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

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

NUI Galway – New research will investigate how changing diet affects kidney disease

Dr Andrew Smyth
Dr. Andrew Smyth

 

Dr Andrew Smyth, NUI Galway, has secured a prestigious Wellcome Post-Doctoral Training Fellowship award through the SFI-HRB-Wellcome Partnership to carry out a clinical trial to determine the effect of dietary modification on kidney disease. The award is worth €486,492 and will be co-funded by Science Foundation Ireland, the Health Research Board and Wellcome.

Using the award, Dr Smyth will also form collaborations with international researchers in McMaster University in Canada and the University of Oxford in the UK to help reveal the risk factors for, and impact of, kidney disease. They will also look at the effect of kidney disease on other aspects of health.

Commenting on the award, Dr Smyth said he is: “Very privileged to be given the opportunity to continue to further develop his clinical research skills.”

Speaking about the achievement, Dr Graham Love, Chief Executive at the Health Research Board said: “Securing this award is a real testament to Andrew’s research capability. These awards are not easy to get and we are delighted to work with SFI and Wellcome to help make them accessible to Irish researchers.”

Commenting on the award, Dr Darrin Morrissey, Director of Programmes at Science Foundation Ireland said: “Science Foundation Ireland would like to congratulate Dr Andrew Smyth as the first recipient in Ireland of this award. I hope that his success will encourage other clinician researchers to explore the opportunities available to support excellent and impactful research through the SFI-HRB-Wellcome Partnership.”

Head of Research Careers in Wellcome, Dr Anne-Maire Coriat, commented on the award saying: “We are delighted that Andrew was successful in his application for a Clinical Postdoctoral Research Training Fellowship, he is the first successful applicant from Ireland that Wellcome has supported since we launched the scheme for early postdoctoral fellowships in 2011. Research-active clinicians have an overwhelmingly positive impact on patient care but there are still many challenges facing clinicians who juggle clinical work and research. Our recent support for the Wellcome – Health Research Board Irish Clinical Academic Training (ICAT) Programme is a further example of our support for clinical academic research in Ireland – this award provides support for an all-Ireland cross-institutional, comprehensive national programme for Clinician Scientists based at six major Irish universities and their affiliated hospital groups.”

Wellcome’s existing schemes for postdoctoral clinical academics (the Clinical Postdoctoral Research Training Fellowship and Intermediate Clinical Fellowship) have recently been consolidated to establish a new scheme, the Clinical Research Career Development Fellowship. This offers the possibility of longer term support, and much greater flexibility in balancing research and clinical training. Those interested in finding out more, or applying, should visit: https://wellcome.ac.uk/funding/clinical-research-career-development-fellowships.

Further Irish success in securing funding

Recently, three more Irish researchers were successful in obtaining seed funding, worth over €350,000, from Wellcome through the same SFI-HRB-Wellcome Partnership. The Seed Awards are once-off awards of up to £100,000 (or euro equivalent) designed to help researchers develop a novel research idea, which could form part of a larger grant application in the future.

The three recent successful awardees are using their funding to understand the function of a novel molecule in killing breast cancer cells, to model the transport of drugs into diseased heart tissue and to generate models of motor neuron diseases using fruit flies.

Among the recipients was Dr Ellen Roche, based in NUI Galway also, will work on modelling the transport of drugs into diseased heart tissue using a novel, implantable device that is attached to the outer surface of the heart. Dr Roche’s work has the potential to ultimately improve treatment for patients with heart failure.

Seven researchers based in the Republic of Ireland have been successful in securing Seed Awards since the scheme opened in 2015. The closing date for the next round is 13 March 2017, with outcomes due in May 2017. Anyone wishing to apply can find more information on the scheme here: https://wellcome.ac.uk/funding/seed-awards-science

Author: Marketing and Communications Office, NUI Galway

Leading expert in cardiology joins NUI Galway to lead €5 million project in medical devices

Professor William Wijns, an expert in cardiology, has joined NUI Galway as Professor of Medical Devices.
Professor William Wijns, an expert in cardiology, has joined NUI Galway as Professor of Medical Devices.

Professor William Wijns, an expert in cardiology, has joined NUI Galway as Professor of Medical Devices. He will spearhead a €5 million research project, which will develop wearable sensors to alert patients at high risk of heart attacks to triggers such as stress or high blood pressure.

Professor Wijns joins the University through the Science Foundation Ireland Research Professorship Programme, which supports national strategic priorities by recruiting world-leading research and leadership talent to Ireland.

