reframe the challenge of improving youth mental health in terms of resilience building supports that include access to skills, resources and life opportunities. Dr Aileen O’Reilly, Research and Evaluation Manager for Jigsaw, the National Service for Youth mental health, will present data highlighting how anxiety is a normal response to uncertainty, with COVID-19 adding to the already high anxiety experienced by young people, who live in a complex world where they have already a lot to navigate through. Professor Siobhan O’Neil, Professor of Mental Health Sciences at the University of Ulster and Mental Health Champion for Northern Ireland in her talk on suicide prevention will discuss the genuine losses that young people have experienced at a critical developmental stage -loss of the life transition rituals, uncertainty and debate over the validity of their exam results, and the damage of limitations to the social and peer connections that are necessary to cope.   Tony Bates, Founder of the Jigsaw services in Ireland will host a forum on the challenges to sense of self and mental health currently experienced by young people. In addition to national and international experts discussing the mental health needs of young people aged from 12-25 years, a first person account of lived experiences of young people using mental health services and supports in Ireland will also be shared. The online events each day are free and tickets are available at www.eventbrite.ie, search for ‘YOULEAD 1st Annual Youth Mental Health Research Lunchtime Webinar Series’. -Ends-

Friday, 2 October 2020

The findings are the result of research carried out by a team from NUI Galway’s Journalism and Communications discipline A new study by NUI Galway has found that online abuse of female politicians is on the increase and has included threats of physical and sexual violence against them and their families. Current and former female members of the Oireachtas, as well as female councillors from all major political parties were interviewed in the qualitative study. The interim findings are part of a study carried out by a team from NUI Galway’s Journalism and Communication discipline. The findings were presented today (Friday, 2 October) to a webinar ‘Cyber Harassment: Women in Politics and Online Abuse’ organised by the European Parliament’s Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality and the National Women’s Council of Ireland. Some 96 per cent of those interviewed as part of the study have received social media or email messages that used threatening language or ‘hate mail’; while three quarters say they have been threatened with physical violence via online or social media. Almost two in five reported they had been threatened with sexual violence, with a quarter saying they have been verbally abused in public. One politician had faeces thrown at her in public while another was threatened with an acid attack. A former TD said: “I was repeatedly threatened by a troll who threatened to throw acid in my face. Another once said he knew where I lived and he’d be standing in my garden waiting for me.” Other respondents admitted to: receiving threatening and abusive phone calls at home and on their mobile phone being worried about their family’s safety as a result of threats on social media not feeling comfortable attending large public meetings alone having considered quitting politics as a result of the abuse received A small minority say they have reported the abuse, but of those that made complaints a number said they found it hard to get gardai and social media companies to take threats seriously, as there was a perception that politicians were ‘fair game’. Tom Felle, Head of Journalism and Communication at NUI Galway, said: “Some of these results are truly shocking. Social media has become a den of misogyny, a cesspit of trolls, where many female public representatives are abused and bullied regularly. Threats of physical violence are criminal acts and abuse of this nature is abhorrent. “At a time when society needs to see more women entering politics there is a real danger that this behaviour will have a chilling effect and discourage women from running for public office. The findings are particularly telling in local government.” The findings are part of ongoing research at NUI Galway. The first series of 69 interviews was carried out between November 2019 and March 2020, with further interviews planned. -Ends-

Friday, 2 October 2020

NUI Galway’s J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics and the School of Physics have been awarded a departmental Bronze Athena SWAN Award in recognition of their commitment to advancing gender equality in higher education and creating cultural change within the University. NUI Galway received an Institutional Bronze award in 2018 along with the University’s School of Medicine NUI Galway President, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, said: “I would like to congratulate the J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics and the School of Physics on the Athena SWAN Bronze Award. It is a reflection on the excellent work of all those involved and is truly impressive that this work was completed as we simultaneously faced the challenges of Covid-19, and sustains our commitment to advancing equality to all staff and students consistent with our values of openness and respect.”  Speaking upon the announcement of the award, Dr. Tom Acton, Head of School of the J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics, said: “Following two years of data gathering, gap analysis and self-assessment, leading to the development of a comprehensive and ambitious Action Plan, the J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics at NUI Galway is delighted to learn that it has been awarded the Athena SWAN Bronze Award. We are committed to inclusion, equality and diversity and to implementing the principles that underpin the Athena SWAN Charter and are thrilled that our hard work and commitment has been recognised with this award.” Professor Gerard O’Connor, Head of NUI Galway’s School of Physics, said: “I wish to convey my sincere thanks to staff and students for this important public recognition of our commitment to inclusiveness, equality and diversity in the School of Physics. We see this Athena SWAN Award as a milestone rather than a destination –one which is aligned with the School’s future competitiveness in research and teaching and which is integral with all our students future employability.” The Athena SWAN charter launched in the Republic of Ireland in early 2015. The extension of the charter to Ireland was made possible through funding from the Higher Education Authority. Engagement with the charter is a key pillar of Ireland’s national strategy for gender equality with progress linked to institutional eligibility for funding from Ireland’s major research agencies. The Athena SWAN Gender Equality Charter was originally established to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment in higher education and research. Since 2015 the charter recognises work undertaken in arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law (AHSSBL), and in professional and support roles, and for trans staff and students. The charter now recognises work undertaken to address gender equality more broadly. -Ends-

