Monday, 11 September 2023

CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices at University of Galway, in collaboration with the National Breast Cancer Research Institute, will mark World Cancer Research Day with a special screening of the documentary ‘The People There to Catch Us’.  The screening will take place on Sunday September 24 at the Town Hall Theatre, Galway at 4.30pm. ‘The People There to Catch Us’ tells the story of Tom Hope and Rachel O’Mahony, two cancer survivors who work alongside researchers at CÚRAM, SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices at University of Galway and Precision Oncology Ireland (POI), to help improve the lives of others living with the disease. The documentary shines a light on the lived experience of cancer survivors, their contribution to research and the ongoing work of research centres like CÚRAM and Precision Oncology Ireland that will shape how cancer will be treated in the future. Speaking about the screening, Dr Róisín Dwyer, CÚRAM and POI Investigator, University of Galway, who features in the film, said: “I’m delighted that we are giving Galway audiences a chance to see this film, and to show them the research that is ongoing on their own doorstep. Our research is patient-focused and we are privileged to work so closely with patient advocates like Rachel who has contributed to our research at University of Galway over several years. This film is a celebration of the power of collaboration, highlighting that we can achieve so much more when we all work together.”   The documentary was produced by Ronan Cassidy of Carbonated Comet and directed by Luke Brabazon under CÚRAM’s Science on Screen public engagement programme.  The film features Dr Róisín Dwyer, CÚRAM and POI Investigator, University of Galway; Professor William Gallagher, POI Deputy Director, UCD Conway Institute and Co-Lead, All-Island Cancer Research Institute; and Professor Walter Kolch, POI Director, and Director of Systems Biology Ireland, UCD, all of whom are focused on personalised cancer research at Precision Oncology Ireland. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion and Q&A with film participants Dr Róisín Dwyer, patient advocates Tom Hope and Rachel O’Mahony, Consultant Breast Surgeon Professor Aoife Lowery, and the film’s director, Luke Brabazon. Claire Riordan, Public Engagement Manager with CÚRAM, said: “Screenings like this allow us to have important conversations about research outside of the lab with the people that will be affected by it. We want to provide opportunities for people to learn both about the research and the lived experience of the conditions that are highlighted in the film.” Patrick Casey, National Breast Cancer Institute Operations Manager, said: “National Breast Cancer Research Institute are thrilled to co-host the upcoming screening of ‘The People There to Catch Us’. We felt it important to be able to make the film freely accessible to the generous supporters and advocates of our charity. The documentary focuses on the real-life journey of cancer survivors, their valuable contributions to research, and the continuous efforts of research centres, and we believe this is a group opportunity for our stakeholders to come along and watch the film and partake in the interactive Q&A session. “The timing of this screening is no coincidence, as it takes place on World Cancer Research Day. This day serves as a global reminder of our shared responsibility to drive forward the frontiers and promote awareness of cancer research. This aligns with our vision to have a real and measurable impact on outcomes for breast cancer patients.” Admission is free but registration is required to secure a place at the event, Ends

Friday, 8 September 2023

CÚRAM Researcher Awarded Prestigious Julia Polak Award at ESB 2023 CÚRAM postdoctoral researcher Dr Kieran Joyce has been awarded the Julia Polak European Doctorate Award 2023 by the European Society for Biomaterials (ESB) and was presented with this award at the General Assembly of the ESB conference to be held from 4-8 September 2023 in Davos. He is the latest CÚRAM graduate to receive this acknowledgement, following in the footsteps of nine earlier CÚRAM alumni. The award is given by the ESB council and presented annually at the conference event. Candidates nominated for the award need to demonstrate receipt of a high standard of research education and training at a European level in Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering and that they are able to produce scientific results deserving of recognition by being published and accepted in high-quality journals and conferences. To this end, candidates will have had to spend at least one month of research work in a country outside the country of their home institution, have produced at least two peer-reviewed international publications as the first author and have participated at least twice at an international scientific meeting as presenting author, during their PhD. Dr Joyce’s PhD research focused on glycosylation in human intervertebral disc degeneration and the development of glyco-functionalised biomaterials. Over the course of his PhD he has published in several prestigious journals, including Signal Transduction and Targeted Therapy, Tissue Engineering Part B and European Cells and Materials. Dr Joyce was supervised by Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director at CÚRAM, the SFI-funded Research Centre for Medical Devices at University of Galway. "It is very gratifying for any researcher to have their work recognised this way. I’m extremely proud that CÚRAM graduates continue to be acknowledged for the quality of their training and research outputs. All of our researchers put extraordinary amounts of energy, time and effort into their work, and I'd like to congratulate Kieran on this award, which he richly deserves," said Prof Pandit. In response to receiving this award, Kieran said “I’m very grateful to receive this acknowledgement from an esteemed society such as the ESB, at the forefront of biomaterial research. My work at CÚRAM would not have been possible without the help of my mentors and colleagues over the years, especially Abhay for all his guidance. I look forward to continuing my work in spine regeneration and hope to contribute to the ESB again soon.” Since its establishment in 1976, the ESB conference has been a significant event for the biomaterials science community. ESB 2023 will once again bring together all major disciplines of biomaterials science enabling participants to network with colleagues, establish new collaborations, exchange knowledge, and discuss recent advances in emerging biomaterials-related topics.  

