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UL team wins US-Ireland Research Innovation Award

University of Limerick, 3D4Medical and IBM Research were the winners of the 2017 US-Ireland Research Innovation Awards, jointly presented by the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland and the Royal Irish Academy at the Chamber’s Annual Dinner in the Clayton Burlington Hotel, Dublin.

The team from UL led by Dr Eamonn de Barra, in collaboration with Stryker Orthopaedics, received the award for developing a new type of bioactive bone cement for neurosurgery, which has advantages over existing products on the market in terms of ease of use, speed of surgical placement and reduced workload on the OR team which is a positive outcome for all.

Dr de Barra said, “We are proud to reach this milestone and to continue to assist our research partner Stryker in their corporate mission, via the exchange of ideas, technology and people. We at the University of Limerick are delighted to have our collaboration recognised by the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland and the Royal Irish Academy in their Innovation Awards 2017”.

Among the 700 strong audience at the awards ceremony were leaders of many of the US companies in Ireland, representatives from academia and a range of innovation stakeholders. In addition to hearing from the President of the American Chamber James O’Connor and President of the Royal Irish Academy Professor Michael Peter Kennedy, the event was also attended by US Chargé d’Affaires Reece Smyth and Conrad Tribble, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State at the State Department in Washington DC.

Speaking about the need for Ireland’s innovative approach, James O’Connor, President of the American Chamber said: “To be successful in the digital age, we need to continually upgrade and invest in our physical infrastructure.  We need to increase the supply of residential and commercial accommodation for the current and next generations who want to come to work and live here.  We need to seize the opportunity to develop cloud technologies.  And most importantly, we need to continue to invest in our skills and talent. The battle for FDI will centre on digital skills that are needed to unleash innovation in our 21st century data-driven economy.  A key part of producing the best graduates is ensuring that our young people are equipped with the skills that enable them to participate in a digital world. Whether working in a medical field, as a fashion designer, architect, the arts, the ability to harness digital technology will help them to do more and achieve more”.

“Ireland, through the government’s policies and the approach of its agencies, has constantly embraced innovation. It is this innovative approach to doing business which has ensured the strength of the US-Ireland business relationship over the 55 years since the foundation of the American Chamber of Commerce. The work we are celebrating tonight continues to be done through amazing collaboration built over many decades of US companies investing in Ireland, companies who constantly reinvent themselves and move up the value chain to provide high quality products and services for customers around the world. We can all be incredibly proud of the work of tonight’s award winners and indeed all those who entered this year’s awards.

“Through the efforts of this Chamber and State Agencies such as Enterprise Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland and the IDA, Ireland is the place to ‘make it happen’. This is a message that is clearly understood by our members here tonight and in boardrooms throughout the US.  The potential of over 150,000 of Ireland’s best educated and highly talented innovative people is being realised daily by over 700 US companies that are invested here.  Every day, they work at the leading edge, producing the goods and services that are transforming our world today, and imagining and developing the goods, services and ideas that will change our world tomorrow.  I am very proud of the powerful reputation we have built as a country that delivers for the companies who have invested here,” he continued.

According to Anna Scally, Partner, KPMG in Ireland: “These awards are a great opportunity to showcase innovation in Ireland today. Companies all over the world are looking for competitive advantage, and innovation is critical to that. If Ireland can be at the forefront of innovation, then that will help us to retain our place as the leading location in the world for FDI. KPMG works with innovative companies in every sector of Irish business and we strongly believe in supporting innovation at every opportunity. We are delighted to support these awards”.

Stephen Masterson, Ulster Bank Head of Corporate Banking and Markets said: “We know the tangible benefits US multinationals bring to Ireland in terms of investment, expertise and talent. But what the awards really shine a light on, is highlighting a less known benefit for the SME sector which is the lifeblood of the Irish economy. The awards show how this community has embraced innovation and technology and collaboration with the FDI sector. That is why we at Ulster Bank are delighted to support the initiative”.

The evening also saw the presentation of the American Chamber Special Recognition Award to CoderDojo, the global network of free, volunteer-led, community-based programming clubs now available in 63 countries for young people founded in 2011 by Bill Liao and James Whelton in Cork.

Ireland’s first space satellite to be developed by UCD

  • Satellite will detect most powerful explosions in the universe

University College Dublin will lead the development of Ireland’s first space satellite after the European Space Agency gave the green light to its EIRSAT-1 project.