Thursday, 1 October 2020

NUI Galway Professor discusses the scientific basis of alien life, and its probable extent across the many recently discovered exoplanets, in his new book ‘The Biological Universe’ Wallace Arthur, an NUI Galway Emeritus Professor of Zoology and a distinctive voice in the growing field of astrobiology has published a new book, The Biological Universe. The book brings together the latest discoveries in biology and astronomy to examine the issues of the probable nature of extra-terrestrial life, its extent across the vastness of the Universe, and our chances of finding conclusive evidence for it within the next couple of decades, using the new generation of space telescopes. In addressing these issues, The Biological Universe tackles the many riddles of our place and fate in the Universe that have intrigued human beings since they first gazed in wonder at the night-time sky over ancient Africa.  Wallace Arthur, NUI Galway Emeritus Professor of Zoology, said: “This is a fascinating time in the history of science’s quest to discover life beyond the Earth. Our past speculations about the existence of planets and life beyond our own solar system are fast being replaced by facts, many of which are described in this book. The last 25 years have seen incredible growth in our knowledge of exoplanets – planets that orbit not our own Sun, but distant stars, which are of course suns in their own right. The first exoplanet was discovered in 1995. By the turn of the millennium we knew of a few dozen. By 2010 the number had reached a few hundred. Now, in 2020, it’s more than 4,000 and growing fast.” Many of the newly discovered planets are in the habitable zone – the zone within which liquid water can exist on their surfaces in the form of lakes and oceans, as it does here on Earth. Professor Arthur explains: “We now have the technology to analyse the atmospheres of these planets, looking in particular for biosignature gases, such as oxygen and ozone. And our ability to conduct such analyses will be greatly enhanced by the next generation of space telescopes, currently at an advanced stage of planning at NASA. If evidence of extra-terrestrial life is indeed found soon, and the enduring question of ‘are we alone in the Universe?’ is finally answered with a resounding ‘no’ as seems likely, it will be the most significant discovery in the history of humanity.” For more information on The Biological Universe, which will be will be published this month by Cambridge University Press, visit: http://www.cambridgeblog.org/2020/08/are-we-alone-in-the-universe/.  -Ends-

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

NUI Galway Ryan Institute researchers are developing Covid-19 testing of saliva samples using next-generation synthetic biology tools  Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) is funding a COVID-19 Rapid Response project led by the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway, to combine a next-generation Covid-19 genetic testing approach with saliva sampling, using a “synthetic biology” toolbox called CRISPR-Cas. In collaboration with international partners from the USA and UK, the Genetics and Biotechnology lab of Professor Charles Spillane in the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway is developing a rapid CRISPR-Cas based system for detection of the virus in saliva samples. By using pooled samples, they are working on the development of Covid-19 surveillance systems for viral testing of groups of people (households, classes, companies and institution) to ultimately enable routine weekly testing. The current testing system for the presence of the Covid-19 is carried out by taking swabs from people’s noses and the back of their throats, which is cumbersome, costly and time-consuming. Current testing systems for the presence of Covid-19 are largely based on RT-PCR assays on the swab samples, using DNA technologies that were first developed in the 1990s. In the absence of a vaccine, there is an unmet need to massively scale up both sampling and testing throughput so that routine weekly surveillance testing of groups can enable people to know when members of their group may be infected or not.  The Covid-19 Rapid Response project will use a highly-precise genetic “homing system” called CRISPR-Cas to develop protocols for testing saliva samples for the presence or absence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. They will develop workflows for rapidly testing individual saliva samples as well as pooled samples from groups of people, to enable routine mass weekly testing in households, schools, companies and other group settings. By developing a rapid, targeted diagnostics and screening workflow using saliva samples, the research hopes to enable Covid-19 exit strategies from lockdown in Ireland and globally based on large-scale, weekly mass testing. Professor Charles Spillane, Director of The Ryan Institute at NUI Galway, said; “On St. Patricks day I sent a Briefing Note to a range of political leaders and government bodies in Ireland recommending that we should seriously consider a mass-testing strategy for phased exit from Covid-19 lockdown measures that could allow our economy and society to function. While progress has since been made on behavioural change ‘suppression’ measures to limit the growth of the pandemic in many countries, there remains significant potential for developing and deploying cheaper and more rapid viral sampling and test systems that could be scaled up for testing large groups of people on a routine weekly basis for the presence or absence of the virus. “As we progress, I am interested in partnering our research with any groups (companies, schools, institutions, healthcare workers and communities) who may be interested in working with us to scale-up routine weekly testing systems so that groups can better operate for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is important that Science Foundation Ireland is supporting a swathe of rapid response Covid-19 research and innovation activities that have potential to improve the resilience of our public health, society and economy, during and beyond the pandemic.” -Ends-

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

The webinar will be opened by Ms Sabina Higgins, a strong advocate for breastfeeding and breastfeeding mothers The College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at NUI Galway and the Health Service Executive (HSE), will host an online webinar in celebration of National Breastfeeding Week 2020 on Thursday, 7 October at 2pm. The theme of the online event is ‘Diverse global perspectives on breastfeeding and breastfeeding support’ and will be opened by Ms Sabina Higgins, and closed by the National Breastfeeding Co-ordinator Ireland, Laura McHugh. Dr Sarah Brennan, a GP and lecturer at the NUI Galway’s Donegal Medical Academy in Letterkenny, and one of the event organisers, said: “We are conscious that this time is especially difficult for new mothers. We are delighted that so many acclaimed international speakers are able to link in virtually and share with us their diverse wisdom around breastfeeding and breastfeeding support.  “This online webinar is supported by several parties including the National Lead and Minister for Health, Mr. Stephen Donnelly, the HSE, and the HSE Breastfeeding Committees of Community Healthcare Organisation 1 (CHO1) which includes Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan, Monaghan.” The webinar will consist of three sections, each with short 15-minute presentations, with opportunities for questions and answers at the end of each section:  The opening section will explore Human Milk, Sustainability, and Micro-biology with Dr Natalie Shenker, Imperial College London, of Hearts Milk Bank, London; Professor Julie Smith, a global expert in Health Economics, from the Australian National University, Canberra; and Dr Simon Cameron, Vice Chancellor’s Fellow with Queen’s University Belfast. The second section will look at Breastfeeding Support and society during a pandemic and includes Dr Nigel Rollins, Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health at the World Health Organization (WHO); Professor Amy Brown, Department of Public Health, Policy and Social Sciences at Swansea University; and Dr Elizabeth McCarthy, College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences and School of Psychology at NUI Galway. The third section will explore Culture and breastfeeding/physiology with James Akre, Freelance author who formerly worked with the WHO and UNICEF; Professor Sue Carter, Distinguished Research Scientist at Indiana University who discovered the relationship between social behaviour and oxytocin; and Dr Wendy Jones, MBE, pharmacist and founding member of The Breastfeeding Network. Co-organiser Dr Elizabeth McCarthy, NUI Galway, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has motivated us to arrange this virtual conference so that we could bring together mothers, fathers, breastfeeding supporters, health care professionals, and policy makers to share and learn from our local and global experts.” The full programme for the event is available at www.nuigalway.ie/breastfeedingconference2020. For further queries please contact Dr Elizabeth McCarthy at elizabeth.mccarthyquinn@nuigalway.ie, or Dr Sarah Brennan at sarah.s.brennan@nuigalway.ie. Registration for this event is essential as places will be limited. Register at: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/diverse-global-perspectives-on-breastfeeding-and-breastfeeding-support-tickets-122400433993. -Ends-