Thursday, 7 September 2023

CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices at University of Galway, is now enrolling for its Teachers in Residence Programme 2023-2024. Now in its eighth year, the initiative is designed to foster science education by bridging the gap between scientific research and the classroom. CÚRAM has expanded the forthcoming programme to incorporate researchers from four additional SFI Research Centres across Ireland: APC Microbiome Ireland SFI Research Centre; BiOrbic Bioeconomy SFI Research Centre; FutureNeuro, the SFI Research Centre for Chronic and Rare Neurological Diseases; and SSPC SFI Research Centre for Pharmaceuticals. Available for five primary and five secondary school teachers, the programme and will run as a series of ten, one-hour online sessions between October 2023 and March 2024. Participating teachers will receive 10 ECTS through University of Galway’s Centre for Adult Learning and Professional Development, fully funded by CÚRAM. Teachers and their students also have the opportunity to attend interactive workshops at various science centres and exhibits across Ireland. Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director at CÚRAM, said: “We are delighted to be collaborating with other SFI Research Centres this year to broaden the scope and reach of this already successful programme. By infusing their teaching with the latest scientific developments, we hope teachers can inspire students to be aware of the relevance of science in their lives. We also want to provide practical support through resources that can be used in classrooms and online.” Teachers from all disciplines are invited to support and encourage multidisciplinary approaches to teaching science. Participants will learn about and receive resources for the classroom, including science engagement activities and lesson plan kits developed by teachers for teachers, that are linked with the primary and junior cycle science curricula. Teachers will also collaborate with scientific researchers to develop engaging, relevant educational materials to enrich classroom instruction and spark students’ interest. To apply for a place in the Teachers in Residence Programme 2023-2024 or to explore and download lesson plan kits developed by previous years’ teachers (including Irish language versions), can be downloaded at[CG1] . Deadline for applications is Friday, 29 September 2023. -Ends- Notes to Editor About CÚRAM  CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices, is developing the next-generation of medical devices and training a highly-skilled workforce. Set up in 2015, CÚRAM is now a world-leading Irish Medical Device R&D Centre based out of University of Galway. While led by University of Galway, CÚRAM’s partner institutes include University College Dublin, University College Cork, Trinity College Dublin, University of Limerick, Royal College of Surgeons Ireland, Dublin City University, The Technological University of the Shannon, Technological University Dublin and the National Institute Bioprocessing Research and Training. The Centre is focused on the development of medical implants, therapeutic and diagnostic devices that address the needs of patients living with chronic illness. They also partner with local small-and-medium-enterprises (SMEs), and multinational medical device and pharmaceutical companies to increase employment in Ireland. The Centre has seen numerous scientific breakthroughs, as researchers focus on improving the quality of life for patients living with long-term chronic conditions such as diabetes, back pain, cardiovascular disease and stroke. Our researchers focus on engineering approaches for repair and remodelling, improved drug delivery solutions and superior medical implant designs to treat chronic diseases. CÚRAM was created because of the need for clinicians, industry and researchers to collaborate in developing medical devices which will not only create jobs, but also develop a global hub for MedTech. Follow us @ CURAMdevices or visit   

