UCC scores gold at synthetic biology competition

UCC’s Limited Lactis” iGEM team pictured with Dr. Mark Tangney, Cork Cancer Research Centre (front, second left); Brandon Malone, iGEM Team Leader, School of Pharmacy (centre) and Dr Cormac Gahan, APC Microbiome Institute, School of Pharmacy and School of Microbiology. Photo: Tomas Tyner, UCC.
UCC’s Limited Lactis” iGEM team pictured with Dr. Mark Tangney, Cork Cancer Research Centre (front, second left); Brandon Malone, iGEM Team Leader, School of Pharmacy (centre) and Dr Cormac Gahan, APC Microbiome Institute, School of Pharmacy and School of Microbiology. Photo: Tomas Tyner, UCC.

UCC’s Limited Lactis team was awarded a gold medal recently at the iGEM (international Genetically Engineered Machine) competition in Boston.

More than 600 teams from top universities across the globe, including MIT, Harvard, Stanford, Cambridge and Oxford took part in the competition, which is held up as the gold standard for ‘research-led education’.

The Cork team, the only Irish entrants in the competition, used the bacterium Lactococcus lactis, a generally recognised as safe (GRAS) bacterium, commonly used in food production, to develop a potential new vaccine against Leishmaniasis, a neglected tropical disease which is increasing in geographical distribution, and also cancer.

Synthetic Biology is a burgeoning approach to designing and making novel products from biology, which is revolutionising what is possible in tackling world needs in health, energy, food and beyond.

Leishmaniasis affects some of the world’s poorest people and is associated with malnutrition, population displacement, poor housing, a weak immune system and lack of financial resources. An estimated 900,000–1.3 million new cases and 20,000-30,000 deaths occur annually. Leishmaniasis is linked to environmental changes such as deforestation, building of dams, irrigation schemes, and urbanisation.

The UCC team worked voluntarily, both in the laboratory and beyond, engaging with people in disease-affected regions such as Honduras, where diseases like Leishmaniasis is a serious problem. Team instructor, Yensi Flores, a PhD candidate at the Cork Cancer Research Centre and APC Microbiome Institute, travelled to Honduras to gain an insight into the realities of developing a suitable treatment for Leishmaniasis. She connected the team with various stakeholders on the ground. The team also engaged in significant outreach work, teaching Cork school pupils about synthetic biology and conducting charity fundraising activities.

The team, which was comprised of students from UCC Pharmacy, Medicine, Genetics, and BioMedical Science andhosted by the APC Microbiome Institute, Cork Cancer Research Centre and the School of Biochemistry, received financial support from the APC Microbiome Institute, Breakthrough Cancer Research, UCC College of Medicine & Health, Fyffes, the EU, Janssen and Eli Lilly.

“I was blown away with how much was achieved in such a short time by undergraduate students, and how sophisticated the resulting technology is, all due to the enthusiasm of the students and the power of Synthetic Biology,” said Mark Tangney PhD MBA, Cork Cancer Research Centre & APC Microbiome Institute, UCC.

UCD graduate elected first female President of Royal College of Physicians of Ireland

 

She will be the first woman to hold the post in the college’s 360-year history.

“Ireland is recognised globally for the high quality of its medical graduates and trainees,” said Professor Horgan on her election. “I am committed to ensuring that we continue to train our doctors to provide world class medical care and to provide leadership in our health service in these challenging times.”

Professor Horgan graduated from UCD School of Medicine, University College Dublin in 1986 and was awarded an MD by the university in 1995.

A consultant physician in infectious diseases and internal medicine at Cork University Hospital, she also serves as Dean of University College Cork (UCC) School of Medicine.

The last three Presidents of the RCPI have been UCD graduates. The serving Masters of Dublin’s three maternity hospitals also completed their medical studies at UCD.

RCPI is a postgraduate medical training college. It educates its students with the latest research and techniques to ensure they maintain best medical practices for current and future health needs.