“The medical technology sector in Ireland is recognised as one of five global emerging hubs,” explains Professor Lokesh Joshi, Vice-President for Research at NUI Galway. “Eight of the world’s top ten med-tech companies are based here, and the West of Ireland in particular is at the heart of the Irish med-tech system. NUI Galway is the powerhouse for much of this progress and we have developed a range of interdisciplinary research centres and initiatives, working closely with partners in industry, healthcare and government agencies. We welcome Professor Wijns with great anticipation of the opportunities his transformative approach brings to the translation of research into practice to ultimately deliver better health outcomes for patients.”

In recent years Professor Wijns has held board memberships in the European Society of Cardiology and the World Heart Federation. He is currently Chairman of PCR, co-Director of Africa PCR and EuroPCR, the official congress of the European Association of Percutaneous Cardiovascular Interventions.

Professor Wijns previously worked at the Thorax Center in Rotterdam, where he was actively involved with the first applications of nuclear cardiology, thrombolysis and coronary dilatation, and the University of Louvain in Brussels, where he was Clinical Professor of Cardiology.

At NUI Galway, Professor Wijns’ programme of work will focus on interventional cardiology, more specifically on reducing the number of adverse cardiovascular events (heart attacks) in patients. His focus is consistent with the strategic research goals of the University, the Clinical Research Facility at University Hospital Galway and CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices, also based at NUI Galway.

“I am extremely delighted to be awarded this Science Foundation Ireland Research Professorship at NUI Galway where there exists excellent facilities and world-class researchers in this field. I am also excited by the potential to further my research and to work with such a strong network of academic, clinical and industrial partners in the course of my appointment,” said Professor Wijns.

Professor Wijns’ research focuses on heart attacks and sudden death caused by unexpected blockage of arteries supplying the heart with blood and oxygen. This occurs in people exposed to risk factors such as family history, hypertension, smoking, diabetes or high cholesterol, who exhibit a vulnerable narrowing in the walls of their arteries, without being aware of it.

Trigger mechanisms like anger, mental stress, high blood pressure, strenuous exercise and sleep disorders cause the narrowing to rupture inside the conduit, obstructing the artery. His work will look at developing medical devices that can monitor these “trigger” activities electronically, at a distance, using wearable sensors in high-risk subjects who are known to carry this vulnerable narrowing of the artery, and in doing so, anticipate and prevent heart attacks.

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland said: “It is with great pleasure that I announce the appointment of Professor Wijns to NUI Galway through the Science Foundation Ireland Research Professorship Programme. Professor Wijns is a world-class researcher dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of people by the invention and application of new technologies. His appointment epitomises Science Foundation Ireland’s commitment to fund world class research with impact in the health and medtech sector. I believe that great new research advances of real value to people and the economy will result from the combination of Prof Wijns’ expertise, the exceptional research teams in NUI Galway and the CÚRAM SFI Research Centre, and the cluster of both multinational and indigenous Medical Device companies in Ireland.”

Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices, said: “The research community here at NUI Galway is delighted to welcome Professor Wijns. We recognise the immense impact that he has had to date in cardiology research and we look forward to future collaborations and to supporting him in his research in the coming years.”

Professor Wijns will also join the Cardiology Department at Saolta University Healthcare group, where he will collaborate with other clinicians engaged in translational cardiovascular research.

Professor Tim O’Brien, Dean of the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at NUI Galway, said: “Professor Wijns will enable essential collaborations between investigators at CÚRAM and the Lambe Institute for Translational Research and clinician researchers at the HRB Clinical Research Facility Galway, ensuring that basic research will be translated to new medical devices which will benefit patients globally.”

Three-minute presentation on more accessible and affordable cancer screening wins first prize at NUIG’s Threesis

Bárbara Oliveira took first prize at NUI Galway’s third annual Threesis Competition which took place last week. The winner was judged on how well they conveyed and communicated their research to a general audience. A PhD student at NUI Galway, Bárbara’s presentation was on using microwave breast imaging to enable more accessible and affordable cancer screening.\\rbara Oliveira won first prize at NUI Galway’s third annual Threesis Competition which took place last week. The winner was judged on how well they conveyed and communicated their research to a general audience. A PhD student at NUI Galway, Bárbara’s presentation was on using microwave breast imaging to enable more accessible and affordable cancer screening.

The competition consisted of quick-fire presentations, with NUI Galway researchers presenting three slides, in three minutes, to three judges. The competitors had come through a series of heats already held on campus, to take on the final challenge at a public event in An Taibhdhearc.