Friday, 25 August 2023

Professor Martin O’Halloran secures record level of prestigious research awards University of Galway researcher and CÚRAM Funded-Investigator Professor Martin O’Halloran has been awarded a European Research Council (ERC) Proof of Concept grant worth €150,000.  This latest accolade for Professor O’Halloran brings his total ERC awards to seven with a combined value of €4.25million in funding since 2015, making him the joint-highest ERC awardee in Ireland. The ERC Proof of Concept is being awarded for his research work on NeuroProtect - a novel therapy to prevent peripheral neuropathy in patients undergoing chemotherapy. The side-effect results in nerves located outside of the brain and spinal cord (peripheral nerves) being damaged and can lead to weakness, numbness and pain, usually in the hands and feet which can cause significant disability and pain for cancer patients. Professor O’Halloran is Techrete Professor of Medical Electronics, Executive Director of the University of Galway-Enterprise Ireland funded BioInnovate Ireland, a funded-investigator at CÚRAM and Director of the Translational Medical Device Lab at the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at University of Galway. His research projects to have been awarded ERC grants include: BioElecPro - Examining the electrical properties of human tissue as a platform for new medical devices Realta - Microwave ablation for the treatment of adrenal tumours Draiocht - Medical device for the treatment of varicose veins Hydrolieve - A long-lasting drug-free effective treatment for chronic Trigeminal Neuralgia pain EndoSolve - A novel medical device for the treatment of Endometriosis Arth-Alleve - Development of novel therapies for osteoarthritis pain Speaking about the ERC Proof of Concept award for NeuroProtect, Professor O’Halloran said: “This represents our seventh European Research Council grant since 2015, and addresses a medical problem significant to cancer patients - to minimise the long-term side effects of chemotherapy. It builds on ever growing collaborations between engineering and medicine at the University, and we hope to have an impact in the clinic in the very near future.” Professor Jim Livesey, Vice-President Research and Innovation at University of Galway, said: “The record ERC awards for Professor O’Halloran are a striking recognition of the quality and level of research he and his teams are leading at University of Galway, as well as the potential for impact on people’s quality of life. The ERC awards also demonstrate the role which our University plays regionally, nationally and internationally and its value in the medtech sector on a global stage.” Proof of Concept grants are awarded to ERC grant holders as top-up funding to explore the commercial or innovation potential of the results of their ERC-funded research. Ends

