NUI Galway Researchers Awarded Funding for Irish Biomedical Research Projects

Friday, 13 May 2011

Two NUI Galway researchers, Professor Abhay Pandit, Network of Excellence for Functional Biomaterials (NFB) and Professor Rhodri Ceredig of the Regenerative Medicine Institute (Remedi) were among five awardees funded under an innovative new research programme funded by the Johnson & Johnson Corporate Office of Science and Technology (COSAT) and Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) this week. The research projects, all in the biomedical sphere, were launched by the Minister for Research and Innovation Mr Sean Sherlock TD.

The Healthcare Innovation Programme Award (HIPA), which was established by SFI with the support of COSAT is aimed at encouraging biomedical exploration in the specific areas of immune-modulated inflammatory diseases, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, graft-vs-host disease, psoriasis, lung disease, renal disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and neurodegenerative diseases.

Speaking about the significance of the programme, Minister Sherlock said “Given that inflammatory disorders are a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide, there is now an urgency in expediting the discovery of novel therapeutic targets in inflammation, in developing new treatment approaches and in moving to translate these developments to clinical applications.” The Minister added “This timely partnership identifies Irish based researchers who will help accelerate the translation of basic research into therapies useful in the treatment of inflammatory diseases”

Professor Pandit, in collaboration with Professor John Laffey, Department of Anaesthesia, NUI Galway will conduct a study on a novel treatment for acute lung injury. Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) and acute lung injury (ALI) constitute the leading cause of death in paediatric and adult critical care; it is a devastating disease process for which no therapy exists. This study will use biomaterial-based nanospheres to deliver the optimal dosage of the SOD gene, to the lung using a nebulizer. This is a non-invasive approach, which will ensure translation to the clinical setting. Speaking about the award, Professor Pandit said “We are delighted, and very grateful, to receive this grant supporting our research. We at the NFB are keen to translate our research to the clinical setting and this award supports that ambition.”

Professor Ceredig in collaboration with Professor Benjamin Bradley of the Institute of Technology, Tralee will conduct a drug discovery programme using by-products obtained from processing of natural materials. Some of these products have been shown to have immune-modulatory activity. Using a screening assay whereby whole blood is incubated in the presence of these materials, the funds will be used to identify novel immune-modulatory drugs from these natural sources. There are so many examples where novel drugs, such as aspirin and penicillin have been discovered from natural sources. Speaking about the award, Professor Ceredig said “We are honoured to receive this prestigious award for a collaborative venture between NUI Galway and the Institute of Technology, Tralee. We are hopeful that this form of collaboration will result in the discovery and development of novel therapies for immune and inflammatory diseases.”

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