Friday, 25 September 2020

One in four places awarded on a scholarship basis  The NUI Galway Youth Academy, an outreach programme aimed at high ability 9-12 year olds, is taking its courses online and is currently accepting applications for the October 2020 intake. The Youth Academy offers a unique opportunity for primary school children to get their first taste of university life by studying a fun but high level course in a college subject area.   Normally delivered on campus, the courses have been redesigned for virtual delivery in line with current public health guidelines. The courses on offer are outside of the primary school curriculum which allows children the opportunity to make new discoveries in different areas of study, in a fun and interactive way. There are 16 courses available this October including ‘Geographers: the world’s explorers!’, ‘A world we cannot see: the secret life of mircobes’, ‘the mysterious mind’ and ‘DNA: the data inside us’. A student choses one course for the duration of the programe with classes taking place virtually every Saturday for six weeks.    Geraldine Marley, Youth Academy Coordinator, Student Recruitment and Outreach, NUI Galway, said: “We had the opportunity to trial online courses with the Youth Academy Summer Camp in July and received very positive feedback from students and parents. Although we would love to host the children on campus, we have prepared a very exciting six week course which will include sending packs to the homes of participants, instruction and demo videos and a live virtual class each week.”   Eligibility is based on achievement in a pupil’s most recent English or Maths standardised tests (Drumcondra, Sigma or Micra T) carried out in schools. The cost of participation is €110 and in every intake, 25% of places are made available as scholarships for students to attend the Youth Academy free of charge, based on economic circumstances.   Classes will take place virtually every Saturday for six weeks starting on 17 October.  Further information on entry requirements and applications is available at http://www.nuigalway.ie/youthacademy/Applications are made online and remain open until 5pm on Sunday, 27September.  -Ends-  

Friday, 25 September 2020

A researcher at NUI Galway is seeking to record the experiences of a group of young people of disabilities who made decisions that affected their lives.PhD candidate Clíona de Bhailís has launched the project in the University’s Centre for Disability Law and Policy and is recruiting young disabled people from Ireland aged 15 to 20.The research project, It’s My Life!, is exploring how young people with a disability can exercise their right to make decisions and use support when making decisions in line with Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). The project will recruit people with experience of a broad range of disabilities including physical, sensory, intellectual or learning disability, neurodiversity or those with experience of the mental health system.Ireland ratified the UNCRPD in 2018 and will submit a report to the UN Committee which monitors countries compliance with the Convention in the coming year. The researcher would like young people with disabilities to answer questions about a good experience of decision making as well as a bad experience of decision making, or a time they didn’t feel listened to and what helps them to make decisions. Researcher Clíona de Bhailís said: “Decision making for adults with disabilities has come under increased focus in recent years with a number of very important research projects and law reform initiatives taking place. But decision making skills don’t magically appear when you become an adult at the age of 18. “It is only by being given the opportunity to make decisions that these skills are developed over time “Young people should have a say on issues that affect them and this project is designed to hear directly from young people with disabilities about their experiences.” Ms de Bhailís added: “We want to build a better understanding of how young people with disabilities are using support and use research as a means of influencing policy and law. It should also help to look at how we might apply the Assisted Decision Making Capacity Act to people at a younger age in the future.” The research was changed in light of the Covid-19 restrictions and the reduced supports available to many young people and it can be done remotely or digitally. The questions are available in a variety of formats including a link to an online survey and an Easy Read form. The It’s My Life research project is funded by the Irish Research Council under the Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship Programme and supervised by Professor Eilionóir Flynn, Director of the Centre for Disability Law and Policy at NUI Galway. Ends

Thursday, 24 September 2020

Health and safety of students, staff and the wider community is a top priority as campus reopens NUI Galway reopened its campus this week to welcome its First Year students to a three-day dedicated online and on campus orientation. Senior University staff are leading familiarisation sessions with students as part of efforts to help them navigate their way in this new environment of learning and being on campus. Returning students and teaching staff will return to the blended teaching model from Monday, 28 September. In adherence with Government and Public Health Guidelines the University has undertaken significant measures to encourage new behaviours on campus that are necessary for everyone to work together to keep students, staff and the wider community safe. Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh, Deputy President and Registrar of NUI Galway, said: “As we begin an academic year like no other, our top priority is obviously the safety of our community, both on campus and locally. For various reasons, an online only model will not suit many students, and we are doing our utmost to deliver a safe blended teaching model, so students get the best possible learning experience. This group of students carry a responsibility that no other group has had to bear before them, as the usual rites of passage of college life will have to be reimagined, so that we can keep each other safe. We are asking our community to work with us to make that happen. “As with every community in Ireland, the NUI Galway community has been impacted by COVID-19. The University orientation is heavily focused on the safe behaviours required to be a student during this pandemic and to remind the community of the severity of the illness.” Lynn Porter, a second year Commerce student at NUI Galway, who overcame Covid-19 last March, said: “I want to make all students aware of how serious this virus is and that we all have to work together to stop it spreading. When I was in hospital, I never felt fear like it because of the unknown and the uncertainty of how bad I could get. I was lucky to come out the other side, but it’s an experience nobody wants to go through and we know how to avoid it. Wear a mask, wash your hands, socially distance and follow the public health advice. College life might be different this year, but missing a few parties is a small price to pay and could save lives.” The University has undertaken comprehensive steps to reopen safely that includes: All NUI Galway taught programmes will be delivered using blended online and on-campus classes, including tutorials, seminars, lab work, distanced meet-ups and digital options like podcasts, streaming and videos. In line with public health guidelines, teaching spaces are being laid out and managed in order to safeguard the health of both staff and students. All students are being asked to download three Apps – NUI Galway App; the Blackboard App to access education; and the HSE Covid Tracker App. The library, campus sports facilities and most restaurants and social spaces will be open and operating under public health guidance. NUI Galway has been allocated funding from the Higher Education Authority to enhance mental health and wellbeing support for students. Staff are individually phoning (and text to unanswered call) all incoming First Year students who accepted their place in NUI Galway, to welcome and introduce the students to the University. A laptop rental scheme, thanks to a Government Covid-19/HEI support fund, has been setup to help students and up to 800 laptops will be loaned to students through the Access Office. Signage, directional arrows and one-way systems have been installed throughout campus buildings to support safe social distancing. Hand sanitisers have been installed throughout the campus and staff and students are asked to sanitise as often as possible. Sanitising wipes are available in all teaching rooms for students and staff to sanitise their hands and their workstations. Face coverings are being provided to all staff and students for use when indoors on campus. As part of the University’s commitment to suppress the spread of Covid-19, the Cúram Dá Chéile initiative is asking its students and staff to commit to be part of our university community, to behave appropriately, to consider others, to follow advice and public health guidelines, to act responsibly and to respect everyone in the university and wider community. NUI Galway is also playing an active role in the global fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. Within two weeks of the initial lock-down, a research team was enabling healthcare professionals to offer novel, emerging therapies to extremely ill patients. Our top academics in the fields of haematology, immunology and ID were enabling rapid profiling of the immune response of severely ill patients with a view to guiding therapeutic options. By the end of April we were working to expedite diagnosis of COVID-19 in a clinical setting, using artificial intelligence enabled analysis of CT scans, improve long-term patient recovery and reduce disability after COVID-19 critical illness with microRNA-based approaches. And identifying mental health needs and best practice for psychological support of frontline healthcare workers for this and future pandemics. For more information about starting and returning to campus visit: http://www.nuigalway.ie/alert/ or download the NUI Galway App. -Ends-

