Thursday, 9 April 2020

CÚRAM Investigators Part of €12 million Joint Investment Announced for US-Ireland R&D

A joint investment of €12 million has been announced through a tripartite research and development partnership between the United States of America (USA), Republic of Ireland (RoI) and Northern Ireland (NI). The US-Ireland Research and Development Partnership, launched in July 2006, is a unique initiative that aims to increase the level of collaborative R&D amongst researchers and industry professionals across the three jurisdictions. CÚRAM Investigators Dr Michael Conall Dennedy and Professor Martin O’Halloran are amongst the four awards announced, which will support over 40 research positions across 10 research institutions, for three to five years. Dr Dennedy, lead researcher at the adrenal research laboratory, NUI Galway and Professor O’Halloran, Director of the Translational Medical Device laboratory and Techrete Professor of Medical Electronics at NUI Galway will partner with Ulster University (NI) and Kansas State University (US). The collaborative team of clinicians, scientists, engineers and mathematicians will research an image-guided approach for minimally invasive microwave thermotherapy (MWT) of aldosterone producing adenomas (APAs) for the treatment of secondary hypertension or high blood pressure. They will also develop machine-learnt techniques for identifying APAs and monitoring therapy using nanocontrast technology. The commonest specifically treatable cause of high blood pressure is known as primary aldosteronism (PA). This is a condition of hormonal excess whereby the kidney retains salt and water to increase blood pressure. It is caused by small benign nodules on the adrenal gland called aldosterone producing adenomas (APA). Surgical removal of APAs can cure complicating high blood pressure. In this study, the team of researchers will develop new methodologies for diagnosing and treating aldosterone producing adenomas which avoid the need for surgery and improve patient outcomes and experience. Welcoming the announcement, Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said: “The continued success of the US-Ireland R&D Partnership Programme demonstrates the strong open relationship between our countries and highlights Ireland’s scientific standing internationally. I would like to congratulate all of the award recipients and their collaborators, who are forging innovation and discovery across the Atlantic, with the potential to greatly benefit our collective societies and economies.” Commenting on the award, Dr Dennedy remarked: "This US-Ireland R&D Partnership award will provide the resources necessary to carry out detailed research into the area of thermal therapy of functioning adrenocortical tumours. From a translational viewpoint, it is highly important that we develop methodologies to intervene in conditions such as primary aldosteronism safely and in a manner which preserves as much normal adrenal gland as possible while disrupting the disease causing benign tumour. Ours is the first cross-disciplinary group across science, medicine and engineering to focus specifically on this area, and to receive this funding is a welcome endorsement of our work to date, and our plans for the future.” The US-Ireland Research and Development partnership agencies in the Republic of Ireland are Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), the Health Research Board (HRB) and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM). The partnership is facilitated by the National Science Foundation (NSF), US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), within the US Department of Agriculture in the USA. In Northern Ireland, the Health & Social Care R&D Division (HSC R&D), the Department for the Economy (DfE), and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) are partners. For more information on the programme, visit -ends-