Thursday, 24 August 2023

‘We are a small country with a high level of pharmaceutical and biotech companies so it has been easy to spread awareness’ Written by Sylvia Thompson and published in the Irish Times on Thu Aug 24 2023   Science laboratories consume five to 10 times more energy and four times more water than offices. A University of Exeter study found that the average bench scientist generates more than 1,000kg of plastic waste each year compared to about 61 grammes generated by the average person. Put all these statistics together and it’s not surprising that efforts are now under way to introduce more sustainable practices into academic and commercial laboratories across Ireland. Jack O’Grady, senior programme manager of My Green Lab in Ireland, explains that with 139 laboratories here partaking in the My Green Lab certification programme, Ireland is second only to the United States in terms of numbers involved in the sustainability initiative but by per head of population we have most labs in the world pursuing Green Lab certification. “We are a small country with a high level of pharmaceutical and biotech companies so it has been easy to spread awareness,” says O’Grady who formerly worked for Regeneron pharmaceutical company in Limerick. Neuroscientist Una Fitzgerald kick-started the initiative here when the CÚRAM Science Foundation Ireland research centre for medical devices at the University of Galway became the first European lab to receive My Green Lab certification in 2019. That lab also became the first Irish lab to renew its Green Lab certification in 2022. “It’s about awareness-raising with each new group of students. It’s all about questioning what we are doing and interrogating our practices. For example, asking can I switch some chemicals to those that are less toxic to me and the environment and still get the same results,” explains Fitzgerald, who is an associate professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Galway. As chairwoman of the voluntary Irish Green Lab Network, Fitzgerald hosts meetings with representatives from all State university labs in Ireland, some hospital labs and some corporate labs that have or are pursuing Green Lab certification. “It’s about making it part of the culture of the lab but getting it embedded in the culture of the organisation is harder,” she says. The certification is recognised by the United Nations Race to Zero campaign as a key measure of progress towards a zero-carbon future. And all university labs in Ireland have a target to be certified by My Green Lab by 2026. Earlier this year, the South East Technological University (Setu) developed a greener lab guide following efforts there to reduce energy, waste and water while improving procurement processes and embracing green chemistry and green biology. “We wanted to rethink how things have always been done daily in our laboratories, change mindsets and embed a culture of sustainability in our centre,” explains Tracey Coady, senior lecturer in pharmaceutical sciences at Setu’s Department of Science and project lead on My Green Lab at Setu. One of the biggest users of energy in laboratories is fume hoods (also called fume cupboards or fume closets) which are ventilation devices designed to limit exposure to hazardous or toxic fumes, vapours and dusts. “They account for between 40 and 50 per cent of the total energy consumption in the laboratory,” explains Niall O’Reilly, manager of the Pharmaceutical Molecular Biotechnology Research Centre at Setu. Simply putting “shut the sash” stickers next to the closing device on the fume hoods ensures machines are kept at the lowest operation position when the laboratories are not in use. Ultra-low temperature freezers used to store biological samples are estimated to use as much energy as an average American household each day. Orla Watters, senior technical officer at the Waterford campus of Setu says a lot of samples are stored at minus 80 degrees as researchers want to ensure their samples are safe so that experiment results can be replicated. “But, if we increase the temperature to minus 70 degrees, a lot of the samples will be fine so we need to change the mindset,” she adds. She refers to an initiative started in 2011 by the University of Colorado in the US where samples stored at minus 70 degrees are monitored. “Now, other universities have joined and continue to catalogue their monitoring to reassure researchers that their samples are safe at minus 70 degrees,” she notes. Some researchers are also embracing more sustainable processes that they hope will be taken on by pharmaceutical companies. For example, PhD student at Setu Sarah Kernaghan is working on a greener approach to pharmaceutical production using enzymes. “I’m using bio-catalysis which involves the use of natural enzymes to catalyse reactions rather than finite metals or harsh acids. Enzymes work well at room temperature which is safer for the chemists and also reduces the energy consumption required by other catalysts requiring higher or lower temperatures,” she says. Enzymes can also be used over and over again rather than being used up in the experiment. Other research aims to reduce the volumes of solvents used in chemical analysis or even better to replace them with more environmentally friendly solvents. In the new Setu Greener Lab guide, there are lots of simple tips to improve sustainability. For example, ensuring the last person leaving the laboratory checks that all equipment and processes that can be turned off at the end of the day are turned off. “We plan to roll this out across all laboratories to go after rogue instruments using loads of energy,” O’Reilly says.The so-called freezer challenge also encourages researchers to clean vents, check seals and remove ice so that freezers work at their most efficient levels. And researchers are also encouraged to switch from plastic to glass/reusable plastic and to share reagents or other materials with other laboratories before putting them in the waste/recycling streams. John O’Brien is laboratory manager at the School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Science at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. The two largest labs — physiology and pharmacy and bio-molecular sciences have received Green Lab certification in the last year. “It was predominantly about reducing energy, waste and water but we also segregated waste and introduced reusable plastics,” O’Brien says. Creating a separate waste stream for polystyrene and finding a company that would collect it was another key aspect of their efforts. Co-ordinating orders from suppliers is another obvious way of reducing transportation costs (and sometimes packaging) as well as reducing the emissions from the transport sector itself. “We have about 40 researchers and while we can’t always predict when we need chemicals, we could develop a system for orders where there is a database or list so we could co-ordinate ordering with each other,” O’Reilly adds. The move towards more sustainable practices in State-funded academic laboratories is in line with the obligation on all public bodies to reduce their carbon emissions by 51 per cent by 2030 from baseline years of 2016-2018 and to improve energy efficiency to 50 per cent from base years between 2001 and 2005. But those at the forefront of the green labs concept, underline the need to educate undergraduate students in these sustainability practices so that when they go into industry, they will carry the knowledge and practical approach into their commercial laboratories. “It’s all about education and communication. In Setu, we have about 900 students about 130 laboratories running every week where we can significantly reduce the volume of waste. It’s about creating an ethos across all our undergraduate laboratories so that we are also very conscious of sustainability,” Watters says.