UCC – New clinical trial for Malignant Melanoma patients

Dr Derek Power, Oncology Clinical Trials Unit, Cork University Hospital and Dr Declan Soden, Cork Cancer Research Centre, University College Cork. Image: Tomás Tyner, UCC

Cork Cancer Research Centre, based at UCC, announce the launch of a new clinical trial for the treatment of malignant melanoma, aimed at significantly improving patient outcomes.

In Ireland there are approximately 630 new cases of melanoma diagnosed each year with 110 people losing their lives to the disease annually. Melanoma mortality is increasing very rapidly with the number of deaths per annum expected to reach 150 by 2020.

The new treatment being investigated involves a combination of Ipilimumab (“Ipi”, tradename Yervoy), a Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) drug, and tumour Electroporation, which is pioneered at CCRC.  It aims to open up cancer cells with electrical pulses to facilitate the immunotherapy treatment to be even more effective, enabling the patient’s immune system to respond against the cancer.  The study is supported by UCC, BMS and Breakthrough Cancer Research.

The trial, which is sponsored by BMS, has just commenced at Cork University Hospital (CUH) and is the first of its kind in the world.  It is being led by Principal Investigator and Consultant Oncologist Dr Derek Power and Scientific Investigator Dr Declan Soden of the Cork Cancer Research Centre, who will enrol suitable patients from around the country.

IPI has been successfully used to date as a treatment of advanced melanoma in adults, significantly improving survival rates in up to 18% of patients who received the drug (*1). IPI is the first in a line of new immunotherapies that prevent tumours from shutting down the patient’s immune system when it’s attacking the cancer.

Electrochemotherapy (Electroporation combined with chemotherapy), which is pioneered at the Cork Cancer Research Centre with funding from Breakthrough Cancer Research, has received considerable attention in the last few years as an emerging therapy for use in cancer tumours. It involves delivering short bursts of electricity directly to the tumour making it porous and dramatically increasing its absorption of chemotherapy drugs.

The new study entitled “Enhanced Malignant Melanoma Immunological engagement using sequential therapy with Ipilimumab and electrochemotherapy”, or EMMIE for short, is a single centre trial aiming to establish the safety and efficacy of treating patients with advanced melanoma.

The trial of the new treatment regime has been approved by the Health Products Regulatory Authority, (formerly known as the Irish Medicine Board), the state agency which regulates and monitors the safe use of human and animal medicines in Ireland, and is being run with the support of BMS, who are providing the immunotherapy free of charge to University College Cork, and the Oncology Clinical Trials Unit in Cork University Hospital.

Support for this approach has also just been validated in a clinical paper published in Cancer Immunology Research (*2), which showed a 50% increase in survival rates in a trial group who received combined IPI with a locally ablative treatment.

Patients eligible to be included in the study will receive the licensed medicine, Ipilimumab, in accordance with its licenced use as a 1st or 2nd line treatment with electrochemotherapy being additionally applied to shrink the skin melanoma nodule.

Principal Investigator on the trial and Clinician and Consultant Medical Oncologist with Mercy and Cork University Hospitals, Dr Derek Power, welcomed the new developments in immunotherapy stating, ““It is only in the last few years that cancer researchers have unravelled one of the key protective mechanisms that cancers use to stop the immune system from recognising and destroying these abnormal cells. Cancer cells send out signals around the tumour to turn off locally present immune cells, which has, as a result, prevented immunotherapies, like Ipilimumab, from working. Overcoming this immune ‘cloaking’ of the tumour has become the key to making immune therapy work for patients.”

Dr Power continued, “Ipilimumab is already being used daily for patients across Ireland with established impacts for these patients. CCRC are at the forefront of research in relation to their electrochemotherapy treatment and we are excited at the synergy that will be created with the combined regime of these two treatments. We are already seeing good immune responses from Electrochemotherapy and with the addition of Ipilimumab we are excited to see the results from this enhanced treatment for patients.”

Dr Declan Soden, Principal Investigator and Manager at the Cork Cancer Research Centre welcomed the trial, stating, “Our research at the CCRC has shown that treating tumours with a short burst of energy can make them leaky or porous. This allows for a more focused absorption of chemotherapy allowing for a substantial reduction in the concentration required and essentially eliminating drug-based side effects for patients. Our studies have expanded from patients with skin cancers (breast, malignant melanoma) to endoscopically accessible cancers like colon, oesophageal.  We hope to treat patients with other poor prognosis cancers using this approach in the near future.”

