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!

New Irish Centre for Vascular Biology to Seek Out Novel Treatments for Vascular Diseases

New Irish Centre for Vascular Biology to seek out novel treatments for vascular diseases such as thrombosis, stroke, haemophilia and cancer


The Irish Centre for Vascular Biology was launched today at RCSI (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland). The establishment of the new Irish Centre for Vascular Biology, based at RCSI, will be comprised of an integrated network of groups in Irish universities, hospitals, SME’s and industry partners in Ireland, both north and south, involved in vascular-related research.

The objective of the Irish Centre for Vascular Biology is to harness the expertise of these individual groups to establish a single national Irish centre of excellence in vascular biology research that will be recognised at international level. The Centre will incorporate leading Irish researchers in the areas of haemostasis, thrombosis, platelet biology, vascular inflammation and blood vessel development.

Speaking at the launch, Professor James O’Donnell, Director of the Irish Centre for Vascular Biology and Professor of Vascular Biology at RCSI, said “Vascular diseases impact upon every facet of human health, and are the leading causes of mortality in Ireland and worldwide. By bringing together this critical mass of world-class Irish investigators and clinicians through the Irish Centre for Vascular Biology, we aim to perform cutting-edge research that will ultimately lead to new treatments for vascular diseases such as thrombosis, stroke, haemophilia and cancer.”

“Given the particularly high levels of morbidity and mortality associated with vascular diseases in Ireland, this new centre will be of scientific and economic significance, and will have direct clinical relevance.” concluded Professor O’Donnell.

The Irish Centre for Vascular Biology will leverage existing Irish expertise, but also build new partnerships between the major stakeholders involved in Irish vascular research, including scientists, healthcare providers, patients and industry partners. In parallel, the centre will provide a training platform for the next generation of outstanding vascular biology researchers and clinician-scientists in Ireland. Crucially, the centre will be industry facing, and will partner with local SMEs and multinational pharmaceutical companies to achieve shared goals of developing new treatments and technologies that reduce the overwhelming burden that vascular diseases place on Irish society.

Speaking before the launch Professor Cathal Kelly, CEO/Registrar of RCSI stated “I am delighted that the Irish Centre for Vascular Biology will be based at RCSI. RCSI has a proud tradition as a leader in health sciences research and we look forward to seeing the contribution the Irish Centre for Vascular Biology will make in addressing vascular diseases.”

To coincide with the launch of the centre, international leaders in the field of vascular biology from both Europe and North America will attend the event. Professor Garret Fitzgerald from the University of Pennsylvania and Chairman of the Irish Centre for Vascular Biology External Scientific Advisory Board will give the keynote presentation on the ‘Future of Translational Research and Vascular Medicine.

Trinity Scientists discover shared genetic origin for MND and schizophrenia

Researchers from Trinity College Dublin have shown for the first time that Motor Neurone Disease (MND) — also known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) — and schizophrenia have a shared genetic origin, indicating that the causes of these diverse conditions are biologically linked. The work has just been published in the prestigious journal Nature Communications.

By analysing the genetic profiles of almost 13,000 MND cases and over 30,000 schizophrenia cases, the researchers have confirmed that many of the genes that are associated with these two very different conditions are the same.

In fact, the research has shown an overlap of 14% in genetic susceptibility to the adult onset neuro-degeneration condition ALS/MND and the developmental neuropsychiatric disorder schizophrenia.

While overlaps between schizophrenia and other neuropsychiatric conditions including bipolar affective disorder and autism have been shown in the past, this is the first time that an overlap in genetic susceptibility between MND and psychiatric conditions has been shown.

Dr Russell McLaughlin, Ussher Assistant Professor in Genome Analysis at Trinity College Dublin, and lead author of the paper said: “This study demonstrates the power of genetics in understanding the causes of diseases.”

“While neurological and psychiatric conditions may have very different characteristics and clinical presentations, our work has shown that the biological pathways that lead to these diverse conditions have much in common.”

Professor of Neurology in Trinity and Consultant Neurologist at the National Neuroscience Centre at Beaumont Hospital Dublin, Orla Hardiman, is the senior author and lead investigator on the project.