Wednesday, 16 August 2023

CÚRAM has celebrated the achievement of participants of the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (UROP) at University of Galway for a second year, with a research symposium event at Galway City Museum. In 2022, the UROP programme was funded through Science Foundation Ireland to support underrepresented undergraduate student development by providing fully paid summer internships in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) laboratories across University of Galway for six weeks between May and August. CÚRAM has continued this programme in 2023, by providing a further five opportunities for undergraduate students in biomedical engineering, physiology and pharmacology. On completion of the programme, participants were invited to present the outputs of their research activity at a research symposium and were awarded certificates of achievement by University of Galway’s Vice President for Engagement, Dr Paul Dodd. Dr Dodd spoke to students about his own undergraduate internship experience which he says influenced much of the rest of his career and about the numerous opportunities for STEM careers in Ireland today, saying “With world class research being pursued in a number of fields at University of Galway, including biomedical research through CÚRAM and others, we truly have the opportunity to change the world for the better from right here”. The event was attended by the CURAM team, the interns, their families and peers. Haneen Moustafa, one of the interns who took part in UROP, spoke of her experience under the supervision of Dr Andrew Daly, “The experience has granted me a wealth of knowledge and skills, boosting my confidence as I approach a mandatory internship in my upcoming college year, which initially seemed daunting. Remarkably, this internship has even sparked my consideration of applying for a Ph.D. after graduation – something I never considered before”. Firose Shafin, another of the students who took part, highly recommends the internship, saying “I wholeheartedly endorse the UROP CURÁM internship to any student looking for a hands-on research experience. It's more than just an internship - it's a pathway to personal and academic growth”. Prof Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM commented "We have continued this initiative into 2023 to highlight STEM research as an exciting, long-term career option for undergraduate students and encourage underrepresented STEM students to achieve their full potential. We hope these internships will address the low levels of participation of underrepresented groups in research careers and third-level education." UROP Participants in 2023 were Omar Konswah, Haneen Moustafa, Aditya Joshi, Firose Shafin and Aonghus Feeney. The students benefitted from the extensive exepertise, mentorship and guidance of their supervisors at University of Galway; Dr Isma Liza Mohd Isa (CÚRAM), Dr Andrew Daly (Biomedical Engineering & CÚRAM), Dr Karl NcCullagh (Physiology), Dr Amir Shafat (Physiology) and Prof Eilís Dowd (Pharmacology). CÚRAM's Education and Public Engagement (EPE) Programme supports SFI's strategic goals outlined in SFI Strategy 2025. 'Science for Everyone', as described in the Strategy document, involves creating a diverse scientific, research and innovation workforce that is welcoming to all. It extends to active engagement and co-creation with the Irish public. It aims to be inspirational for future generations, and provide excellent opportunities to recruit and support outstanding researchers at all stages of their careers in academia and industry. -ends- About CÚRAM CÚRAM is a world-leading Irish Medical Device R&D Centre (Over €270M committed to date) that works to improve the quality of life for people with chronic illness. Our scientific programme addresses key problems, technical challenges, and current medical device design and functionalisation limitations. We focus on improving existent devices, developing convergent technologies into clinical solutions and establishing quality standardisation systems. Our key strength is bringing together networks of specialist researchers, industry partners and clinicians to develop solutions for global health challenges. Our researchers focus on bioengineering approaches for repair and remodelling, improved drug delivery solutions, and superior medical implant designs to treat chronic diseases, including chronic and acute respiratory diseases, cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, neurological disorders, and musculoskeletal conditions.

Friday, 14 July 2023

CÚRAM's Education and Public Engagement team recently received a 'Highly Commended Certificate' for the 2023 Mariano Gago Ecsite Responsible & Responsive Award. The award recognises the highly collaborative nature of the "Tiny Sea Creatures, Big Cures" exhibit created in collaboration with Galway Atlantaquaria. The award was presented last month at the 2023 ECSITE Conference in Valetta, Malta. Ecsite, the European Collaborative for Science, Industry and Technology Exhibitions,is an internationally recognised organisation in science communication and public engagement. As part of the conference proceedings, members of CÚRAM's Education and Public Engagement team presented the award-winning Science on Screen programme, together with partners Ardán, filmmaker Niamh Heery of Swansong Films, neuroscientist Eilis Dowd of University of Galway and patient contributors Tom Hope and Rachel O'Mahoney. 'Science Gets Cinematic' was the ECSITE session which brought together the voices of patients, scientists, filmmakers and science communication experts at CÚRAM with filmmaking experts at Ardán. The 75-minute session explored the impact of participation in the Science on Screen programme from various perspectives and practical insights into exploring the use of film as a science storytelling technique. The Science on Screen programme funds documentary filmmaking and provides access to leading scientists to explore methods of scientific 'storytelling'. It has produced eight short films highlighting current research at CÚRAM and its impact on society. With more than 320 organisations committed to inspiring people with science and technology and driving science engagement forward with professional events, projects and publications, Ecsite connects, inspires and empowers science engagement organisations and professionals, extending the reach and strengthening the impact of their work. Ecsite's vision is a European society where citizens are encouraged to engage and participate in science. Their contribution to science research and policy is valuable in addressing humankind's global challenges.   -ends-   About Science on Screen CÚRAM & Ardán together run a partnership project called 'Science on Screen', which aims to facilitate, promote and increase the inclusion of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) content in Irish film and TV production. The partnership began in 2016 with CÚRAM funding documentary filmmaking and providing access to leading scientists to explore scientific 'storytelling' methods and produce short films that incorporate current research at CÚRAM and its partners. These documentaries are freely available for community and educational screenings nationwide. Please contact Claire Riordan ( to request access. Since 2016, eight Science on Screen films have been produced. These have been broadcast on RTE and or TG4, screened at numerous international film festivals, and scooped six international awards. The documentaries are used throughout the country at schools, for community screenings and at academic conferences and have reached an audience of over 1 million people to date. You can access trailers for all films here.   About CÚRAM CÚRAM is a world-leading Irish Medical Device R&D Centre (Over €270M committed to date) that works to improve the quality of life for people with chronic illness. Our scientific programme addresses key problems, technical challenges, and current medical device design and functionalisation limitations. We focus on improving existent devices, developing convergent technologies into clinical solutions and establishing quality standardisation systems. Our key strength is bringing together networks of specialist researchers, industry partners and clinicians to develop solutions for global health challenges. Our researchers focus on bioengineering approaches for repair and remodelling, improved drug delivery solutions, and superior medical implant designs to treat chronic diseases, including chronic and acute respiratory diseases, cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, neurological disorders, and musculoskeletal conditions.   About Ardán Ardán is a non-profit, independent organisation operating across the West of Ireland and beyond. Our principal aim is to support audio-visual creatives in filmmaking, television, animation and games by enabling access and providing opportunities. Our work is founded upon our belief in the incredible depth of talent we have in the regions of Ireland and, most significantly, in the West. We aim to enable that formidable creative spirit to enrich the audio-visual industry and for talented individuals to realise their full potential and grow a sustainable career path. At the core of our support is providing opportunities. We know that talented people like you will not hesitate to seize opportunities if you can access them, and when you are given a chance to flex your creative muscles, you can and will produce something amazing.