Earlier in the month, Bárbara came second in a similar national competition, Theesis-in-3, where she also won the audience vote award.

Second and third prize on the night in An Taibhdhearc went to Dilip Thomas and Grace O’Malley. Dilip works on regenerating blood vessels in vascular diseases, whilst Grace researches new immune based drugs to fight tumours.

Threesis focused on taking researchers out of their comfort zones to present their research to a general audience using only three slides over three minutes to three judges. The spotlight was on impact – how research at NUI Galway impacts upon our daily lives, those of our family and our broader community.

Speaking at the event, Dr Ann Ryan, Head of Research Development at NUI Galway, congratulated all the researchers who participated in the competition: “This evening’s presentations showed not only the breadth and quality of the research being undertaken across NUI Galway, but also its relevance and impact on all of our daily lives; this is truly impressive.”

Research areas represented included science, engineering, information technology, business and medicine, with topics ranging from new methods for repairing damaged tissue, to data visualization and crisis data management, making Irish cattle more efficient, new drugs for diabetes, and centering the person at the core of dementia care.

The three judges were: Professor Daniel Carey, Director of the Moore Institute, NUI Galway; Bernard Kirk, Director of Galway Education Centre; and Lorna Farren, Director of Communications and Marketing, NUI Galway. Professor Andy Shearer, Head of the School of Physics, NUI Galway, was Master of Ceremonies for the event.

Other finalists at the event were: Heike Vornhage (Insight); Rachel Ronan (CÚRAM and Anatomy); Ihab Salawdeh (Insight); Declan O’Loughlin (Engineering); Gillian Murphy (CÚRAM); Niamh Hennelly (Economics); Aniket Kshirsagar (CÚRAM); Marc Higgins (Biochemistry and Teagasc); Luís Martins (CÚRAM) and Enrico Bagnoli (CÚRAM).

NUI Galway Students Attend First Healthcare Simulation Programme Workshop

Pictured are the first group of students undertaking the Postgraduate Certificate, Diploma and Masters in Medical and Healthcare Simulation at NUI Galway.
Pictured are the first group of students undertaking the Postgraduate Certificate, Diploma and Masters in Medical and Healthcare Simulation at NUI Galway.

The first group of NUI Galway students undertaking the Postgraduate Certificate, Diploma and Masters in Medical and Healthcare Simulation recently attended a two-day workshop as part of their course. The hands-on interactive simulation based learning workshop was held at SIMWEST in Galway University Hospital.

The three postgraduate programmes are carried out through distance learning with one workshop and the participants at the first workshop came from as far afield as Chile. This distance learning programme is the first of its kind in Ireland and caters to the growing interest in healthcare simulation.

The students are from a variety of healthcare backgrounds including nursing, paramedic science, surgery, anaesthetics and medical education. They participated in designing and running high fidelity mannequin based simulations. They had opportunities to test out multiple task simulators, to make their own simulators and to develop their moulage skills during a special effects workshop.

Dr Dara Byrne, Senior Lecturer in Medical Education and Simulation, NUI Galway’s School of Medicine, said: “We developed this postgraduate programme to support the large number of healthcare professionals who are both interested and involved in simulation. Our amazing group of learners from all avenues of healthcare share their experiences and own expertise through interactive discussion boards which is an important part of the programme.”

The workshop was delivered by a multidisciplinary team with expertise in simulation based learning from both NUI Galway and Galway University Hospital.

Three NUI Galway investigators identified as the next generation of research talent

(from left to right): Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, Professor Mark Ferguson, NUI Galway’s Dr Laura Russo and Dr Aideen Ryan, Minister of State for Training, Skills and Innovation, John Halligan TD.
(from left to right): Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, Professor Mark Ferguson, NUI Galway’s Dr Laura Russo and Dr Aideen Ryan, Minister of State for Training, Skills and Innovation, John Halligan TD.

Three NUI Galway researchers have been awarded significant funding in an announcement made by Science Foundation Ireland this week.  Working in the fields of colon cancer, intervertebral disc repair and tissue engineering, the individuals were selected as “the next leaders of research in Ireland, shaping the research community both here in Ireland and internationally”.

Minister of State for Training, Skills and Innovation, John Halligan TD, announced a total of €22.3 million in research funding for 40 major research projects in Ireland.  The funding is distributed through Science Foundation Ireland’s Starting Investigator Research Grant (SIRG) and Career Development Award (CDA) Programmes.