The Education Irish Research Satellite (EIRSAT-1) will be launched from the International Space Station in 2019 once final approval is received from the ESA.

It will be managed and controlled from a command centre in the UCD School of Physics. Known as a CubeSat because of its size – around that of a shoebox – it will orbit the Earth for approximately 12 months.

A major part of its mission will be to gather data on the most powerful explosions in the universe – gamma-ray bursts.

 

“Despite its small size, EIRSAT-1 will detect the biggest explosions since the Big Bang and pave the way for future space science missions,” said Professor Lorraine Hanlon, UCD School of Physics.

“Our students will have an amazing opportunity to learn, not only from the wealth of expertise at ESA, but also from the other excellent teams participating in the programme from across Europe. This hard work will prepare them very well for future careers in the space sector.”

Five Irish companies will work with University College Dublin and Queen’s University Belfast on the project. The companies include Resonate, ENBIO, SensL, Parameter Space and MOOG Dublin.

Parameter Space is a UCD spin-out and ENBIO was previously based at NovaUCD, the university’s Centre for New Ventures and Entrepreneurs.

The collaboration of student teams, researchers and high-tech companies is part of the ESA’s Fly Your Satellite programme. It will provide training and education to graduates and undergraduate students in all major aspects of satellite development, under guidance from academic and industry mentors and the ESA.

NUI Galway Study Finds BMI May Be a Factor in How a Child’s Academic Ability is Perceived

A new study by researchers in NUI Galway and Queens University Belfast demonstrates that obesity should not be understood solely as a health issue but rather one that may have much broader economic implications. The findings provide evidence that the body mass index (BMI) of a child’s mother may influence teachers’ perceptions of the academic ability of that child.

The study published in the journal Economics and Human Biology showed that children whose mother was obese were more likely to be rated by their teacher as below average in reading and in maths compared to those whose mother was leaner, after what the child actually obtained in terms of their actual test score in both maths and reading had been taken into account.

Although not the focus of this study, it is notable that other variables such as the child’s gender, other aspects of the mother (education, income) and in extended models teacher characteristics (gender and experience) were significant which could also potentially be worrisome.

Michelle Queally, post-doctoral research fellow at the J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics at NUI Galway and co-author of the study, said: “The study found a significant relationship between a mother’s BMI and the probability of the child’s ability being assessed as below average by their teacher. This is potentially worrisome and clearly indicates the need for further research. Other findings of the study show that boys, for example, are more likely to be rated as below average in reading and girls are more likely to be rated as below average by teachers in maths. The size of the marginal effect for girls is 0.02, while that for a mother’s BMI is 0.003. In other words a 10 point increase in BMI, moving someone from normal to obese, for example, would be roughly equivalent in terms of its impact on the probability of being assessed as below average as would the child being female.”

Using data collected as part of the first wave of the Growing up in Ireland Survey (a longitudinal cohort study of a nationally representative sample of over 8500 children from 900 schools in Ireland) the researchers from NUI Galway and Queens University Belfast investigated whether teacher’s assessments of a child’s academic ability is associated with the BMI of the child and/or its mother.

Findings from the study are consistent with other studies that have shown disadvantage experienced by the obese and in particular obese women in various domains of life. The study notes that the potential for a mother’s weight status to influence teachers’ assessments of their children’s perceived ability could have long term ramifications for educational outcomes given the role of teachers in examination marking.

While compelling, the analysis cannot be taken as definitive proof that teachers stereotype children based on an assessment of their mother’s obesity. It is probable, for example, that test scores form only a small part of the information used by teacher’s in making assessments of ability. Nevertheless the study highlights an area that warrants further investigation.

To read the full study in Economics and Human Biology visit: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1570677X16300624

Science Foundation Ireland to invest €72m in four new world-class research centres

Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) today announced that it will invest €72 million, over the next six years, in four new world-class SFI Research Centres in Ireland.

The new SFI Research Centres will be supported by 80 industry partners who will provide an additional €38 million to support cutting-edge basic and applied research with strong industry engagement, economic and societal impact. The decision follows a comprehensive international peer review process involving leading industry and academic experts over the last 12 months.

Innovation 2020, the Government’s five-year strategy for research and development, science and technology, directs that the network of SFI Research Centres should be further developed to build critical mass in strategic areas of research strength and address enterprise needs.

The announcement marks the third tranche of funding under the SFI Research Centres Programme. The first seven SFI Research Centres were established in 2013 and a further five were established 2015.