Thursday, 6 July 2023

Biomaterials Advances has just announced the Biomaterials Advances Innovation Award 2023 winners. The 'Biomaterials Advances Innovation Award' recognises innovative research in the field of biomaterials with the potential to impact beyond academia. The journal states that they seek individuals whose outstanding research has contributed or is likely to contribute to solving an unmet clinical need, be adopted by industry, or demonstrate a concept that will change policy. The 2023 award will be shared by two winners: Professor Abhay Pandit of the University of Galway and Professor Guoping Chen of the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS). Professor Abhay Pandit is the Established Professor of Biomaterials at the National University of Ireland and the Director of the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices (CÚRAM). In his career span of thirty-two years, he has significantly contributed to biomaterials and medical device translation. After spending seven successful years in the industry, Professor Pandit transitioned to academia, where he has dedicated the past 25 years of his work. He draws inspiration from understanding biological processes that have been modulated in pathology. This knowledge informs the development of advanced biomaterial substrates for materials design, targeting degenerative or chronic conditions in cardiovascular, neural, and intervertebral disc domains. Professor Pandit's outstanding track record includes securing over €175 million in research contracts, filing 28 patents (with 14 pending), and successfully licensing technologies to medical device companies, enhancing the practical impact of his research. Another notable achievement of Professor Pandit's career is the establishment of CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Research Centre for Medical Devices at the University of Galway in Ireland. Serving as a thriving hub for more than 1000 researchers, CÚRAM unites experts from diverse disciplines, fostering innovation and research translation. Professor Pandit's research contributions are well-documented through an extensive publication record. He has authored over 345 manuscripts and has presented over 715 papers at national and international conferences. He is the Associate Editor for Journal Biomaterials and serves on the Editorial Board of fifteen other journals. Additionally, he is the chair of the EU Chapter of the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Society. Professor Pandit has been honoured with esteemed awards, such as the 2022 George Winter Award from the European Society for Biomaterials and the Chandra P Sharma Award from the Society for Biomaterials and Artificial Organs. He is also a Fellow of AIMBE, TERMIS, IAE, and IUSBSE. More information here - -ends-