Dr Aideen Ryan, a Senior Research Fellow in Immunology at NUI Galway’s Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI), was awarded a SIRG of €518,821 for her work on colon cancer. Her project, RESTRAIN, involves investigating tumour stromal interactions in metastatic colon cancer for the identification of novel immuno-therapeutic targets.

Dr Laura Russo, a member of the CÚRAM Centre for Research in Medical Devices at NUI Galway, was awarded a SIRG of €518,749 for her research on tissue engineering for degenerative intervertebral disc disease. Her project will look at glyco-functionalised hydrogel to stimulate the repair of the damaged disc.

Dr Dimitrios Zeugolis, Director of the Regenerative, Modular and Developmental Engineering Laboratory (REMODEL) and Principal Investigator of the CÚRAM Centre for Research in Medical Devices at NUI Galway, was awarded a CDA of €493,759 for his work on tissue engineering. His project, Tissue Engineered Nanoassemblies of Advanced Biomimicry of Living Equivalents (TENABLE), will develop living tissue substitutes using iPSCs based on the principles of in vitro organogenesis.

NUI Galway’s Vice-President for Research, Professor Lokesh Joshi, welcomed the awards: “These awards recognise the excellent young research talent at NUI Galway and how our researchers are advancing scientific frontiers which will ultimately benefit patients. We are focused on developing the next generation of researchers which is critical to the long-term sustainability of delivering research impact.”

Announcing the awards, Minister of State for Training, Skills and Innovation, John Halligan TD said; This investment in the SFI SIRG and CDA Programmes allows researchers to advance their research investigations and continue developing their careers. These researchers will be the next leaders of research in Ireland, shaping the research community both here in Ireland and internationally. The nine industrial collaborations linked with these awards provides industry with access to the emerging research expertise found throughout Ireland. Collaborations at these early career stages will help establish relationships which will advance Ireland’s economy, society and reputation for research excellence now and in the future.”

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland welcomed the announcement saying: “Science Foundation Ireland places a heavy emphasis on supporting researchers at every stage of their careers. The SIRG and CDA awards help early and mid-career researchers develop essential skills and track records necessary to become the next generation of research leaders in Ireland.  I have high expectations for these projects and look forward to these teams contributing to the advancement of Ireland’s international reputation in areas such as energy, materials, technology, and health.”

NUIG-based CÚRAM teams with Neograft to develop new method to manufacture of coronary bypass device

Dr Eoin O’Cearbhaill, CÚRAM Investigator based at the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at University College Dublin, whose Medical Devices Design Group will work with the company
Dr Eoin O’Cearbhaill, CÚRAM Investigator based at the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at University College Dublin, whose Medical Devices Design Group will work with the company

Neograft, a Boston based medical technology company has teamed up with CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices, to develop a novel manufacturing method for coronary bypass devices. Based at NUI Galway, CÚRAM has over 250 researchers engaged in current projects, both in collaboration with industry and on blue-sky research.

Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) is a type of surgery that improves blood flow to the heart and is used to treat people who have severe coronary heart disease (CHD). This type of surgery, which typically uses veins to create bypass grafts for the heart, is currently the best option for most patients with CHD. Outcomes can however be compromised by the mechanical and biological limitations of veins typically used to create the bypass grafts.

Dr Eoin O’Cearbhaill, CÚRAM Investigator based at the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at University College Dublin, whose Medical Devices Design Group will work with the company, explains that despite their widespread use, vein grafts continue to fail at high rates. “Many of these grafts can become obstructed in the first year and the failure rate can be up to 50% within five to ten years,” he says.

Neograft Technologies, Inc. has developed a product called Angioshield™, which offers a new option for treatment of coronary artery disease and promises to improve vein performance and longevity in CABG outcomes.

“Our Angioshield technology creates a support layer around the vein using a proprietary polymer network to improve both the strength and uniformity of the vein graft,” explains Jon McGrath, from Neograft’s CEO. “The device supports the vein without deforming its natural shape and allows nutrients and new cells to migrate into and through the support layer. Over time, new, stronger tissue develops around and within the scaffold, while the polymer that it’s made from weakens, allowing the new tissue to be exposed to its normal environment, which favours the development of stronger, more functional tissues.”

Dr O’Cearbhaill’s research team will work with Neograft Technologies, Inc. and seek to use advanced manufacturing methods to develop a next-generation product.