“This electrical pulse can also very significantly spark an immune engagement against the cancer, which in combination with immunotherapies like IPI, has been found to lead to better outcomes for the patients. The success of this trial should lead to other studies for patients suffering from poor prognosis cancer where there are currently limited options available” concluded Dr Soden.

Doctors with patients who may be suitable for this trial should refer them to Dr Power of the Oncology Clinical Trials Unit in Cork University Hospital or Dr Declan Soden of the Cork Cancer Research Centre in University College Cork.

For more on Cork Cancer Research Centre see www.ccrc.ie

UCC Professor Barry O’Sullivan named top SFI researcher

Professor Barry O'Sullivan, Director of Insight at UCC.

 

Professor Barry O’Sullivan, Director of Insight at UCC, has been named SFI Researcher of the Year, recognizing his significant contribution to the Irish research community in his career.

He has been honored for his “exceptional scientific and engineering research outputs” combined with his ability to communicate and, where appropriate, exploit his research.

 

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland said “2016 marks the addition of five new awards recognizing crucial areas of research and development including: industry collaborations, entrepreneurship, communication, public engagement and outstanding early career researchers. I want to congratulate the award winners on their hard work and accomplishments. I hope their success will be a source of inspiration to others.”

The recipients of SFI Early Career Researcher of the year are Prof Valeria Nicolosi, AMBER, SFI Research Centre, Trinity College Dublin and Dr Martin O’Halloran, National University of Ireland Galway.

The SFI Industry Partnership Award recognized AMBER, Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre, Trinity College Dublin and Merck.

APC Ltd – Prof Brian Glennon and Dr Mark Barrett, SFI SSPC Research Centre, University College Dublin received the SFI Entrepreneurship Award.

Dr Sabina Brennan of Trinity College Dublin, received the SFI Outstanding Contribution to STEM Communication award, recognizing her outstanding contribution to the popularization of science, while the SFI Best Reported Impact Award went to Dr Emmeline Hill, University College Dublin.

Andrea Zanetti a Chemistry PhD student at University College Dublin captured the SFI Research Image of the Year, titled Organic ‘ChemisTree’, a Telescopic View.

International Partnership Awards

The international partnership between Science Foundation Ireland, the National Science Foundation in the US and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland also recognised three new international collaborations between Research Centres in the Republic of Ireland, the United States and Northern Ireland.

“These three new collaborations demonstrate the value of linking research clusters across the Atlantic, and of partnerships between the scientific and entrepreneurial communities,” said National Science Foundation Director France Córdova. “To augment Science Foundation Ireland’s financial commitments to the new centers, NSF will make new investments in the U.S.-based centers that collaborate with them. These partnerships provide us with the opportunity to address global research challenges.”

Science Foundation Ireland is investing €2.5 million into the three international collaborations over the course of 24-36 months. During the course of the collaborations, the three new awards will employ 8 postdoctoral researchers and 2 PhD students in Ireland, in addition to giving an opportunity to two summer students to work on cutting edge-research. The collaborations aim to foster entrepreneurship and economic development in the participating countries by directly engaging with at least 14 companies during the course of the three awards.

The Science Foundation Ireland funded Research Centre, MaREI, together with the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), is collaborating with the NSF Engineering Research Centre, Future Renewable Electric Energy Delivery and Management Systems (FREEDM) and the Energy Power & Intelligent Control Research Cluster (EPIC) at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB).

Each partner will contribute to a specific area of the project. MaREI will lead the energy systems modelling efforts, ESRI provides insight into socio-economic aspects, FREEDM will bring expertise on distributed energy management solutions and systems-level theory, modelling and control, and EPIC-QUB will lead the communication-centred activities.

UCC develops arsenal of alternatives to antibiotics

Photo: L-R Orla O'Sullivan, Paula O'Connor, Fergus Collins and Mary Read
L-R Orla O’Sullivan, Paula O’Connor, Fergus Collins and Mary Read

Scientists at the APC Microbiome Institute at UCC have identified an arsenal of new antimicrobials which can kill many harmful bacteria.