Tuesday, 27 June 2023

The project on Clare Island, Co Mayo aims to become a template for telemedicine in other rural parts of the country This article was originally published by Áine Ryan in the Irish Times on Tue Jun 27 - read it here An island off Co Mayo has proven to be the perfect laboratory for rolling out a €1 million remote health project which aims to become a template for telemedicine in other rural parts of the country. Academics, healthcare professionals and some politicians braved rough seas on Tuesday morning to be treated to drone and robotic demonstrations at a conference marking the success so far of the Clare Island Home Health Project. The Robot called ‘Madra’ proved particularly popular as it delivered emergency medicines whilst a drone demonstration showed how efficiently an epipen could be delivered to the island. The medical simulation on Tuesday was the delivery of an epipen from the island’s medical centre to an emergency anaphylaxis situation. Madra brought a first aid kit up through mountains terrain at Capnagower to a patient. Over 80 islanders, aged from 18 to 90, have already signed up to the project, which began in September 2022. The brainchild of Professor Derek O’Keefe, a physicianeer (physician and engineer), who is attached to the University of Galway, the project is funded through a public-private partnership led by global technology company Cisco and CÚRAM, the Science Foundation of Ireland Research Centre for Medical Devices at the University of Galway, in partnership with the HSE. “Through our Health Innovation via Engineering (HIVE) laboratory in the university we have produced a patient-centred solution towards democratising clinical access and care. One of the major challenges for patients here in the West and beyond is the long distances people have to travel to access care, so new ways of delivering healthcare are necessary. The engagement of the islanders with the project has been key to the project’s success so far, “ Prof O’Keeffe says. The HIVE lab delivered insulin from Galway to Inis Mór by drone in 2019, confirms Prof O’Keeffe. For islander and project manager, Dr Ian McCabe, his experience of remote working from the island during the pandemic for the School of Physics at the University of Galway proved an invaluable experience, informing the practical and strategic approach for the everyday development of the project. Coincidentally, his late grandmother moved to the island from Co Galway’s Inishbofin in 1939 to oversee communications with the outside world through morse code skills – the remote form of communication with the outside world at the time. “Cisco wanted to test the bounds of what was possible for healthcare in a remote location and through proactive engagement with the former development coordinator here on the island, we were chosen,” McCabe explains. Welcoming both visitors and locals to the island’s community centre, McCabe praised the excellent service already provided by the two resident island nurses, Margaret O’Grady and Mary Murray, as well as GP, Dr Noreen Lineen- Curtis. She travels by sea from Achill each week for clinics, as her father did too for many decades. Addressing the gathering, Dr Lineen-Curtis observed: “This is the next dimension of remote GP care. You could say that we were already successfully providing remote care as I live on Achill Island and have a weekly clinic here. However, I would have often have made a diagnosis over the phone, to one of the two marvellous resident nurses on Clare, based on a photo of an ECG or a wound. The next step might have been requesting a Coastguard helicopter or the lifeboat.” The platform for the technologies available at the health hub is delivered through Irish company MyPatientSpace software. It includes the facilitation of clinical consultations with dual screen videos, remote patient monitoring and an Artificial Intelligence algorithm which actively triages the level of urgency for an outpatient appointment. Project participants wear Withings Pulse HR watches which allows them monitor aspects of their daily activities and heart-health. This information is downloaded to tablets they have been given for further analysis. Dr Lineen-Curtis cited a typical example of a possible cardiac arrhythmia event picked up through the monitoring process but which easily could be overlooked if a patient just presented at A & E. Islander, Jack Pinder (23) graduated with a social science degree from the University of Galway in 2022 and is delighted to be in a position to live at home and work on the project. “I can already see such a change in people’s attitude to health on the island,” Islander Jack Pinder who works on the project told The Irish Times. “I even came out of Mass the last day and some of the older farmers were standing chatting at the wall, as they always do, but they were chatting about their step-counts.” He started engaging with islanders last year thorough the community newsletter, the WhatsApp group and house visits. “There has been such a positive reaction to it. I can already see such a change in people’s attitude to health on the island,” Pinder told The Irish Times. “I even came out of Mass the last day and some of the older farmers were standing chatting at the wall, as they always do, but they were chatting about their step-counts. One of them was saying: ‘Well, I haven’t gone out after the sheep yet and that will bring it up for the day’.” Unsurprisingly, island representatives from along the coast attended the conference. John Walsh, of Co Cork’s Bere Island said: “It is really good to see that this service augments, and isn’t replacing, the existing service offered by nurses and doctors. Islanders would not just want technology alone. However, the drone technology will really provide a vital addition.” Brian Jordan, Cisco’s lead for Ireland’s Country Digital Acceleration programme, said: “Meeting people here on the island today really shows how their journey, as patients, has been fundamentally changed for the better.” He praised the HSE’s innovative approach and the Western Development Commission for the key roles they played.