CÚRAM’s goal is to develop affordable solutions for patients suffering from chronic illnesses like CHD,” says NUI Galway’s Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM. “This project is another example of how we are partnering with industry to do this, using world class research expertise to allow our industry partners to expand and develop their product ranges to provide the ultimate benefit to the patient” he says.

CÚRAM brings together strands of biomedical science which have come of age over the last decade including glycoscience, biomaterials science, regenerative medicine and tissue engineering, drug delivery and medical device design.

CÚRAM has six academic partners including UCD, Trinity College Dublin, University of Limerick, University College Cork, The Royal College of Surgeons Ireland and NUI Galway.

New programme to Advance Clinical Research Capability

A team of Irish clinical academics have secured one of seven major awards that have been made across the UK and Ireland by the Wellcome Trust as part of an initiative to increase clinical research capability.  The scheme, which will be known as the Wellcome – HRB Irish Clinical Academic Training Programme, will support the intake of eight postgraduate trainee doctors a year for a five-year period, providing fully integrated clinical and research training up to consultant level.

The award represents an overall investment of almost €13 million with €7.5 million coming from Wellcome and the Health Research Board (HRB) matched with a further combined contribution of €5.5 million from the Health Service Executive and the Health and Social Care Research and Development Office, Northern Ireland, and the partner Universities.  The partner universities involved in the programme include Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, NUI Galway, University College Cork, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and Queen’s University Belfast.

Lead investigators within each institution include:

  • Professor Michael Gill (Trinity College Dublin, Director & Co-Investigator)
  • Professor Paddy Mallon (University College Dublin, Deputy Director & Co-Investigator)
  • Professor Conall Dennedy (NUI, Galway, Co-investigator)
  • Professor Joe Eustace (University College Cork, Co-investigator)
  • Professor Ray Stallings (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Co-investigator)
  • Professor Peter Maxwell (Queen’s University Belfast, Co-investigator)
  • Dr Mark Watson (Molecular Medicine Ireland, Co-ordinator)

The programme will be open to applications in autumn 2016 for an intake beginning in July 2017 and is being coordinated through Molecular Medicine Ireland, an inter-University collaborative entity owned by NUIG, RCSI, TCD, UCC and UCD.

Announcing the programme today, Minister for Health, Mr Simon Harris TD noted that

A research-active health system is proven to have better outcomes for patients.  Patients will be the long-term winners as this collaborative investment will fundamentally improve both the number and calibre of Clinician Scientists working in our universities and health services.  I’m really pleased to announce this significant investment in the future of the health service, and I know the positive impact for patient care is going to be very real.  I very much look forward to seeing this important programme in action over the next few years.  I welcome the strong collaboration that is core to this research award, and I am particularly pleased that Northern Ireland is part of it, making this an all island and multi-institutional Programme.

Northern Ireland’s Health Minister, Ms Michelle O Neill MLA said;

This is the largest ever investment in academic medicine through an all island collaborative partnership and it will make a real difference to the health of people across the island of Ireland and further afield.  I want to congratulate all those involved in securing this programme and in particular pay tribute to the role played by Professor Peter Maxwell, from Queen’s University in Belfast.   This initiative demonstrates what can be achieved through collaborative working across the whole island of Ireland.

Professor Michael Gill, Principal Investigator and Director of the Wellcome-HRB Irish Clinical Academic Training Programme said,

Our goal in securing this award was to enable a fundamental change in the training of future academic clinicians on an all-Ireland basis. At its core is a fully integrated clinical and research programme that will provide seamless, supported and mentored training of the highest standard, targeting future clinical academic leaders in the universities and health care system.

The programme will identify, recruit, and mentor doctors during their postgraduate training who have the potential to become future academic leaders. They will be supported through a structured career pathway, aligned with our national research strengths and postgraduate specialities. In doing so, this programme will position Ireland well to meet future challenges in clinical innovation and excellence in healthcare.

Our application has the full support of all major stakeholders; the Postgraduate Forum representing specialist training bodies, the Health Services North and South, the Universities and the Health Research Board.  Trainee Clinician Scientists will be based at six major Irish universities in Belfast, Cork, Dublin and Galway, and will be able to take advantage of existing clinical research infrastructures and supports in their associated hospitals, many of which have been funded by the HRB.