These 12 world-leading SFI Research Centres are recognised internationally for research excellence; attract talent and capital to Ireland; anchor, attract and spin-out businesses; consolidate excellent basic and applied research across Higher Education Institutions; and secure EU and other international funding.

The four new SFI Research Centres announced today, including two from University College Dublin (UCD), are:

  • Biological resources as alternative materials to finite fossil resources, led by Professor Kevin O’Connor (pictured right), UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science (Project Title – BEACON)
  • Innovative techniques and processes in Additive Manufacturing, led by Professor Denis Dowling (pictured below right) UCD School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering (Project Title – Déantús)
  • Smart manufacturing IT and industrial automation systems, led by Professor Conor McCarthy, University of Limerick (Project Title – Confirm)
  • Diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of chronic and rare neurological diseases – led by Professor David Henshall, RCSI (Project Title – Future Neuro).

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government of Ireland said, “Our existing 12 SFI Research Centres are outstanding international examples of applied and basic combined (ABC) research. They are making important scientific advances, enhancing enterprise and industry, developing critical skills, supporting regional development, and enhancing Ireland’s international reputation.

“They are drivers of Ireland’s increased rankings in research and innovation over the last number of years. They are also an important engine for the economy; companies engaged with the SFI Research Centres are located all over Ireland and globally.”

“The commitment of industry and academic bodies to come together to develop these new SFI Research Centres clearly demonstrates the potential economic and societal impact of the planned research. I look forward to working with the four new SFI Research Centres on their road to becoming world-class centres of research excellence.”

Professor Orla Feely, UCD Vice-President for Research, Innovation and Impact said, “This is a wonderful achievement by all involved at UCD. The research that will take place in these Centres over the coming years will advance knowledge, train excellent researchers, and deliver impact to the economy and society.”

The four new SFI Research Centres involve strong collaborative partnerships between research bodies in Ireland with funded researchers participating from institutions including; Athlone Institute of TechnologyBeaumont HospitalCork Institute of TechnologyDublin City UniversityMater HospitalMaynooth UniversityNUI Galway, the Royal College of Surgeons in IrelandTeagascTemple Street Children’s HospitalTrinity College DublinTyndall National Institute (UCC), University College CorkUniversity College DublinUniversity of Limerick and Waterford Institute of Technology.

Four further SFI Research Centre proposals were approved in principle by the SFI Board following stringent assessment by international peer review.
SFI is seeking additional funding to support these centres over the next six years. These proposed SFI Research Centres involve collaborative partnerships with over 100 companies who have committed €60 million funding to the centres.

These proposals, including one from UCD, are:

  • Mapping the molecular causes of human diseases using Systems Biology led by Professor Walter Kolch (pictured right), UCD School of Medicine (Project Title – H-SYS)
  • Innovative technologies to support the production of dairy products: From Pasture, To Cow, To Food, led by Dr Donagh Berry, Teagasc (Project Title Future Milk)
  • Inflammation and Innate Immunology led by Professor Andrew Bowie, TCD (Project Title – INNATE)
  • Advanced Biopharmaceutical Manufacturing led by Professor Michael Butler, National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT) (Project Title – Bio-Logic).

Commenting on the SFI Board decision, Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government of Ireland said, “We need to be ambitious and invest in areas of real potential to ensure our future economic competitiveness. In line with Innovation 2020 we have identified through the SFI Research Centre programme a further four proposals of strategic national importance that meet the high criteria of scientific excellence and impact.”

“Over the coming months we will be working to seek additional funding to support these four SFI Research Centres that have been approved in principle.  I am greatly encouraged by the high quality of research and the significant level of industry and international engagement in the proposals.”

The new SFI Research Centres will be formally launched in September 2017.

NUI Galway Research on Converting Biomass to High Value Molecules For Drug Discovery

International journal features NUI Galway research on producing higher value chemicals that could be used in drug discovery projects for Type-2 Diabetes and Gaucher Disease

Researchers from the School of Chemistry at NUI Galway have produced research that has been published this week in the international journal Synthesis, and has been featured on the journal’s front cover. The research involved the development of a strategy to convert biomass to high value molecules for investigation in new drug discovery projects such as Type-2 Diabetes, Gaucher’s disease and Fabry disease.

Synthesis is devoted to the advancement of the science of synthetic chemistry and papers featured in the journal are noted as being ‘original papers of exceptional high quality and significance to the scientific community’.