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

JediGlove uses bat sonar to alert users to objects and obstacles to help them move around safely Researchers at NUI Galway’s Health Innovation via Engineering (HIVE) Lab, led by Professor Derek O’Keeffe, have adopted the sophisticated sonar of bats to develop new technology to help people with visual impairment. Using echolocation, the prototype JediGlove sends sequential micro-vibrations through the users’ fingers and thumb proportional to an object's distance, helping them sense obstacles in their path. Derek O’Keeffe, Professor of Medical Device Technology at NUI Galway and Consultant Physician at University Hospital Galway, said: “We have nicknamed the device the JediGlove because it lets someone who is visually impaired ‘feel the force’ of objects in their environment. “It is hugely innovative technology with significant potential. "Not only can it help people with visual impairment but it could also have applications for first responders in emergency situations, like firemen and rescue teams entering buildings and environments that may have low visibility.” The JediGlove uses ultrasound sensors, like a bat, to echo-locate obstacles. Then, using a bespoke algorithm, the technology sequentially activates micro-vibration motors in each finger of the glove to give the user immediate haptic feedback about objects, obstructions or obstacles which they are approaching. Professor O’Keeffe said: “This technology is a great example of patient centred care and interdisciplinary innovation. “Traditionally with research we talk about a bench to bedside pathway. An idea is developed in a lab and then it goes to the patient for evaluation. What we are trying to do at NUI Galway is to change the paradigm and innovate from bedside to bench to bedside. So, we start first with the patient and identify the problems that matter to them and then we go to the lab to push the technological envelope to develop solutions to improve their care." “During a clinic visit, one of my patients who has visual impairment mentioned that one of the most common navigation aids, a white cane, hadn’t changed much for over 100 years. It can also be both physically and socially burdensome to use. “The prototype JediGlove came about after thinking through potential technological solutions that are more ergonomic for people with visual impairment.” Professor O’Keeffe worked with Mouzzam Hussain, who is studying a Masters in Biomedical Engineering at NUI Galway, to develop the concept. Mr Hussain said: “The JediGlove has been an exciting project to be involved with – putting patients’ needs first in a way that allows me to use my hardware and software skills to help them in their daily routines. It is very gratifying to work on something that will directly benefit someone in such a unique and tangible way.” Sinead Hanrahan, a patient with visual impairment, was one of the first to test the technology. Ms Hanrahan said: “The JediGlove works really well and is a new way finding out what objects are around me - The potential is undoubtedly huge. “There are so many technological solutions for other parts of my life but for mobility there’s only two options to help me be more independent – the cane and a guide dog. “I don’t have a guide dog yet and I don’t particularly like the cane so it is nice to think I could have other options to help with my mobility. "Technology like this is a game changer - it would reduce the need for me to rely on other people. Down the line, when it is more refined, I think it will make a huge difference for people with visual impairment.” The JediGlove technology has been developed in the spirit of Open Source Innovation and all documentation and files are shared in a publically accessible repository: https://github.com/mouzzamqazi/JediGlove -Ends

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

On Monday the 28th of September, at 12pm, it will be exactly 25 years since Flirt FM, Galway’s Campus, and Community of Interest Radio Station based at NUI Galway went live on fm. For our 20th anniversary, we had a silent disco, gala dinner, photo exhibition and afternoon of broadcast and a childrens’ arts and crafts table. All very hands-on. This year, we'll have to do it differently: so we’re organising a 25hr live, extremely socially distanced broadcast marathon from noon on Monday the 28th to 1pm on Tuesday the 29th. We'll be linking station alumni to the studio live over Zoom from locations as varied as Paris, California, Vietnam and… Mayo. The contributors that have already signed up are keen to quiz, reminisce, entertain and surprise you. Normally broadcasting from our Áras na MacLéinn studios in NUI Galway, the move to remote working in March took us all by surprise. The team didn’t miss a beat however, and instead of shutting down, applied to extend the station’s broadcast hours and continued to broadcast from bedrooms, kitchens and living rooms around Ireland and further afield. Off air for some much needed rest and research time in August, staff and volunteers alike are excited to head into an unprecedented and challenging new academic year. Station Manager Paula Healy; “The year ahead is going to be strangest the station has had in its history, but we're a great team - we’ve proven that with our determination to keep broadcasting through all the obstacles so far, and we're going to make it work. A quarter of a century is huge; it’s a testament to the thousands of people involved over the years, from volunteers to guests to staff that the station is here and thriving.” Flirt FM 101.3 is Galway City's award winning Student, Community & Alternative Station, based in NUI Galway since September 1995. We're part of the 20+ member Community Radio Ireland network. With one full-time and two part-time paid staff looking after operations and compliance, the station is home to up to 120 volunteers and many more contributors annually. https://www.flirtfm.ie/articles/2020/9/flirt-fm-is-25/ https://www.flirtfm.ie/20years/