The latest antimicrobial, called formicin, is a bacteriocin which is a small bacterially produced antimicrobial protein. The research on formicin has been picked up by the editor of the journal Microbiology where it is highlighted and published this week.

“Formicin was picked up in our most recent screening for new antimicrobials. We have identified 20 new small proteins to date including Thuricin and Lacticin 3147” said Professor Paul Ross, who leads the research with Professor Colin Hill at the APC Microbiome Institute in University College Cork and Teagasc. “We plan to further develop these compounds which have important implications for human and animal health.”

Antimicrobial resistance poses one of the biggest threats to global health today.  According to the WHO (2015) antibiotic resistance in the European Union alone, is estimated to cause 25,000 deaths and cost more than US$1.5 billion every year in healthcare expenses and productivity losses. Without effective antibiotics for the prevention and treatment of infections, many of the achievements of modern medicine such as organ transplantations, chemotherapy and surgeries such as caesarean sections become much more dangerous.

“The new antimicrobial, Formicin, was isolated from Bacillus paralichenformis APC1576, a bacteria which was originally isolated from the intestine of a mackerel” said Fergus Collins, the PhD student at Teagasc, Moorepark who discovered Formicin. “Formicin can kill a wide range of harmful bacteria including the Gram positive pathogensStaphyloccous aureus, Clostridium difficile, Listeria monocytogenes and Steptococcus mutans, a causative agent of tooth decay.”

Formicin is a member of a subclass of bacteriocins called lantibiotics which contain certain modified amino acids.  Formicin  is made up of 2 lantibiotic peptides.  The first peptide likely binds to the cell membrane of the bacterial target and subsequently recruits the second formicin peptide which then inserts into the membrane; the resulting pore formed then causes cell death. Formicin is unique among lantibiotics due to differences in the peptide’s charge and composition.

This research was supported by Science Foundation Ireland through a Research Centre grant to the APC Microbiome Institute.

 

Full reference:

Formicin – A novel broad spectrum two-component lantibiotic produced by Bacillus paralicheniformis APC 1576

Collins F.W., O’Connor, P.M., O’Sulllivan, O., Rea, M.C., Hill, C. and Ross R.P.  Microbiology, September 2016 162: 1662-1671, doi: 10.1099/mic.0.000340

http://mic.microbiologyresearch.org/content/journal/micro/10.1099/mic.0.000340#tab2

 

Abstract: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27450592

For further information contact Dr Catherine Buckley, Communications & O

First research grant in Traffic Medicine awarded to UCC research team

Emmy Racine UCC, Katherine Thackerary UCC, Prof. Des O’Neill NOFM, Dr. Aisling Jennings UCC, Dr. Carol Sinnott UCC, Prof. Colin Bradley UCC, Declan Naughton RSA, Linda Horgan UCC, Dr. Siobhan Cusack UCC, Lisa MacSharry UCC, Prof. Jeanne Jackson UCC and Dr. Tony Foley UCC. (Photo: Ger MacCarty)
Emmy Racine UCC, Katherine Thackerary UCC, Prof. Des O’Neill NOFM, Dr. Aisling Jennings UCC, Dr. Carol Sinnott UCC, Prof. Colin Bradley UCC, Declan Naughton RSA, Linda Horgan UCC, Dr. Siobhan Cusack UCC, Lisa MacSharry UCC, Prof. Jeanne Jackson UCC and Dr. Tony Foley UCC. (Photo: Ger MacCarty)

The €40, 000 grant was awarded by the Road Safety Authority (RSA), in association with the National Programme Office for Traffic Medicine (NPOTM) following a competitive process.

Dr Carol Sinnott and Dr Colin Bradley, Department of General Practice at University College Cork, will lead a team of five researchers, representing UCC, the ICGP and the Alzheimer Society of Ireland.

The research project ‘Talking to patients with cognitive impairment about fitness to drive: Current approaches and possible improvement strategies for a general practice setting’ will investigate driving with cognitive impairment. Its main purpose is to look at how patients with cognitive impairment and GPs manage the discussion around safe driving.