Professor Paul Murphy, Head of the School of Chemistry at NUI Galway, and a PhD researcher from the School, Rekha Chadda from Co. Sligo, worked together to develop a new strategy to convert mannose, a naturally occurring sugar manufactured from wood-based or other biomass, into higher value chemicals, called glycomimetics, that can be useful in drug discovery. Professor Patrick McArdle from the School of Chemistry, performed X-ray crystal structure analysis, which helped them confirm the molecular structure of substances produced in the research.

Some glycomimetics are in clinical use and are used for the treatment of patients with Type-2 Diabetes, Gaucher’s disease (a genetic disorder) and Fabry disease (an inherited disorder that results from the build-up of a particular type of fat). A glycomimetic (UV4) is currently in clinical trials with a view to the therapy of infection caused by the Dengue virus and there is potential in treatment of other infections.

Professor Paul Murphy at NUI Galway, said: “The research demonstrates the value of Synthetic Chemistry. We used a renewable molecule, the sugar mannose, from biomass as a basis for generating higher value molecules that have potential in drug discovery projects. In future we would like to expand the application of the strategy to make other important molecules for drug discovery projects as well as see if the approach can have application in synthesis of pharmaceuticals.”

The team used a new strategy, not investigated previously, to produce the glycomimetics. These new agents are now available for evaluation of their potential in drug discovery and this will be shortly investigated. Synthesis is a practice used by chemists to discover and manufacture drugs in everyday clinical use. It is also used to produce materials, such as plastics, which find everyday applications in people’s lives. In this research, Rekha Chadda took a substance prepared from mannose and subjected the substance to two old chemical reactions combined in a novel way. The reactions are known as allylic azide rearrangement and Huisgen cycloaddition, and were originally developed more than 50 years ago by US and German scientists.

This research study was funded by NUI Galway (PhD scholarship to Rekha Chadda), Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and the European Regional Development Fund.

View the paper on:  http://dx.doi.org/10.1055/s-0036-1588791

At TCD, Viewing protein folding helps scientists home in on neurodegenerative disease

A team of international researchers led by Professor in Physics at Trinity, Martin Hegner, an Investigator in CRANN, has for the first time observed how proteins fold while being produced in real time.

The work has significant implications for understanding protein synthesis generally, and particularly in neurogenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The team’s findings have just been published in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The article can be read here.

Professor Hegner’s work focuses on individual ribosomes, which are complex molecules that use genetic information to assemble proteins. There can be several million ribosomes in a typical human cell and they are about 20 nanometres in diameter. The assembly of proteins is crucial for a healthy functioning body as all the proteins in our bodies must fold into complex shapes to do their job.

While protein synthesis is of fundamental importance in cellular processes, how they are created is not fully understood. One of the events that occurs during protein synthesis is “folding”, where the chains of amino acids (polypeptides) fold into their final 3-dimensional structures.

Single ribosome assay.
Single ribosome assay.

Several neurodegenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer’s) and many allergies are believed to result from misfolded proteins. This research is thus important in developing further understanding of such conditions and in developing drugs that can target and prevent certain foldings. There has been interest expressed in Professor Hegner’s work by pharmaceutical companies.

Professor Hegner said: “The ribosome translation machinery is a highly complex system, involving many different factors such as energy input, messenger RNA decoding, amino acids, as well as their relative movements and interactions. Investigating this system at the single-molecule level required a highly ambitious and multi-faceted approach that pushes the boundaries of what is technically possible.

“We have identified key mechanisms within individual ribosomes using our unique optical tweezer instrumentation, of which there are only approximately five world-wide. Our expertise in the design of the device and the biological experiment, along with colleagues in Germany enabled us to “grab” the ribosome and the nascent protein chain and provided sufficient stability and sensitivity to observe the synthesis and folding of single polypeptides in real time at the nanometer scale. This was the first time this was observed world-wide and it is very significant to the research community and in developing more in-depth understandings of protein synthesis, – folding and certain diseases.

Professor Hegner was awarded a Science Foundation Ireland Principal Investigator award in 2016, valued at €1.3m, which will enable him to continue his work in this field.

The structure of the ribosome at atomic resolution was only determined in 2000, for which the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded in 2009.