Monday, 21 September 2020

Active* Consent Toolkit includes eLearning module to close gaps in students’ understanding of sexual violence and harassment, including the legal definition of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment, and how to access support services  The comprehensive Toolkit for consent education will be rolled out across 22 Higher Education Institutions featuring new resources and research released led by NUI Galway’s Active* Consent Programme Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, has today (21 September 2020) launched the Active* Consent Toolkit: Developing a Consent Strategy for your Higher Education Institution, produced by NUI Galway’s Active* Consent Programme. The Active* Consent Toolkit: Offers guidance to Higher Education Institutions in developing an Action Plan on consent, sexual violence and harassment, as well as addressing consent education through a sustainable and joined up strategy across each campus community. Provides resources and research from NUI Galway’s new online Active* Consent Programme designed to meet the call for consent education for all students in 2020-2021. Is aimed at Higher Education staff and administrators, including managers, academic, and support staff; Student representatives working with their Students’ Unions, Societies and Sports Clubs, or on behalf of their academic disciplines; and the wider community including external stakeholders such as the rape crisis movement, advocacy groups, and post-primary education.  This toolkit on practical resources, research, and strategy development comes at a time when all Higher Education institutions have been requested by Minister Harris to devise Action Plans to address consent, sexual violence and harassment in third level education, including making consent workshops, developed by NUI Galway, available to all students. Minister Simon Harris, said: “The Sexual Experiences Survey clearly shows us there is so much work to be done. We have to do more to raise awareness and support students, and the Active Consent Toolkit will greatly assist institutions in a really practical way. I want to see all of our higher education institutions further embed the Consent Framework into their policies and procedures so as to ensure a deep and lasting impact. All institutions have now been asked to develop and publish, by February next, specific institutional action plans on tackling sexual violence and harassment and provide an annual report on their progress in implementing the Framework. I believe the higher education sector to take on a leadership role in our societal response to sexual violence and harassment, and these are important steps forward to advance that aim.”  President of NUI Galway, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, said: “I'd like to thank Minister Harris for attending today’s virtual launch of this very important Toolkit and welcome his prioritisation of this critical issue by making consent workshops mandatory and available to all students. I would also like to congratulate the Active* Consent team at NUI Galway for the excellent work and leadership they have shown throughout the ongoing development of this programme and the workshops that have been openly shared and sustainably scaled up to the 22 Higher Education Institutions to date. “Respect for our students and staff is one of our University’s core values which we take very seriously. Education and support around the subject of consent for our student community is a critical learning component that should be made available to everyone during their university journey. Supporting the safety, health and wellbeing of our students and staff is our top priority.” Taking into account the impact of Covid-19, the Toolkit features a new three-stage Higher Education Institution consent education programme for 2020-2021 that can be delivered fully online – and which makes direct use of the findings from the Active* Consent/Union of Students in Ireland ‘Sexual Experiences Survey’ released in June 2020. Stage One of this new programme, the Active* Consent Online Workshop, will be rolled out to First Year students across 22 Irish Higher Education Institutions and counting in autumn 2020. As part of the toolkit, Active* Consent is also launching an eLearning module, Sexual Violence and Harassment: How to Support Yourself and Your Peers, available for use from 15, October 2020. This Active* Consent eLearning module helps to close gaps in students’ understanding of sexual violence and harassment as reported in the ‘Sexual Experiences Survey’, including the legal definition of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment, and how to access support services. Students will be active participants, taking part in quizzes, polls, and activities to support learning about consent, sexual violence and harassment, and responding to case studies to find out how to support peers with empathic communication and by taking action to intervene when they see something that is harmful. Dr Padraig MacNeela, Active* Consent Programme Co-Lead, NUI Galway, said: “Our latest research shows that teenagers in schools and young adults in colleges strongly support the idea that consent means having the right to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and having their partners hear and respect these preferences. But the research also shows that the confidence to act on this understanding can be undermined by embarrassment and shame, including misperceptions of what your peers actually think. There is also now evidence to show that a number of young people either agree with or do not actively reject misinformed and potentially harmful rape myths.” Key new research findings included in the Active* Consent Toolkit This complex picture of consent is demonstrated by findings from NUI Galway’s ‘Sexual Experiences Survey’ last June that have not been released before that include: 37% of female college students and 53% of male college students gave a ‘neutral’ or ‘agree’ response when asked whether asking for consent is awkward. 63% of female college students and 37% of male college students said they were ‘very likely’ to say something to intervene if a friend was taking a drunk person back to their room at a party. 26% of female college students and 51% of male college students gave a ‘neutral’ or ‘agree’ response to the rape myth that, if a girl initiates kissing or hooking up, she should not be surprised if a guy assumes she wants to have sex. Dr Charlotte McIvor, Active* Consent Programme Co-Lead and Editor of the Active* Consent Toolkit, NUI Galway said: “The Toolkit offers significant opportunities for learning, culture and behaviour change in the area of sexual violence and harassment in higher education, not only doubling down on the Active* Consent Programme’s key message that Consent is OMFG (ongoing, mutual and freely-given) through an accessible and comprehensive usable toolkit format but also providing a new fresh vision of how to work together sustainably within and across Higher Education Institutions to achieve lasting change in these areas.” Dr Pádraig MacNeela, concluded: “Schools and colleges are important settings for education on positive, active consent that in turn works against tolerance of sexual violence and harassment. The Consent Framework for colleges is one of the best strategies available internationally for enabling the Higher Education sector to seize the opportunity to achieve this potential – and in providing support for colleges to meet the challenges faced while developing the capacity to do so. By providing supports like the Consent Toolkit, we are asking our colleges to embrace change on all levels, to work together to meet the needs of those affected by sexual violence and harassment, and to promote a culture of positive, active consent consistent with healthy development.” To receive a toolkit please email activeconsent@nuigalway.ie and for further information about the Active* Consent Programme, visit: http://www.nuigalway.ie/student-life/student-support/active-consent/ or on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/activeconsent/ -Ends-