Professor Hardiman said: “Our work over the years has shown us that MND is a much more complex disease than we originally thought. Our recent observations of links with psychiatric conditions in some families have made us think differently about how we should study MND. When combined with our clinical work and our studies using MRI and EEG, it becomes clear that MND is not just a disorder of individual nerve cells, but a disorder of the way these nerve cells talk to one another as part of a larger network.”

She continued: “So instead of thinking of MND as a degeneration of one cell at a time, and looking for a ‘magic bullet’ treatment that works, we should think about MND in the same way that we think about schizophrenia, which is a problem of disruptions in connectivity between different regions of the brain, and we should look for drugs that help to stabilise the failing brain networks.”

“The other significant issue that this research brings up is that the divide between psychiatry and neurology is a false one. We need to recognise that brain disease has many different manifestations, and the best way to develop new treatments is to understand the biology of what is happening. This will have major implications for how we classify diseases going forward, and in turn how we train our future doctors in both psychiatry and neurology. That in itself will have knock-on consequences for how society understands, approaches and treats people with psychiatric and neurological conditions.”

The new research was prompted by earlier epidemiological studies by researchers at Trinity, led by Professor Hardiman. These studies showed that people with MND were more likely than expected to have other family members with schizophrenia, and to have had another family member who had committed suicide.

This was first noted as family histories were ascertained from people with MND in the National ALS Clinic and was subsequently investigated as part of case control studies in Ireland in which over 192 families with MND and 200 controls participated. Details of over 12,000 relatives were analysed and the rates of various neurological and psychiatric conditions calculated in family member of those with MND and controls. This work was subsequently published in the prestigious American journal the Annals of Neurology in 2013.

This led the Trinity group to team up with European collaborators in MND including the University of Utrecht, Kings College London and members of the Project MinE and Psychiatric Genome Consortia to see if these epidemiological observations could be due to a genetic overlap between MND and schizophrenia.

The Trinity group, along with their partners in the University of Utrecht, will continue to study the links between MND and psychiatric conditions using modern genetics, epidemiology and neuroimaging, and in this way will develop new and more effective treatments that are based on stabilizing disrupted brain networks.

The full paper is available here:

TCD – New discovery to prevent infections spreading on medical devices

Microbiologists from Trinity College Dublin have discovered how to prevent bacteria from growing on medical devices such as hip replacements and heart valves that are implanted in the human body.

Their discovery is a step towards developing new preventative strategies that could have a direct impact on the recovery of patients in the immediate aftermath of a surgical operation.

Medical devices are routinely used in modern medicine to prevent and treat illness and disease but their use is compromised when an accumulation of bacteria called “biofilms” attach to the device surface after it is implanted in the human body.

Communities of these bacteria called ‘staphylococci’ grow on catheters, heart valves and artificial joints, and avoid being killed by antibiotics and the human immune system, which means healthcare professionals often have to remove and replace the medical devices. Each incident of biofilm infection costs the healthcare system €50,000 – €90,000.

The research team — led by Dr Joan Geoghegan, Assistant Professor of Microbiology in Trinity’s School of Genetics and Microbiology — is studying new ways to prevent medical device-related infection.

Dr Joan Geoghegan and Leanne Hays' work may pave the way to new options for surgeons that reduce the risk of bacterial infection for patients.
Dr Joan Geoghegan and Leanne Hays’ work may pave the way to new options for surgeons that reduce the risk of bacterial infection for patients.

Their recent breakthrough published in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA shows that it is possible to prevent communities of staphylococci from forming by targeting the linkages that hold the bacteria together.

In collaboration with atomic force microscopy expert Professor Yves Dufrêne and his team at the Université Catholique de Louvain, Leanne Hays, PhD student in Trinity’s Department of Microbiology, has found that it is possible to stop bacteria from attaching to surfaces and to each other by using a small blocking molecule.

The target of the blocking molecule was a protein attached to the surface of the bacteria called ‘SdrC’. In laboratory experiments the blocking molecule prevented the SdrC protein from recognising other bacteria, which stopped the staphylococci from growing as biofilm communities.

Dr Geoghegan said: “These new findings show that it is possible to stop bacteria from building communities using molecules that specifically target proteins attached to the surface of the bacteria. This exciting breakthrough will inform the design of new, targeted approaches to prevent biofilm formation by staphylococci and reduce the incidence of medical device-related infection.