Single injection ‘could repair damaged hearts’ after world-first trial

(l-r): Professor Noel Caplice, Chair of Cardiovascular Sciences, UCC; John Nolan from New Ross, Wexford, who was a participant in the clinical trial. Photo: Clare Keogh.
(l-r): Professor Noel Caplice, Chair of Cardiovascular Sciences, UCC; John Nolan from New Ross, Wexford, who was a participant in the clinical trial. Photo: Clare Keogh.

A UCC professor has shown in a trial, the first of its kind in the world, that low dose insulin-like growth factor, injected into the heart to repair damage to the muscle, improves remodelling for heart attack patients.

Professor Noel Caplice, Chair of Cardiovascular Sciences at UCC, and his cardiologist colleagues at Cork University Hospital successfully tested the growth factor in the clinical trial (RESUS-AMI), funded by a €1 million grant under the joint HRB-SFI Translational Research Award programme, of 47 patients who had experienced large attacks.

Around 20% of people who suffer heart attacks have severe ongoing difficulties because of lasting damage to heart muscle even after the best current therapies, often resulting in patients developing long-term heart failure, associated with increased morbidity and mortality.

Patients received two different low dose preparations of insulin-like growth factor or placebo in a randomised double blinded clinical trial, with results showing those who received the higher dose had improved remodelling of their heart muscle in the two-month follow-up after their heart attack, which correlated with other measures of improved heart performance.

“We are delighted that an important human study like this could be funded in Ireland and performed in Cork. This pilot trial is the first of its kind worldwide showing that single injection of low dose IGF1 is safe and can improve cardiac repair after a large heart attack,” said Professor Noel Caplice, Chair of Cardiovascular Sciences, UCC.

“We hope that these findings can be replicated in potentially larger trials of many hundred subjects in the future. A significant minority of our patients currently remain unwell after a large heart attack despite best clinical practice and we are excited by the possibility that cardiac repair therapy may help these patients,” he added.

If future bigger trials are successful, the growth factor could be applied more widely to improve the quality of life and life expectancy of any patient who has suffered a large heart attack, and be financially beneficial to the health service by reducing ongoing care costs.

John Nolan from New Ross, Wexford, became one of the patients in the trial, after suffering a heart attack in December 2014. “I feel I was blessed to be asked to be involved; I had confidence that good would come from it, in terms of how they explained it to me. Looking back on it now, I feel it was the right choice.”

John’s wife, Margaret, added: “Even as a nurse, I felt very vulnerable at the thought that my husband could’ve died. I speak on behalf of myself and my children, I’m really grateful for the aftercare and attention John received as a result of being on his trial. They updated us after every procedure as to how he was doing.”

Professor Noel Caplice, Chair of Cardiovascular Sciences, UCC; pictured with John Nolan from New Ross, a participant on the trial, and his wife Margaret.

According to Dr Mairéad O’Driscoll, Interim Chief Executive at the HRB: “Results like these are a perfect illustration of why the HRB has invested so much in building Ireland’s capacity to conduct clinical trials; so that our brilliant researchers, like Professor Caplice, can conduct research that will improve the outcomes for patients. I’d like to congratulate everyone involved in this ground-breaking project, which could have a profound global impact.”

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government, added: “I am delighted to learn about these exciting results emerging from the Translational Research Award Programme, and congratulate Professor Caplice and his colleagues on this important finding. Science Foundation Ireland is proud to invest in exceptional, collaborative research groups that can produce life-changing advances in health research, with the potential to positively impact on patient well-being globally.”

The research has been recognised and peer-reviewed by the European Society of Cardiology and the trial was presented for the first time at its Heart Failure 2017 conference in Paris this morning (April 29).

For more on this story contact:

Lynne Nolan, Media & PR Officer, UCC: 087 210 1119 or [email protected]

RCSI scientists discover gene that blocks spread of colon cancer

Researchers from RCSI (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland) and the University of Nice, France, have discovered the function of a gene called KCNQ1 that is directly related to the survival of colon cancer patients. The gene produces pore-forming proteins in cell membranes, known as ion channels. The finding is an important breakthrough towards the development of more effective therapies for colon cancer and new diagnostics that will provide a more accurate prognosis for colon cancer patients. The research is published this week in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (PNAS).

This is the first study of its kind to work out the molecular mechanisms of how the KCNQ1 ion channel gene suppresses the growth and spread of colon cancer tumours.

