Professor Afshin Samali, Director of the Apoptosis Research Centre (ARC) and Investigator with CÚRAM, the Centre for Research in Medical Devices, NUI Galway.
Oct 13 2015 Posted: 10:36 IST

Professor Afshin Samali, Director of the Apoptosis Research Centre (ARC) and Investigator with CÚRAM, the Centre for Research in Medical Devices, based at NUI Galway, has secured €3.7million to lead a consortium of researchers called the TRAIN-ERS network, on a new project to research endoplasmic reticulum stress (ER stress).

ER stress is an emerging feature in the pathology of numerous diseases including cancer, neurodegenerative disorders, metabolic syndromes and inflammatory diseases that affect millions of people worldwide each year and pose an enormous cost to the health sector. The funding award has been made through the Horizon 2020 grant programme, under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie European Training Networks action.

ER stress represents a potential therapeutic intervention point that can be exploited to develop novel new therapies for a wide range of diseases. To date, the development of such therapies has been hampered by the shortage of scientists with interdisciplinary training, who can navigate between academic, industrial and clinical sectors with skills to convert research findings into commercial and clinical applications.

The TRAIN-ERS Network will address this by providing 14 early stage researchers (ESRs) with the knowledge and the cutting edge scientific and technical skills that will drive our understanding and exploitation of the ER stress response for therapeutic purposes. The programme will utilize the unique skill sets, infrastructure and expertise of consortium partners to gain a global, mechanistic and quantitative understanding of the ER stress response, establish the contribution of the ER stress response to disease development and progression, and exploit the potential of targeting the ER stress response as a therapeutic strategy for diseases including cancer, neurodegeneration and inflammation.

“Our project will bring young researchers together with world-leading academics, clinicians and industry personnel who are united in their goal of forming a network of excellence aimed at understanding the ER stress response, and applying this understanding to identify and validate the most suitable intervention points for the treatment of ER stress-associated diseases”, explains Professor Afshin Samali.

This will provide the ESRs with a unique training experience and equip them with a toolbox of transferable skills that will significantly benefit them in their future careers and which will facilitate Europe’s 2020 ‘Innovation Union’ flagship initiative by producing researchers with the skills to convert knowledge and ideas into products and services.

Speaking about the award, Professor Abhay Pandit, Director of CÚRAM said: “This is one of a number of current projects funded under this programme that are being carried out by CÚRAM researchers. CÚRAMs key strength lies in our ability to create unique, synergistic networks across academic, industry and clinical institutions. Because of this, our research and output capabilities in the medical device sector span a much wider spectrum than ever before. The TRAIN-ERs Network consortium will further expand the possibilities for conceptualization, discovery, development and clinical translation of novel, ‘smart’ solutions to bring about a better future for sufferers of chronic illnesses.”

ARC, a well-established research centre focusing research on aspects of cellular stress and cell death and its relevance to human disease, works closely with CÚRAM, the National Centre for Research in Medical Devices which is funded by Science Foundation Ireland and Industry partners. Its goal is to radically improve health outcomes for patients with chronic and degenerative disease through the development of ‘smart’ implantable medical devices.

The TRAIN-ERS network research consortium, led by Professor Samali includes academic groups from Austria, Sweden, Germany, Belgium, France and the UK. Industry partners of the programme include Randox Teoranta and Optimata.

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