The research at Trinity College Dublin was supported by an Irish Research Council Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship awarded to Leanne Hays.

RCSI discovery on children’s bone growth to advance development of bone healing therapies

Study opens new avenues for bone repair in adults with severe fractures and bone degeneration

Irish scientists are developing an advanced technology to speed up bone repair in adults who have suffered severe fractures and bone degeneration. This follows the identification of a gene which explains why children’s stem cells form bone very quickly.
Scientists at RCSI (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland) and SFI funded AMBER (Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research) centre, in collaboration with clinicians at the National Paediatric Craniofacial Centre (NPCC) at Temple Street Children’s University Hospital, compared children and adult-derived stem cells in order to understand more comprehensively why children’s cells have an extraordinary capacity to respond to their environment and repair bone quickly.
Their study investigated the age-associated changes in the capacity of stem cells to form bone tissue, and identified a potential therapeutic target which opens new avenues to develop novel therapeutic target-specific biomaterials for restoring a child-like bone healing capacity in adults suffering from severe fractures and bone degeneration.
The RCSI and AMBER team carried out the study with Mr. Dylan Murray, lead clinician at the NPCC at Temple Street Children’s University Hospital.
In this study the researchers found that children’s stem cells are far more sensitive to changes in their physical environment and form bone quicker than adult-derived stem cells. Furthermore, by comparing the genetic expression of children and adult-derived stem cells, the researchers identified a particular gene (JNK3) that explains why children’s stem cells respond to their physical environment differently, creating more bone than adult cells, thus, suggesting its potential as a new target to promote enhanced bone repair.  Building on a wealth of experience in advanced biomaterials in the RCSI Tissue Engineering Research Group (TERG), the team is now utilising this knowledge to develop an advanced technology to facilitate enhanced bone repair.
Professor Fergal O’Brien from the Department of Anatomy in RCSI who is lead-Principal Investigator on the project and Deputy Director of AMBER said: ‘We are very excited by the identification of a key mechanism which influences bone formation in children and this study opens a new research avenue which will focus on therapeutic delivery in order to upregulate this gene with a view to replicating the enhanced bone regenerative potential of children in adults. Ultimately we hope that this research will lead to improved treatments for patients who have suffered severe bone loss through injury or disease’.
Commenting on the significance of the research, Dr Arlyng Gonzalez Vazquez, joint first author on the study said: ‘Our findings not only have major implications for tackling the decrease of bone repair capacity that occurs with age but also set the basis for a novel research strategy applicable to other tissues in the body’.
The research, which has just been published in Acta Biomaterialia – a leading journal in the biomedical engineering field, was the result of a multi-disciplinary effort between cell biologists, clinicians and engineers in the RCSI TERG and €58million SFI-funded AMBER Centre. Post-doctoral researchers, Dr Arlyng Gonzalez Vazquez and Dr Sara Barreto, the first authors on the study conducted the research under the supervision of Professor O’Brien in RCSI and Mr. Dylan Murray in Temple Street. This work was supported by the Health Research Board, the Temple Street Foundation (the fundraising arm of the hospital) and the Irish Research Council.
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.
The National Paediatric Craniofacial Centre (NPCC) is based at Temple Street Children’s University Hospital, Dublin I and aims to provide a holistic multidisciplinary approach to the management of both congenital and acquired craniofacial deformity from birth to skeletal maturity using the most modern and advanced techniques. Please see

Next stop, Nobel Laureate Meeting, for UCC researcher

David McNulty, Postdoctoral Researcher, Applied Nanoscience Group, Department of Chemistry:
David McNulty, Postdoctoral Researcher, Applied Nanoscience Group, Department of Chemistry: “Attending the Lindau meeting will be a life changing experience for me.”

Dr David McNulty, a postdoctoral researcher at UCC, is one of just three people from Ireland selected to participate in the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Lindau in June.

Dr McNulty, a Postdoctoral Researcher in Dr Colm O’Dwyer’s Applied Nanoscience Group in UCC’s Department of Chemistry, described being one of only 400 young scientists from 76 countries invited to the meeting, this year focused on chemistry, as “a great honour.”

“Attending the Lindau meeting will be a life-changing experience for me, as it will give me an invaluable chance to meet some of the elite scientists in the world, share experiences with them, listen to their advice and essentially allow me to stand on the shoulders of giants.”