Worldwide, there are 774,000 deaths from colorectal cancer each year and it is the third leading cause of death from cancer globally(1). In Ireland, almost 2,500 Irish people are diagnosed with bowel cancer annually and it is the second most common cause of cancer death(2).

The research team, led by Professor Brian Harvey, Department of Molecular Medicine, RCSI, have identified the molecular mechanisms by which the KCNQ1 gene suppresses the growth and spread of colon cancer cells. The KCNQ1 gene works by producing an ion channel protein which traps a tumour promoting protein called beta-catenin in the cell membranes before it can enter the nucleus of the cell causing more cancer cells to grow.

Professor Brian Harvey, Professor of Molecular Medicine, RCSI
Professor Brian Harvey, Professor of Molecular Medicine, RCSI

The study looked at the relationship between the expression of the KCNQ1 gene and patient survival from more than 300 colon cancer patients. Patients who had high expression of the KCNQ1 gene were found to have a longer survival and less chance of relapse.

Commenting on the significance of the discovery Professor Harvey said: “This study has demonstrated the ability of an ion channel gene to block the growth of colon cancer cells. This is an exciting discovery as it opens up the possibility of a new kind of therapy that will target the KCNQ1 gene with drugs and also as a biomarker to improve diagnostics of colon cancer onset and development in patients. This information will help clinicians to identify the most effective treatment for the individual patient.”

“In the future, when we understand more about the KCNQ1 gene through further research, it will open up the possibility of developing new drug treatments that will be able harness the suppressive properties of the gene to target the colon specifically, without exposing other tissues in the body to unnecessary chemotherapy. The development of more targeted treatments for colon cancer is vital to improve the prognosis and quality of life for colon cancer patients.”

The full article is available at www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1702913114 

RCSI is ranked in the top 250 institutions worldwide in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings (2016-2017). It is an international not-for-profit health sciences institution, with its headquarters in Dublin, focused on education and research to drive improvements in human health worldwide.

New Animations to Optimise Care of Lung Disease Patients to be Launched at Cork University Hospital

An innovative new series of locally developed patient education animations that will accompany chronic lung disease patients on their care journey from hospital to home was launched at Cork University Hospital today.

The animations will help to optimise the management of patients with respiratory diseases like asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), lung cancer, Cystic Fibrosis (CF) and interstitial lung disease, by providing them with information about their conditions at their fingertips.

The project is a collaboration between the respiratory medicine teams at Cork University Hospital (CUH), Health Information Hub Ireland (HIHI), University College Cork (UCC), GSK and Lincor, a global leader in patient engagement technology.

Professor Barry Plant, Consultant Respiratory Physician, Cork University Hospital said this was the next step in the delivery of services in respiratory medicine for people attending CUH.

“It is recognising that how and where people access healthcare information has changed. We now reach out to our patients through new mediums. This project digitalises much of this information, allowing people to access it at times convenient to them. It’s very exciting as it brings together multi-disciplinary respiratory teams in CUH/HSE in collaboration with HIHI and UCC, which is supported by different academic sponsors, CFMATTERS, Lincor and GSK. We are bringing together local expertise to build something that is internationally credible,” he explained.

Dr Colman Casey, Director of the UCC-based HIHI said they were very proud to have managed this creative and innovative project which will be launched on Wednesday, April 12 at CUH during Grand Rounds. The theme of Grand Rounds that day is the development of local technologies to improve the respiratory patient experience and the title is Virtual Reality experience, mHealth and eLearning in lung disease:  the present not the future.

The first part of Grand Rounds will focus on the installation of Lincor bedside screens in the state-of-the-art respiratory ward at CUH, Ward 5b (opened in December 2015). The respiratory teams in CUH, HIHI and Lincor came together to develop on-screen patient education material for use by the patients in the ward.

A series of additional educational animations funded by GSK, that can be viewed by patients when they return home from hospital, will be launched during the second part of Grand Rounds. The remainder of the event will describe other technologies independently developed in-house at CUH funded by the EU research fund and the associated Cork Centre for Cystic Fibrosis Control based in the CUH Cystic Fibrosis centre. These include a virtual lung used for training medical students and a CF patient passport.

Dr Casey said:“Patients with chronic lung disease tend to know a lot about their condition and are always interested in learning more. This is a free service to help these patients manage their condition well after they leave hospital, where they may have been for quite a while. These short animated clips are an effective means of helping patients to absorb information that they may not have taken in while they were in hospital.”