Monday, 21 September 2020

Online event to discuss research on the future of regenerative medicine NUI Galway is today hosting an online forum for the inaugural meeting of 17 Confucius Institutes around the world which are dedicated to the study of Chinese Medicine. The newly established Global Alliance of Confucius Institutes of Chinese Medicine (GACICM) is for the first time bringing together academics, healthcare specialists and researchers from 17 institutes in 13 countries. The Alliance is being led by the Confucius Institute of Chinese and Regenerative Medicine at NUI Galway, which was established in 2019, with a distinct focus on researching the potential benefits of Chinese herbal products in developing new therapies. Professor Timothy O’Brien, Dean of NUI Galway’s College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Director of the Confucius Institute at the University, said: “The Global Alliance of Confucius Institutes for Chinese Medicine is a unique opportunity – for NUI Galway, for our patients, for science and for research and discovery with colleagues across the globe. “It opens doors to study potential therapies for conditions for which we currently don’t have good treatments. It is phenomenally exciting to be leading an ambitious team to see if we can discover new drugs from herbal products used in Chinese Medicine and whether they can be used in the treatment of conditions of unmet medical need, for which we have stem cell models at our flagship lab in NUI Galway.” “Researchers at NUI Galway have been paving the way in regenerative medicine research for over 16 years. Now we are charting a new and ambitious path, with the goal of analysing Chinese Medicine herbal products in a bid to discover molecules which have regenerative capabilities.” In advance of attending the meeting, NUI Galway President Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh said: “We are delighted to virtually host the inaugural Global Alliance of Confucius Institutes of Chinese Medicine. We are honoured to be joined by esteemed colleagues from China, Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine and representatives from across the globe. NUI Galway has committed itself to fostering such partnerships. “As set out in our strategy, Shared Vision, Shaped by Values, we are here for the public good. We look forward to research in Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Therapy leading to the development of innovative treatments to improve healthcare for all.”  NUI Galway’s Confucius Institute involves a partnership between clinicians and scientists at the University’s Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI), where Professor O’Brien is Director, and the Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine. NUI Galway’s partnership with Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine is the only link-up of its kind focusing on the interface between Chinese and Regenerative Medicine. It also creates an international link between research teams and the Centre for Cell Manufacturing Ireland in NUI Galway and the only facility in Ireland licensed to produce Mesenchymal Stem Cells for human administration in regulated clinical trials. The online meeting is being chaired by Prof O’Brien. Among those attending will be Mr Lingshan Zhao, the Vice President and Secretary-General of Chinese International Education Foundation; representatives from Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine including Professor Zhiguang Sun, Vice President International; Confucius Institute Directors and University Presidents from the 17 institutes including Ireland, UK, Australia, Japan, Hungary, Portugal, Korea, Thailand, South Africa, USA, Cuba, Brazil and Slovakia. -Ends-

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

In a study of cognitively healthy adults, elevated levels of two biomarkers measured in the blood, GDF15 and NT-proBNP, were associated with an increased risk of developing dementia in later life  New research from Boston University, Harvard Medical School and NUI Galway’s HRB-Clinical Research Facility, has identified two blood biomarkers that could help identify those at risk of developing dementia later in life. The study was published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association.  The researchers measured blood levels of (GDF15) (a biomarker of vascular stress, thought to play a role in inflammation) and (NT-proBNP) (a biomarker of an enlarged heart, associated with worsening heart failure), both potential biomarkers for dementia, in almost 1,600 participants from the Framingham Heart Study. The research team found that GDF15 and NT-proBNP blood levels were associated with an increased risk of dementia as well as signs of vascular injury on MRI brain scans. When combined with traditional risk factors for dementia (e.g. age, high blood pressure, or a history of heart disease), these two biomarkers improved dementia risk classification suggesting their potential use in predicting dementia risk.  Dr Emer McGrath, Consultant Neurologist and lead author of the study at NUI Galway and investigator with the Framingham Heart Study (the research was completed during her previous position at Harvard Medical School), said: “Identifying biomarkers for dementia could improve our ability to predict a person’s risk of dementia and his or her future outcomes. Establishing which individuals are at increased risk of developing dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, is key to developing new therapies to slow or reverse cognitive symptoms. However, current strategies are limited, both in terms of accuracy and the ability to incorporate them into routine practice. Unlike cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers that require a spinal tap (lumbar puncture), plasma biomarkers can be extracted from the blood, making their collection much less invasive and much more appealing for patients. Novel biomarkers could also help to monitor dementia severity and progression and select suitable participants for future clinical trials.”  While GDF15 has previously been associated with heart attacks, this is the first study to demonstrate an association between GDF15 and later-life dementia risk. The authors also confirmed an association between NT-proBNP levels and risk of dementia, combining their results with those from a Japanese cohort.   Dr McGrath, added: “Our findings validate the results of previous studies within a community-based setting. Blood levels of NT-proBNP are already routinely measured clinically in patients with heart failure. If we could identify appropriate clinical cut-offs for dementia, blood levels of this biomarker could prove to be useful for predicting the risk of dementia in patients.”   The authors caution that the Framingham Heart Study Offspring cohort is predominantly Caucasian, which may limit the generalizability of the findings to more diverse populations. They were also unable to explore the association between changes in plasma biomarker values over time and cognitive outcomes. Further studies will be required to replicate and validate the authors’ observed association between plasma GDF15 and dementia.  Funding for this work was provided by an Alzheimer’s Association Clinician Scientist Fellowship, the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, the National Institute on Aging, and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.   The full study is available at https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/JAHA.119.014659  -Ends- 