Prof Desmond O’Neill, National Director NPOTM emphasizes the importance of research in the area of cognitive impairment and driving,

“A part of the success of the [Traffic Medicine] Programme on Medical Fitness to Drive in Ireland stems from its roots in evidence-based practice. It is very important that we develop research in traffic medicine in Ireland which is reflected in clinical practice, and we are delighted that this comprehensive project on cognitive impairment and driving is the focus of the first RSA Research Award in Traffic Medicine, as this is an emerging and very relevant topic to road safety and patient care.

One of the main aims of the Traffic Medicine Programme is to keep people mobile for as long as possible. In older people, driving facilitates independence, social engagement and interaction, and is a contributor to quality of life and well-being. Over one in ten adults aged over 50 years have mild or moderate cognitive impairment. Difficulties discussing fitness to drive can be compounded by the presence of unacknowledged or undiagnosed cognitive impairment (usually due to dementia and related syndromes, such a mild cognitive impairment).  However, communication techniques can be taught and can improve patient care in general practice.

Declan Naughton, Road Safety Authority welcomes today’s announcement,

“The RSA is delighted to be involved with this project. Research that provides an evidence base for future policy is critical. This research will give us an insight into the engagement between drivers and GPs at a time when drivers may be feeling vulnerable. Understanding and responding to any barriers to this conversation, happening in a positive environment will benefit both drivers and their doctors.”

Both the approaches currently used by GPs and the experiences that patients with cognitive impairment have had when discussing fitness to drive with their GPs will be explored by carrying out separate sets of interviews with patients or their carers. The data from both sets of interviews will then be merged and used to develop new training materials for GPs. This research will address an urgent need for better communication strategies, which will help GPs discuss cognitive impairment and fitness to drive in a positive proactive way and encourage early assessments of fitness to drive which will maximise safety for the patient and other road users nationally.

Dr Carol Sinnott, co-lead of the research team is looking forward to beginning the study, “We are delighted to have been given this wonderful opportunity to investigate an area of traffic medicine that is so necessary and is intended to help to keep people driving safely for longer.”

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)

Launch of Health Innovation Hub Ireland at UCC

Repro Free Prof. John R. Higgins, Principal Investigator, Health Innovation Hub Ireland; Dave Shanahan, Chair of National Oversight Group, Health Innovation Hub Ireland, Nicola OÕRiordan, UCC, Minister for Health Simon Harris TD, Dr. Colman Casey, Director Health Innovation Hub Ireland and John Murphy, Secretary General, Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation pictured at the official launch of Health Innovation Hub Ireland (HIHI) in UCC, Cork. IrelandÕs first national Health Innovation Hub will directly improve treatment and care for patients. The Minister announced government funding, through the Department of Health and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in conjunction with Enterprise Ireland of Û5 million for the establishment of Health Innovation Hub Ireland, which is led by University College Cork (UCC). Health Innovation Hub Ireland, a partnership of clinicians, academics, innovators and entrepreneurs from across Ireland will accelerate healthcare innovation and commercialisation, by addressing healthcare challenges and in doing so will create jobs and exports for the country Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision
Prof. John R. Higgins, Principal Investigator, Health Innovation Hub Ireland; Dave Shanahan, Chair of National Oversight Group, Health Innovation Hub Ireland, Nicola OÕRiordan, UCC, Minister for Health Simon Harris TD, Dr. Colman Casey, Director Health Innovation Hub Ireland and John Murphy, Secretary General, Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation pictured at the official launch of Health Innovation Hub Ireland (HIHI) in UCC, Cork. IrelandÕs first national Health Innovation Hub will directly improve treatment and care for patients. The Minister announced government funding, through the Department of Health and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in conjunction with Enterprise Ireland of Û5 million for the establishment of Health Innovation Hub Ireland, which is led by University College Cork (UCC). Health Innovation Hub Ireland, a partnership of clinicians, academics, innovators and entrepreneurs from across Ireland will accelerate healthcare innovation and commercialisation, by addressing healthcare challenges and in doing so will create jobs and exports for the country
Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Irish Health Minister Simon Harris has launched Health Innovation Hub Ireland (HIHI), Ireland’s first national hub to directly improve treatment and care for patients.