Deputy Director of the Programme, Professor Paddy Mallon, Associate Dean for Research, Innovation and Impact at the UCD School of Medicine commented,

This exciting programme represents real systems change in how we train clinician scientists in Ireland and is designed to attract the very best physicians and support them in pursuit of the research excellence. This programme would not have been possible without the investment in national structures for clinical research and training that has been committed over the past decade or more. Funding of this prestigious programme reflects international recognition of the sound infrastructure available within Ireland to conduct the highest quality clinical research.

According to Dr Graham Love, Chief Executive at the Health Research Board,

We are committed to fostering a research-active culture among health professionals so they can continually evolve and improve care.  It is great to see that the ongoing collaboration between the HRB and Wellcome Trust continues to extend new opportunities to researchers in Ireland.

Dr Anne-Marie Coriat, Head of Research Careers at Wellcome said;

This is one of seven new clinical PhD programmes across the UK and Ireland that Wellcome has funded.  Training small groups of PhD students in programmes provides an opportunity to develop cohort focussed training opportunities and further embed clinical academic training within universities and university hospitals.

 

Brief overview of Programme Structure

Wellcome – HRB Irish Clinical Academic Training

Year 1

Clinical (70%) Academic (30%) Accredited for clinical training. Fellows appointed as Clinical Lecturer and allocated to clinical positions in a university affiliated hospital with protected time to participate in education/research. Three core modules and one elective module will be taken, chosen from an existing Clinician Scientist Curriculum at Molecular Medicine Ireland or from additional modules in any partner institution. Fellows will be supported to make their final choice of supervisor and will submit their research proposal. Progression to PhD will follow independent review of the proposal and interview. With extensive support, we expect low drop-out rates.

Year 2-4

Joint clinical (10%) / Academic (90%). One year accredited for basic or higher specialist training (BST or HST). Continue as Clinical Lecturer. Fellows will complete their research under supervision and will take additional taught components relevant to their PhD. They will maintain limited clinical activity approved by the relevant training body that does not disrupt research.

Year 5-7

Joint clinical (80%) / Academic (20%). Accredited for HST. Continue Clinical Lecturer appointment. Fellows will return to training positions in hospitals aligned with their host university under the guidance of their supervisor and Mentors. Fellows will complete requirements for clinical training while continuing to participate in research, working with their supervisors and mentors to apply for suitable post-doctoral fellowships.

About the Funders

Wellcome

Wellcome exists to improve health for everyone by helping great ideas to thrive. We’re a global charitable foundation, both politically and financially independent. We support scientists and researchers, take on big problems, fuel imaginations and spark debate.

Health Research Board

The Health Research Board (HRB) is the lead agency in Ireland responsible for supporting and funding health research, information and evidence. We are motivated and inspired by our vision; Healthy people through excellent research and applied knowledge (www.hrb.ie)

NUI Galway – New insights into potent cancer tumour suppressor gene

nuig
Professor Noel Lowndes is head of the Centre for Chromosome Biology at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

New insight into the function of a gene important in the suppression of cancer is published today. Researchers at the National University of Ireland Galway have shown that the TP53 gene has even greater anti-cancer activity than previously thought.

Professor Noel Lowndes is head of the Centre for Chromosome Biology at the National University of Ireland Galway and a Science Foundation Ireland Principal Investigator. Lead-author on the paper and an expert in DNA damage, he explains: “TP53 is one of the most potent genes in the human genome at preventing cancer and hence is termed a tumour suppressor gene. The importance of TP53 as a tumour suppressor is best illustrated by its mutation in at least half of all human cancers.”

Previously, TP53 has been known to function in processes that prevent cancer cells from multiplying in the body by either triggering their own destruction, or preventing cell division. Together, these processes are recognised as potent anti-cancer mechanisms.

Professor Lowndes continued: “In our recent work we add a new role to the expanding list of anti-cancer mechanisms controlled by TP53. We show that TP53 directly regulates the repair of broken DNA. Broken DNA is the most dangerous type of DNA damage as it can result in cell death or loss of genetic information in those cells that survive the break.

There are two major competing biochemical pathways for repairing broken DNA. One simply re-joins the two ends of the broken chromosome. The other uses a nearby intact DNA molecule of the same sequence as a template to repair the broken chromosome. Our work demonstrates that TP53 directly influences the regulation of these two pathways. Thus, loss of TP53 during cancer development will drive the evolution of cancer cells towards ever more aggressive cancer types.”

The research team hopes this new insight will impact upon diagnosis of cancer and improved therapeutic interventions.

The research is published in the Royal Society journal Open Biology today in the article ‘A role for the p53 tumour suppressor in regulating the balance between homologous recombination and non-homologous end joining’.