Friday, 11 September 2020

3,500 new students expected to take up places across many courses at NUI Galway, with additional offers made on high demand programmes NUI Galway to phone all first year students in special pre-orientation outreach initiative In this exceptional year for Leaving Certificate students, NUI Galway will welcome an intake of 3,500 First Year students in late September. Mindful of the current challenging context, and correspondingly exceptional increases in CAO points as demand for popular programmes intensified, the University made an additional 190 offers to CAO applicants. Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, President of NUI Galway, said: “We’d like to congratulate the class of 2020 who have illustrated resilience through the challenges of the past year. Managing a safe return to campus and the wellbeing of our students, staff and wider community is our top priority at NUI Galway. We look forward to welcoming our First Year students to their university. While we know it will be a year with a difference and an unusual start to our students’ University journey, it remains an exciting journey where we will endeavour to provide a safe, meaningful on-campus experience for our students with a corresponding reliance on online provision. “Consistent with our values and respecting the health and safety of our community, we appreciate the work being done by many colleagues and students to ensure a safe return to campus and we ask our university community to support the need for a deepened sense of responsibility for the collective good for the new academic year ahead.”  CAO points have risen across all four of NUI Galway’s Colleges and across many of its programmes. A strong focus on public health remains a high priority with a significant surge in points for Nursing, Health Sciences, Medicine and Psychology programmes that offer future careers aimed at improving health and wellbeing. This follows a trend in recent years of increased interest in fields of study with the potential for graduates to have a powerful and positive impact on the world around them. Similarly, demand for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) programmes grew, with NUI Galway’s strong reputation for excellence in Biomedicine once again resulting in points increases for Biomedical Science. The traditional professions like Law, Accounting and Business all saw an increase in points as applicants opted for programmes with clearly defined career paths. NUI Galway introduced four new programmes this year: a BSc in Geography and Geosystems; two new Law degrees: Law and Taxation and Law: Criminology and Criminal Justice; and a BSc in Genetics and Genomics, and all proved popular choices for applicants. Arts programmes also saw points increases for Creative Arts options and in particular, Music; Film and Digital Media; and Drama, Theatre and Performance courses, reflecting Galway’s cultural and artistic reputation as the European Capital of Culture for 2020. For incoming First Year students, an undergraduate orientation will take place in the week commencing 21 September in a safe way, adhering to Covid-19 public health guidelines. Orientations will comprise of a mix of online and on-campus activities to help students familiarise themselves with the university, understand the structures and demands of student life, learn about the supports available to them and get to know their fellow classmates who will in time become lifelong friends. NUI Galway is putting in place a ‘Pre-Orientation Outreach’ initiative to individually call all incoming First Year students. The initiative involves the Chaplaincy team calling (and text to unanswered call) all incoming First Year students who accepted their place in NUI Galway, to welcome and introduce the students to the University.  Jimmy McGovern, Support Worker at NUI Galway’s Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care Centre, said: “We believe it is important to connect with our new students - to congratulate them on accepting their course, to let them know what being a student in NUI Galway will look like, and to welcome them into our University community.” A comprehensive blended learning model of online and on-campus teaching will be provided this year to ensure a top quality educational experience – delivering on students’ expectations and learning outcomes. NUI Galway is building on-campus learning to ensure a meaningful student experience. This will be delivered through a mix of on-campus tutorials, seminars, distanced meet-ups and/or laboratories, based on the needs of various courses. At all times capacity in rooms will conform to public health advice. Large-scale lectures will be adapted for online delivery, as well as some smaller classes where it is not possible and safe to deliver them on-campus. The majority of online lectures will not be timetabled in specific slots but will instead be made available in advance of any related timetabled classes such as seminars, tutorials and lab work. Other online lectures will be provided through podcasts, other digital platforms, interactive Q&A’s, a mix of online real-time tutorials and lectures, and the ‘Covid and Philosophy’ project, which involves projects for assessment but also an end of year public presentation of results. A dedicated First Year Hotline is now open to answer questions and help students, parents and guardians as they prepare for an academic year with a difference, college studies and college life at NUI Galway. NUI Galway First Year Student Hotline and Opening Hours Phone: +353 (0) 91 493999 or visit http://www.nuigalway.ie/startinguniversity/.  The hotline is now open until the 28 September 2020 Monday to Friday from 9am-1pm and 2pm-5pm Round two offers are due to be issued on Wednesday, 23 September at 9am. For more information about studying at NUI Galway, attending campus safely and the University’s Covid-19 Access to Campus Protocol, visit:  http://www.nuigalway.ie/alert/. -Ends-

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Study highlights that effective, continuous training for online and distance learning in education and teaching will be of critical importance in the event of recurring school closures Researchers from NUI Galway’s School of Education have led the publication of a comparative study of learning with mobile technology in collaboration with universities and technology consultants in Europe, the UK and Australia. The international team of researchers found a ‘digital use divide’ in learning with mobile technology in schools, highlighting the need for appropriate, continuous training and supports for teachers, alongside investment in devices and infrastructure. Lead author on the study, Dr Tony Hall, Senior Lecturer in Educational Technology and Deputy Head of the School of Education, NUI Galway, said: “Looking at the history of pandemics and their impact on schooling, but also the differences between the current and previous viruses, there is the real risk of continuing school and campus closures. This means that mobile and distance learning will remain of crucial importance in supporting young people, parents, families, and teachers in ensuring continuity of learning where the pandemic makes learning at school impossible. “A significant finding of our research, which looks at mobile technology in schools in six countries: Australia, Belgium, Cyprus, The Netherlands, UK, and Ireland, is a prevailing gap, not only in terms of those who have technology and access, but also those who can access the required expertise and support they need to use mobile devices effectively. Our study highlights that investment in providing technology alone will not be sufficient, especially if the situation necessitates the large-scale return to mobile and online learning – outside of classrooms.” Through its work developing mobile devices and technologies collaboratively with teachers and schools, and like other projects internationally, Designing and Evaluating Innovative Mobile Pedagogies (DEIMP) has developed resources that can help provide real support to schools and teachers where they need to move their learning online. Dr Hall continued: “The current situation also presents opportunities to rethink education, and to try to make it more inclusive and engaging for all young people, where we can lessen the pressures of formal examinations and assessments. For example, the current situation is reminding us of the importance of learning outside school, and in informal education environments. In our research for the European DEIMP Project, we have developed resources for teachers and educators to use, to guide and develop best practice, including an app, multimedia case studies, and an open online training course for mobile learning. We have also generated 21 principles for effective learning with mobile applications and devices, which can help to guide positive change through mobile learning in education, both in and outside of classrooms. These principles emphasize fundamentally important aspects of learning, education and teaching, including: authenticity, collaboration, and student choice.” The research paper, “Education in precarious times: a comparative study across six countries to identify design priorities for mobile learning in a pandemic” is published in the international journal, Information and Learning Sciences is available at https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/ILS-04-2020-0089/full/html -Ends-