News Archive

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Orbsen Therapeutics, a NUI Galway biotechnology company focused on the development and commercialization of first-in-class stromal cell immunotherapies, announced the beginning of a phase 2a clinical trial for the treatment of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) in COVID-19 patients. Between 80-90% of COVID19 deaths are caused by acute respiratory failure. In hyper-inflammed diseases like COVID19 induced ARDS, stromal cell immunotherapy may work by pushing the overactive immune system into initiating a pro-resolving and anti-inflammatory response. In pre-clinical studies led and published by Professor John Laffey at NUI Galway ORBCEL demonstrated the ability to mitigate the effects of pneumonia induced ARDS by improving lung oxygenation, reducing inflammation, reducing oedema and decreasing bacterial infection. This trial of its second-generation immunotherapy, ORBCEL, follows the recent successful completion of a phase 1 trial in 2019 in patients with moderate-severe ARDS. The phase 2a trial, funded by the Wellcome Trust, has been approved by the UK’s Medical Health Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and REALIST has been identified by the UK National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) as a National Urgent Public Health study. Professors Danny McAuley and Cecilia O’Kane at the UK’s Queen’s University Belfast, are leaders in the development and delivery of new medicines for critical care and ARDS and lead the trial which will includes five clinical sites in the United Kingdom. A recent statement from the four UK Chief Medical Officers outlined the importance of clinical trials amidst the COVID-19 crisis. Profssor Cecilia O’Kane – who leads the REALIST program highlighted:e “It is only through clinical trials will we be able to determine if new treatments are effective and safe in critically ill patients.” “The successful completion of ORBCEL’s phase 1 clinical trial confirms our belief in the potential of Orbsen's proprietary stromal cell immunotherapy technologies,” said Dr Larry Couture, CEO of Orbsen Therapeutics. “We believe ORBCEL will prove a valuable addition to the arsenal of therapies to combat the effects of COVID-19.” Orbsen CSO Dr Steve Elliman noted: “While there are over 100 vaccines & therapies in development targeting the SARS-CoV-2 infection - at present there are no disease modifying therapies approved for ARDS.  We’re delighted the REALIST trial was approved & listed by UK NIHR as an Urgent Public Health Research Study so we can continue assess the potential of our ORBCEL-C therapy in patients with ARDS and contribute to the global response to the COVID19 pandemic.” In pre-clinical studies led and published by Professor John Laffey at NUI Galway ORBCEL demonstrated the ability to mitigate the effects of pneumonia induced ARDS by improving lung oxygenation, reducing inflammation, reducing oedema and decreasing bacterial infection. Professor Laffey said: “This success is due to a large scale collaborative effort involving Queens University Belfast, Orbsen Therapeutics and the Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI) and CURAM at NUI Galway. It shows that we can rapidly adapt and offer a complex cell therapy intervention to patients in the time and resource pressured setting of a global pandemic. Clinical trials are the only way to rapidly and safely find therapies for this devastating condition.” -Ends-

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Research teams at NUI Galway, Dublin City University, and the Insight SFI Centre for Data Analytics based at NUI Galway, are working together on a population-wide survey to find out about the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic and the associated restrictive measures (lock down, social distancing) on daily life in Ireland. The Corona Citizens’ Science Project is a national anonymous online survey seeking to understand how people are dealing with the pandemic and how it has impacted on their home life; working life; childcare arrangements; physical and emotional wellbeing. The survey asks about the impact of the measures imposed by the government starting from the ‘Containment Phase’ (February 29th); the “Delay Phase” following the March 12th announcement regarding the closure of all schools, colleges and childcare facilities and the restrictions imposed on March 27th requesting people to stay at home until April 12th, and including for at risk groups, and over 70s to “cocoon”. The findings will be used to contribute to informing the government response to the pandemic and to also assist in planning future measures for COVID-19 and beyond. The survey will go live on Wednesday, April 8th and people nationwide are encouraged to fill in the questionnaire from 6am for a period of 24 hours. It is anticipated that the survey will be repeated again. Dr Akke Vellinga, Epidemiologist/Senior Lecturer, NUI Galway, joint research lead said: “The response of the Irish people to the restrictive measures has been great, but are they taking their toll? This is an opportunity for the Irish people to let us know how we can help. We are calling on everyone to fill out the survey and share the link. We need your help.” Professor Anthony Staines, Professor of Health Systems, DCU and joint research lead said: “This is a unique opportunity for all Irish people to shape our Government’s response to this unprecedented crisis, and start the long journey back to a more normal life, as the pandemic recedes.” The Corona Citizens’ Science Project follows a similar study carried out in Belgium by the University of Antwerp. The survey was conducted on three separate occasions; commencing on March 17th and gathering responses from over 1.5 million people. Key takeaways showed that 32% of respondents had trouble concentrating; 30% were sleeping less and 42% felt under more pressure. The research team found that as the weeks progressed, the percentage levels began to increase. The information was used to inform government policy on how well the population was responding to the measures imposed. -ends-