Dr McNulty’s research is focused on metal oxide and semiconductor nanostructures as electrode materials for next generation Li-ion batteries.

The scientists selected – all outstanding undergraduate students, graduate students and post-docs under the age of 35 conducting research in the field of chemistry – will meet with Nobel Laureates at Lake Constance from June 25 to 30.

UCC, Nobel Laureate Meeting

More than 30 Nobel laureates have already confirmed their participation, including Bernard Feringa and Jean-Pierre Sauvage, who received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2016. Key topics to be discussed include Big Data, climate change and the role of science in a “post-truth” era.

Dr McNulty and the other scientists have successfully passed a multi-stage international selection process, and will come from countries including the US, Japan, Israel, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Benin, with a 45-55 female-male ratio.

“For the field of chemistry, that is a substantial number”, according to Wolfgang Lubitz, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion, Vice-President of the Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings and scientific co-chairperson of this year’s meeting.

“The quality of applicants was again extremely high”, said Burkhard Fricke, professor emeritus for theoretical physics and coordinator of the selection process. “Some of the young scientists who applied had very impressive CVs. It is highly unfortunate that we can only invite 400 of them.”

“The Nobel prizes are the most prestigious prize in the intellectual realm. The findings of previous Nobel Laureates not only represent the most significant advances made within the scientific community, they have also had an immeasurable impact on the day-to-day lives of people worldwide,” Dr McNulty added.

UCD – Drug can reduce risk of developing diabetes by 80 per cent, study shows

  • Drug reduces chances of developing diabetes by 80 per cent
  • Pre-diabetes also reversed in 60 per cent of those on trial

An injected drug that lowers blood sugar levels can reduce the chances of those at risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 80 per cent, according to new research led by a scientist at University College Dublin.

The drug, liraglutide, promotes weight loss by interacting with the areas of the brain that control appetite and energy intake.

The study involved a major international trial conducted over three years in which 2,254 adults with pre-diabetes participated at 191 research sites in 27 countries. The findings of the study were published in the medical journal, The Lancet.

The aim of the trial was to evaluate whether liraglutide can safely delay the onset of type 2 diabetes in participants with pre-diabetes.

The trial results show that continuous treatment with the drug over three years helped to prevent the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in participants by 80 per cent when combined with diet and exercise.

In 60 per cent of those patients, pre-diabetes was completely reversed and patients returned to healthy blood sugar levels.

Of those patients who went on to develop diabetes, those who had been taking the drug took three times longer to develop the disease than those in the placebo group.

Liraglutide also helped to sustain greater weight loss when compared to the placebo.

Pre-diabetes is a metabolic condition that is closely tied to obesity. If undiagnosed or untreated, it can develop into type 2 diabetes, which is treatable, but not reversible.

In Ireland, one in ten of the population have pre-diabetes, and pre-diabetes and obesity are risk factors for type 2 diabetes and its complications. Pre-diabetes progresses into type 2 diabetes in five to ten per cent of sufferers within ten years.

These individuals are at risk of a range of conditions that can affect their overall health, including type 2 diabetes and its complications, as well as cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Professor Carel le Roux from the UCD Diabetes Complications Research Centre, UCD School of Medicine and Fellow, UCD Conway Institute is an obesity specialist and the corresponding author on the study.

“In this study, we wanted to see if this drug in combination with a reduced-calorie diet and lifestyle intervention could delay the onset of type 2 diabetes in a high-risk population with obesity and pre-diabetes,” he said.

“On the basis of our findings, liraglutide 3.0 mg can provide us with a new therapeutic approach for patients with obesity and pre-diabetes to substantially reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes and its related complications.”

The study is entitled: 3 years’ of liraglutide versus placebo for type 2 diabetes risk reduction and weight management in individuals with prediabetes: a randomised, double-blind trial

By: Jamie Deasy, digital journalist, UCD University Relations

UL researcher awarded prestigious global fellowship

Physiotherapy researcher Dr Mary O’Keeffe is the first UL graduate to receive the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Global Fellowship from the European Commission.

A University of Limerick, Health Research Institute researcher has been awarded a prestigious global fellowship to further her research into lower back pain.