The Minister announced Government funding, through the Department of Health and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in conjunction with Enterprise Ireland of €5 million for the establishment of Health Innovation Hub Ireland, which is led by University College Cork (UCC).

Health Innovation Hub Ireland, a partnership of clinicians, academics, innovators and entrepreneurs from across Ireland will accelerate healthcare innovation and commercialisation, by addressing healthcare challenges and in doing so will create jobs and exports for the country.

Speaking at the launch Minister Harris TD stated: “I am delighted to launch Health Innovation Hub Ireland today, and to announce a first call for submissions on the focused theme of improving care for older people in the healthcare system. This project will foster a unique partnership between the health service and the enterprise sector, with the aim of improving patient outcomes.

“I look forward to seeing in the coming months and years this collaboration, and the projects that are being supported by the Innovation Hub, making a significant contribution to improvements in patient care, finding efficiencies in service delivery and supporting health service practitioners in bringing innovative ideas to fruition.”

 

Photo published for Health Innovation Hub’s work with hospitals on novel solutions set to transform sector

Health Innovation Hub Ireland delivers activities at a national level to all academic institutions, healthcare providers and commercial companies.  These activities are delivered by the HIHI Consortium of formal collaborators, which include UCC, Cork Institute of Technology (CIT), National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG) and Trinity College Dublin (TCD), their associated Clinical Research Facilities (Cork, Galway, Dublin) and their Hospital Groups (South/South West, Dublin Midlands and Saolta University Healthcare), with associated Primary Care Centres, Community Health Organisations, Pharmacies and HSE support infrastructures.

Welcoming the launch, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, TD, said: “This exciting initiative allows for mutually beneficial interaction between industry and the health system. This is a win-win scenario.   The health service needs products to meet its particular needs, and enterprise needs guidance from users on their developing products, and test-beds for their trials. We have combined exports from our lifesciences and ICT sectors of over €140 billion annually and the strengths of our enterprise base can be leveraged to deliver much needed innovation into our health system and at the same time sustain and create more jobs in these sectors.”

Dr. Colman Casey, Director Health Innovation Hub Ireland said, “Health Innovation Hub Ireland focuses on bringing new and exciting ideas into the healthcare system by both encouraging and exciting employees to believe in their innovative ideas, which in turn, will bring about a cultural change towards innovation within healthcare.  We will achieve this through a system of annual calls encouraging both individuals and companies to actively innovate intothe healthcare system and out of the healthcare system”.

 

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HIHI announced the annual call, which focuses on two themes:

  1. An Open Call – for any idea, process, product, service or technology that could benefit the healthcare system
  2. A Focused Call – for any idea, process, product, service or technology that addresses care for older persons in the healthcare system

Principal Investigator of HIHI, Professor John R. Higgins, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Head of the College of Medicine at UCC said; “Today marks a milestone in the already successful work of the demonstrator project.  We are now a national entity and we have the expertise of our partners; Cork Institute of Technology (CIT), National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG) and Trinity College Dublin (TCD).  Health Innovation Hub Ireland represents a truly joined-up thinking, leveraging our national healthcare system and industry to jointly develop valuable solutions for health systems globally”.

 

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Health Innovation Hub Ireland wants to hear from people in industry, healthcare professionals, healthcare workers and entrepreneurs who can demonstrate they have unique applied technologies and solutions ready for further commercial development or have an idea or concept that needs further development in Ireland.  It will develop next generation technologies in Ireland for the global marketplace and in doing so to create jobs and exports from our communities at home.

 

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UCC in ‘Top 100’ innovative universities

University College Cork has been included in Reuters’ first-ever ranking of Europe’s  ‘Top 100’ innovative universities.

UCC, Trinity College and UCD are part of Europe’s elite academic institutions for “doing the most to advance science, inventing new technologies, and helping drive the global economy,” it reported. “Nearly all of them emphasize practical research and applied science, as opposed to pure academics”.

Highlighting Ireland’s long established tradition of academic excellence amongst its global peers, Reuters noted: “The Republic of Ireland only has three schools on the entire list, but with a population under five million people, it can boast more top 100 innovative universities per capita than any other country in Europe.”