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

By Professor Patrick Lonergan, Professor of Drama and Theatre Studies, NUI Galway The university community is deeply saddened by the loss of Mary McPartlan. She was renowned as a singer, highly respected as a producer, and admired and appreciated as a mentor of other artists. She was also an inspirational educator, whose ‘Arts in Action’ programmes gave thousands of NUI Galway students the chance to experience live performances as part of their education. But we will remember her best as our dear colleague and friend – as a person of unique kindness, good humor and fortitude. Mary was originally from Drumkeerin in Leitrim, moving to Galway in the early 1980s. She worked with several arts organisations during those years, including TG4 and Galway Youth Theatre; she also ran her own arts consultancy company, Mac P. Illustrating her life-long commitment to supporting other artists, she founded Skehana theatre company in 1991, a group that staged plays by (among others) Michael Harding and Tom MacIntyre. The latter’s The Gallant John Joe was a popular success during a national tour that featured the distinguished Irish actor Tom Hickey. During that period, Mary become a well-known figure in the Irish arts community for her work as a singer – but it was the release of her debut album in 2004 that brought her to international attention. That recording, The Holland Handkerchief, was nominated for a Meteor Award and was voted Number 1 Folk Album by the UK’s Mojo magazine. It was followed by Petticoat Loose in 2008 and From Mountain to Mountain in 2016. The music collected on those albums is as intimate and it is heartfelt, ranging from folk ballads to bluegrass to jazz – and from Bess Cronin’s traditional songs to Shane McGowan’s ‘Rainy Night in Soho’ and beyond. From 2007 onwards, Mary taught on a wide range of courses at NUI Galway, and her practical experience and professional wisdom had a defining impact on the development of several courses – including the BA Connect in Theatre and Performance, the MA in Arts Policy and Practice, the MA in Drama and Theatre Studies, and others. She also developed a very popular module that introduced international students to the richness of Ireland’s traditional arts. Without question, her greatest educational legacy is the creation and curation of the ‘Arts in Action’ programme, which is supported by the university’s College of Arts, Social Sciences and Celtic Studies. That weekly series of performances runs throughout the academic year, and features an unparalleled range of events by Irish and international artists. Within the last year alone, these have included stand-up comedy from Tommy Tiernan, concerts by Christy Moore and the Gloaming’s Martin Hayes, an original new performance by students, and much more. Those events are open to all NUI Galway staff and students – for free, every week. Mary also taught and designed special Arts in Action modules that allowed students from a variety of subject-areas to include the creative arts in their learning. Over the years, students from Business, Law, Medicine, Engineering and many other areas (including the Arts, of course) have participated. She also founded the NUI Galway Medical Orchestra, allowing Medical students to obtain academic credit by engaging in musical performance – offering them the chance to reflect on the role that music plays within patient health and wellbeing, while also staging concerts that delighted music lovers within and beyond the university. Collectively, such achievements demonstrate that Mary was an educator who believed in overcoming boundaries, including the walls between the university and the city, the disciplinary divisions between academic subjects, and the space between artists and audiences. She believed that the NUI Galway students deserved to encounter great art. But she also believed that NUI Galway students are – and will continue to be – great artists. And while she overcame boundaries, she also believed in building links. She was a Fulbright scholar in 2012, teaching and studying in New York and Kentucky – and just last year she was honoured with the Ireland United States Association (IUSA) Distinguished Alumni Award, which recognizes people who demonstrated exemplary leadership in building links between Ireland and the United States. Mary used those relationships not only to inspire new art (her album From Mountain to Mountain developed directly from her time in the US) – but also to support NUI Galway students. For example, to honour the memory of the American singer-songwriter Jean Ritchie, Mary established a student exchange between NUI Galway and Berea College, Kentucky. She took great care to ensure that the exchange would provide free room and board for Galway students, thereby opening up the life-altering benefits of international exchange to people who might not otherwise have been able to experience it. That quiet commitment to fairness, and that unobtrusive attentiveness to the needs of others, were among her defining characteristics. Shortly after the release of her first album, Mary was diagnosed with cancer. It is a sign of both her resilience and her strength of character that she marked her recovery from that illness with the release of her second album and the launch of the Arts in Action programme at NUI Galway. With the return of that illness in recent years, those traits have again been in strong evidence: until very recently Mary was not only overseeing this year’s Arts in Action programme – but was avidly planning for next year. Our deepest sympathies go to Mary’s family – to Paddy, Mairead, Meabh – and to her wider family and her many friends. She will be missed by all of us in the university, but she will also be celebrated. She believed firmly that the arts must always be ‘in action’: that they must be for everyone, that they must enrich and embolden us, and that they must change the world for the better. That is a powerful legacy that we will cherish and carry forward.

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