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Young people in Ireland and Northern Ireland are invited to make a short science video to win €1000 for their school or youth organisation NUI Galway is challenging young science enthusiasts and filmmakers in Ireland and Northern Ireland to produce fun short science videos for the innovative ‘ReelLIFE SCIENCE’ competition. With a prize fund of over €5000, the best videos from primary schools, secondary schools and youth organisations will each win €1000. Videos can be up to three minutes in length and can communicate any aspect of STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics),on one of the following topics:How Things Work, Climate Action, Healing the Body and Science on the Farm. Filming can be on smartphones, tablets or cameras and the closing date for entries is Friday, 23 October. The best videos will be screened for the public at the Galway Science and Technology Festival on 22 November.  Speaking about the competition’s launch, Ferne Corrigan, BBC wildlife and children’s presenter and judging panellist for ReelLIFE SCIENCE 2020, said: “It seems that we are in a time when science is at the forefront of massive, impactful conversations and what is exciting is that it is this generation, and the next generation that will bring about critical changes and keep the conversation going. Science needs passionate young people and it is programmes like this that help to get it out there. Science isn’t all lab coats and Bunsen burners and we need to make it engaging and accessible for all. I am so excited to be a part of the judging panel for the videos and I can't wait to see what everyone comes up with.” Since launching in 2013, more than 14,000 young people in 450 schools and youth organisations in Ireland have taken part in the ReelLIFE SCIENCE programme, which is organised by Dr Enda O’Connell and a team of scientists from NUI Galway. ReelLIFE SCIENCE is supported by Science Foundation Ireland’s Discover Programme, the Community Knowledge Initiative, the CÚRAM SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices and the Cell EXPLORERS science outreach programme. More information about taking part can be found at https://reellifescience.com/. -Ends-

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

New director and associate director for the HRB Clinical Research Facility Galway  NUI Galway today announced the appointment of Professor Andrew Smyth and Professor Fidelma Dunne as Director and Associate Director of the Health Research Board Clinical Research Facility Galway.  The HRB Clinical Research Facility Galway (HRB-CRFG) is a joint venture between Galway University Hospitals (GUH), Saolta University Health Care Group and NUI Galway, which has been in operation since March 2008. The HRB provides funding to the Clinical Research Facility Galway to support the infrastructure, physical space, facilities, expertise and culture needed for translational research. They focus on studies aimed at understanding a range of diseases and speedily translating the knowledge obtained through this research work into regulatory approved advances in patient care. Andrew Smyth, appointed Director, is the Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at NUI Galway and a Consultant Nephrologist at Galway University Hospitals. His personal research interests are in the epidemiology of chronic kidney disease, particularly modifiable risk factors and the relationship between diet and health outcomes. Through his role at HRB-CRFG, he has been heavily involved in clinical trials across an array of clinical specialities that include: gestational diabetes mellitus; stem cell treatments for limb ischaemia; haematology; breast cancer investigations; and psychiatry. He was the first Irish-based recipient of a Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Career Development Fellowship and collaborates closely with the Population Health Research Institute of McMaster University Canada. Speaking on the announcement Professor Smyth, said: “My vision for HRB-CRFG is to maximise the ability for local patients and investigators to access contemporary clinical research projects and clinical trials to directly impact and improve the health and wellbeing of the population through executing clinical research studies to the highest regulatory standards and ethical frameworks in line with international best practice.” Fidelma Dunne, appointed Associate Director, is a Professor in the School of Medicine at NUI Galway and a Consultant physician in Endocrinology Diabetes and Metabolism at Galway University Hospitals group. Originally a graduate of NUI Galway Medicine, she has previously held a number of leadership roles.* Professor Dunne’s major research interest is in the area of pregnancy and diabetes and her research group are conducting a number of studies as part of the ATLANTIC DIP programme including the EMERGE randomized controlled trial of the drug Metformin, the investigation of a biomarker (CD59) in Gestational diabetes mellitus pregnancies and a 10-year follow up (metabolic and cardiovascular) of women with prior gestational diabetes. In addition, Professor Dunne has been involved in international studies that include CONCEPTT, funded by the Juvenile Diabetes Research charity, which examined the benefits of continuous glucose monitoring in women with Type 1 Diabetes during pregnancy, and DALI, a multicentre European funded trial on the prevention of Gestational diabetes mellitus using Vitamin D and lifestyle intervention. More recently she has been the Irish lead for EVOLVE, a pan European cohort study examining pregnancy outcomes of women with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes across Europe, and is currently the Irish lead for the EXPECT study examining a new insulin (Insulin Degludec) in women with Type 1 Diabetes in pregnancy. Speaking on her appointment Professor Dunne highlighted her vision during her tenure: “My vision for HRB-CRFG is to provide a research infrastructure that is safe and conducts research in accordance with best international practice, where all patients irrespective of geography have access to contemporary clinical trials exploring new medicines and treatments, novel screening and detection methods, and state of the art monitoring systems.” Congratulating Professors Smyth and Dunne on their appointments Professor Tim O’Brien, Dean of the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, NUI Galway and Consultant Physician in Endocrinology and Metabolism, Saolta University Healthcare Group, said: “NUI Galway is fortunate to have top-tier talent with substantial experience in clinical research to fill these leadership roles within the CRFG. The next phase for this facility is exciting and this team will provide the infrastructure that will progress healthcare for patients with the highest regulatory standards.” Professor O’Brien also acknowledged the role of previous Director, Professor Martin O’Donnell in the development of the facility. “Professor O’Donnell is a highly cited, internationally recognized clinician investigator who led the HRB-CRFG through its formative stages and we are grateful for his outstanding contribution.”  The HRB-CRFG is currently involved in 50 clinical trials including specialist areas such as stroke, heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and nutrition. For more information about the HRB-CRFG, visit: http://www.nuigalway.ie/hrb_crfg/ -Ends-