Physiotherapy researcher Dr Mary O’Keeffe is the first UL graduate to receive the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Global Fellowship from the European Commission. The award will enable Dr O’Keeffe to attend the George Institute for Global Health at University of Sydney, Australia, one of the top ten research institutions in the world for scientific impact. There, she will be hosted for two years by Professor Chris Maher who is the world leader in lower-back-pain research.

“I absolutely love research and think it has great potential to have a positive impact on the economy, health system and most importantly the patients and public all over the world,” Dr O’Keeffe commented.

“Back pain is the leading cause of disability in the world and I hope by strengthening both my research and communication skills I can one day contribute to improving the lives of millions of people worldwide for the better. Good science and research are powerful weapons and have the potential to do great things. Knowledge is power! I am very fortunate to be this position and I am excited for all the opportunities ahead,” she added.

Dr O’Keeffe will conduct advanced analysis of her PhD multicentre randomised controlled trial which investigated the role of a personalised multidimensional treatment for chronic low back pain within the Health Service Executive. Her doctoral research was undertaken through a competitive PhD scholarship from the Irish Research Council.

While at the George Institute for Global Health, Dr O’Keeffe will be trained in mediation, moderation and economic evaluation and will be involved in pharmacological and exercise trials. The fellowship also involves skills development in networking, grantsmanship, project management, leadership and student supervision and communications training with a media office and a multi award winning health journalist, Dr Ray Moynihan, co-author of Selling Sickness-How the World’s Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies are Turning us All into Patients.

The fellowship also involves an internship with Wiserhealthcare, an international and interdisciplinary collaboration to reduce over-diagnosis and overtreatment of conditions like lower back pain.

In the third year of the fellowship, Dr O’Keeffe will return to UL to be hosted by her PhD supervisor Dr Kieran O’Sullivan. During this time she will complete a secondment to the European Pain Federation (EPF) in Brussels. EPF creates a forum for European collaboration on pain issues and to encourage communication at a European level.

“I am delighted to have been awarded this prestigious fellowship. Post PhD can be hard and a confusing time to decide ‘where do I go and what do I do next?’ This fellowship gives me a-once-in-a-life-time opportunity to further my training and development in a world class research team and this will build my capacity to become a leading light in my field of back pain,” Dr O’Keeffe concluded.

Network of European experts exploring new weapons against drug-resistant bacteria

Professor Colum Dunne from University of Limerick (UL) Graduate Entry Medical School (GEMS) is a member of the AMiCI Management Group.


A network of European experts has begun examining the potential of antimicrobial coatings to prevent the spread of drug-resistant bacteria in hospitals.

The Anti-Microbial Coating Innovations (AMiCI) consortium is studying the development, regulation, and “real life” use of these coatings, which can be used on textiles, including bed sheets and gowns, and solid surfaces such as walls, floors, beds and tables. Professor Colum Dunne from University of Limerick (UL) Graduate Entry Medical School (GEMS) is a member of the AMiCI Management Group.

According to Professor Dunne: “New approaches are needed to protect hospital patients and healthcare staff. Antimicrobial coatings have great potential. These are surfaces fortified with active ingredients that are responsible for the reduction and even elimination of micro-organisms that come into contact with them”.

Healthcare associated infections, including multidrug-resistant bacteria, effect four million people annually in the European Union, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

More than 60 universities, research institutes and companies from 26 European countries are participating in the network, which represents the first time this issue is being addressed on such a large scale.

Members of the AMiCI consortium are organised into five groups concentrating on different areas relating to antimicrobial materials.

They will examine the design and manufacture of antimicrobial materials, their performance testing, risk assessment, management and cleaning.

“While some materials, such as copper and silver, have recognised antimicrobial properties, there are promising new technologies for use in coatings. In this network, we will evaluate the impact of introducing these in healthcare facilities, their potential for impact on spread of infection, practical aspects of their regulation and use, and possible development of resistance,” Professor Dunne adds.

AMiCI is supported by the European Commission’s Cooperation in Science and Technology programme (COST) for four years.

Previous research, published by Professor Dunne and his colleagues, has reported the emergence of multidrug-resistant bacteria in Irish hospitals. It has also examined how outbreaks of these organisms have been successfully managed by infection prevention and control teams.