Trinity merited a 48th place position, followed by UCC in 74th and UCD at 94th. Reuters underlined UCC’s emphasis on ‘technology transfer’ and its filing of 82 patents between 2008 and 2013, of which 25.6% were granted.

Reuters said the University puts an emphasis on “technology transfer”, and noted the achievements of spinout company, Alimentary Health Ltd, and its discovery of the probiotic B infantis 35624, for the treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It also name-checked another spinout Vconnecta, and its Ecanvasser app and cloud service that helps political campaigns plan election canvasses as well as record and respond to voter queries. “The company came up through Cork’s IGNITE Graduate Business Innovation Centre, and its product has been deployed in Ireland, throughout the United Kingdom and the United States,” Reuters observed.

Given the recent bicentenary celebrations of George Boole in 2016, Reuters also noted that UCC’s first professor of mathematics invented Boolean algebra – “one of the fundamental pieces of modern life, and the basis for how most internet search engines work.”

Having been named The Sunday Times University of the Year for a record-breaking fourth time earlier this year, UCC continues to be one of the best-funded research universities in Ireland.

“In the last academic year, R&D investment reached €90 million, a 15% increase over the last 5 years and meeting the UCC Strategic Plan target for research funding generation two years ahead of schedule,” says Professor Anita R. Maguire, Vice President for Research and Innovation, who is actively engaged in research, STI policy, academic industry collaboration and strategic development of the pharmaceutical industry.

 

In an initiative begun in 2013, UCC leads 4, co-leads 1 and is a partner in 6 of the remaining 7 world-leading Research Centres established by Science Foundation Ireland. This has been the largest joint state/industry research investment in Irish history. State investment of €355m is matched by a contribution of some €190m from over 200 enterprise partners. The research centres led by UCC include: the Irish Photonic Integration Research Centre at Tyndall National Institute; the APC Microbiome Institute; Marine Renewable Energy Ireland – MaREI; and INFANT, the Irish Centre for Fetal and Neonatal Translational Research, in addition to co-leading Insight with three other universities – NUIG, UCD and DCU.

“Having this level of investment in UCC really underpins the excellence of our research activity. The scope and the complexity of the research programmes and the industry interface – these are the elements that make it all so rewarding.”

 

UCC researchers now collaborate with over 700 of the world’s top Universities across 120 countries. Professor Maguire encapsulated the University’s success as a unique combination of world-leading researchers, internationally competitive research infrastructure, trans-disciplinary activity and extensive industrial partnership. “This complex combination not only provides the bedrock for sustained success in the generation of non-exchequer income and the development of enterprise, but also provides the agility to respond rapidly to emerging areas of national and international strategic priority.”

“I am delighted that the work of the UCC academic community and the Technology Transfer Office to achieve our goal of being a premier European university for research, discovery, innovation and commercialisation is succeeding,” says Prof Maguire.  Last year UCC transferred over 22 technologies to the commercial sector, and has launched six new companies in the last six months. “We now have 21 active spinouts using UCC intellectual property or expertise to drive economic growth.  This survey is a recognition of our commitment to undertaking world class research and looking to maximise the impact that research can have for the public good.”

Nine UCC Medical Students awarded HRB Summer Student Scholarships 2016

 

The Health Research Board have announced this year’s recipients of the HRB Summer Student Scholarships.  Nine UCC medical students were awarded Summer scholarships.

To put this achievement in context, this year the HRB received 141 applications and 42 awards were made, giving a success rate of just under 30%.  UCC received 12 of those awards.

This means that UCC medical students made up 75% of the UCC awardees and  just over 21% of the total number of awards given out nationally.  Please note that this scheme is open to all medical schools, other clinical sciences, in addition to biomedical sciences departments across all the HEIs in Ireland.

The School of Medicine would like to congratulate and thank Drs. Colm O Tuathaigh and Eileen Duggan  for their ongoing success in promoting research among our students, as well as the community of clinical research supervisors based in the Cork teaching hospitals.  The figures above reflect the importance the School puts on nurturing our students’ research.