The project is already up and running in Ward 5B where each patient has their own touchscreen device attached by cantilever to the wall beside their bed. There are folders containing information and animated clips on asthma, COPD, lung cancer, CF and interstitial lung disease, which patients can access by pulling the screen in front of them.

“The information on the patient education devices has been developed by the clinical teams at CUH to provide patients with a deeper understanding of their condition. The folders also contain information on physiotherapy, nutrition etc. There are videos of procedures, for example a lung drain, which patients can watch to ease their minds in advance of going in for a procedure,” Dr Casey explained.

Five separate animations have been developed to date by the clinical teams working closely with a learning technologist, Incareview and Lincor, who have a base on the Model Farm Road.

There are three COPD animations — a COPD information video, a video on safe oxygen use at home, and a video outlining the range of COPD outreach services offered by CUH.

There is also a smoking cessation animation created in conjunction with the smoking cessation officers at CUH, and a step-by-step video for CF patients on the administration of antibiotics after they come home from hospital.

The animations can be accessed in three ways by patients via a smartphone or computer. They are given a QR code during a medical consultation which brings them into the video clip, or they can download an app to view the material or access it through a web link.

Pat O’Donnell, Co-Founder and SVP of Patient Connectivity at Lincor explained: “Lincor’s Vision has been to ensure patients are engaged in their own care during their stay in hospital and, more importantly, that they are provided with the knowledge to continue to be active members of their own care plan after leaving the hospital.

“This vision can only be achieved through the concerted efforts of all who are involved in these projects and, in particular, the staff of the CUH and Cork Centre for Cystic-Fibrosis Control. Through the interaction of technology, care practitioners, healthcare providers, government agencies, university campuses and private companies extraordinary achievements can be made in improving patient care.”

Martijn Akveld, Director of Medical Affairs with GSK said “At GSK, we are committed to enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer.  We are proud to support this collaborative patient support programme which embodies our vision. The healthcare professionals in Cork University Hospital and the Health Innovation Hub Ireland saw the potential to do something unique that would really improve the lives of their patients and they set about to make that happen.    This targeted educational initiative gives patients control of their disease, by giving them the resources and information they need to ensure that they can continue to benefit from the supportive care of their healthcare professionals after they leave the hospital.”

Medical Students Test their Clinical Skills at SimWars

The School of Medicine at University College Dublin hosted ‘SimWars’, a medical simulation competition for medical and nursing students in Ireland on 25th February.

The event was organised by members of the Emergency Medicine Student Society of Ireland EMSSI and saw students work in teams of five to manage a number of simulated medical emergency scenarios which included using medical mannequins, actors and digital technologies. Together these provided students with a realistic and immersive learning experience.

The event represented an opportunity for students to test not only their clinical skills, but also their ability to work as a team and perform under pressure. Expert emergency doctors and advanced paramedics from Loughlinstown Ambulance Station provided feedback on their collective and individual performances throughout the day, as well as delivering teaching sessions on topical issues within emergency medicine.

A judging panel of Professors and Doctors oversaw the capabilities and decisions of forty students who participated in the competition, representing the medical schools of University College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin, The Royal College of Surgeons, NUI Galway and University College Cork. Judges included Professor John Ryan, Dr. David Menzies, Dr. Alan Watts, Dr. Lisa Guthrie, Dr. David Monks and Dr. Eimhear Quinn.

After managing both a polytrauma and a peri-arrest simulation that morning, teams from Trinity College Dublin and NUI Galway were put forward as the highest performing teams to participate in the SimWars Grand Final, which took place that afternoon in the Garret Fitzgerald Debating Chamber in UCD. In front of a live audience, both teams performed a tight battle with NUI Galway coming out on top to scoop the SimWars Cup for its first year and taking the competition to the West for 2018.

Two final year medical students at UCD, Jamie Condren and Tiarnán Byrne both organised the event. Jamie stated

It is really encouraging to see healthcare students around the country training together alongside doctors and pre-hospital practitioners who have given up time to teach them in the evenings after classes and shifts are done. It’s clear that students recognise the real value of simulation training in terms of bridging the gap between theory and clinical practice.

Dr. David Menzies, a consultant in emergency medicine at St. Vincent’s University Hospital said

Imulation education plays a key role in the training of emergency physicians. The ‘SimWars’ competition represents a unique opportunity for students to consolidate important clinical and interpersonal skills using this immersive style of learning.

Congratulations to all who organised and attended this successful event!