Monday, 26 June 2023

A consortium of 10 European academic, clinical and enterprise partners led by University of Galway has been formed in a special project to test new treatments for rare eye diseases. In Europe, approximately 30 million people suffer from blindness and visual impairment. Rare Eye Diseases are a major cause that can result in blindness in children and young adults, and affect adults and the ageing population. Current management is expensive, has low efficacy, and significant side effects.  The consortium - RESTORE VISION - aims to address this clinical need by formulating novel treatments and repurposed drugs that have been validated in different disease indications.  The project will target seven rare eye diseases: aniridia-associated keratopathy; neurotrophic keratopathy; limbal stem cell deficiency; ocular cicatricial pemphigoid; EEC syndrome; ocular graft versus host disease; and corneal neovascularisation. By targeting the overlapping mechanisms of these seven different conditions, the probability of discovering new sight-restoring therapies to treat ocular surface diseases is greatly enhanced. Professor Thomas Ritter, Professor of Medicine at, the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at University of Galway and Science Foundation Ireland Funded Investigator at CÚRAM, is leading the consortium. “Leading this consortium is a great honour as it brings together key players in Europe on rare eye diseases to advance the field and test novel and repurposed compounds directly with the patients who need them now. Using repurposed and previously validated compounds will expedite our progress, leading to the rapid development of novel therapeutics,” Professor Ritter said. Combined, the rare eye diseases being targeted through the RESTORE VISION consortium are estimated to affect more than 500,000 people, representing 1.7% of the total visual impairment and blindness population in Europe.  The project combines expertise from eye disease leaders with six leading research institutions - University of Galway; Linköping University, Sweden; Ospedale San Raffaele, Italy; Universidad Miguel Hernandez De Elche, Spain; INSERM, France; University Hospital Cologne, Germany. It also involves enterprise partners with three SMEs - Cell2Cure, Denmark; Laboratoires KÔL, France; Catalyze, the Netherlands. A European patient organisation is also partnering - Aniridia Europe, Norway. The ground-breaking approach being taken by the consortium seeks to improve eye health by verifying disease mechanisms, using cutting-edge models for each rare disease to test novel and repurposed compounds; formulating safe eye drop suspensions or subconjunctival drugs; and performing first-in-human trials of novel therapies.  Impaired wound healing at the cornea and ocular surface; excessive inflammation; nerve degeneration; stem cell dysfunction; and aberrant vessel ingrowth are the common denominators in many rare eye diseases, representing a critical medical problem and an area of unmet medical need.  Drugs that have been extensively tested in preclinical studies by the RESTORE VISION academic and pharma partners or treatments that are already on the market will be used in the project. This will significantly reduce the usually lengthy and complex regulatory and drug development processes ensuring rapid translation of these innovative treatments into the clinic. Professor Neil Lagali, Linköping University, Sweden is leading the provision of specialised research models of rare disease. He said: “This is an exciting time, as our models of rare corneal diseases have now reached a level of sophistication that allows us to reliably evaluate therapeutic compounds to determine their effects in restoring the cornea’s function, using standard outcome measures that will facilitate the transition into clinical trials.”   Aniridia Europe is a patient association that connects people with aniridia and their families all around Europe and promotes international collaboration on aniridia.  President Barbara Poli said: “We are honoured and happy to be part of this consortium, as we consider the possibility to create a link with the researchers and clinicians as a fundamental opportunity to bring the voice and the needs of patients to those who are dedicating their work and commitment in developing new knowledge on rare eye diseases, new treatment options and the hope for a better quality of life of all patients in all countries.”  Professor Conor Murphy, Key Opinion Leader and Professor of Ophthalmology at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, said: “RESTORE VISION is a unique and ambitious project which brings together experts from a range of specialist fields to expand our understanding of a group of rare, blinding diseases of the surface of the eye. New therapeutic approaches will be developed and expedited into patient care using existing EU regulatory frameworks enabling rapid access to newly discovered treatments.” Ends   Note for editors: HORIZON-HLTH-2022-DISEASE-06-04-two-stage Total Project Amount: €7,999,852 Allocated to University of Galway: € 1,003,836     ‌

Friday, 16 June 2023

Professor of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine, and CÚRAM Funded Investigator John Laffey has been elected to the Royal Irish Academy for his exceptional contribution to science. A major translational research focus for Laffey is on cell therapies for ARDS and Sepsis, the major causes of death and disability in the critically ill. A clinician scientist in Anesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine with research teams based at the CÚRAM Centre for Medical Devices at University of Galway and at the Keenan Centre for Biomedical Research at St Michael’s Hospital, University of Toronto, Professor Laffey is also Director of Clinical Research at University of Galway’s School of Medicine and Galway University Hospitals. Election to membership of the Royal Irish Academy, established in 1785, is the highest academic distinction in Ireland. As a new member, Prof Laffey will support the RIA by engaging in activities that strengthen its international recognition and serve the public good through their knowledge and insight.

Wednesday, 7 June 2023

CÚRAM Scientific Director Professor Abhay Pandit part of the Irish delegation representing Ireland at the 18th National Conference on Health Economy which takes place in Rostock, Germany from today. Ireland has been selected as the partner country for this year’s event. The two day conference (Wednesday and Thursday) will be attended by over 700 national and international experts from the health industry. A trade exhibition will also run alongside the conference which will increase the visibility and awareness of Ireland’s offering in the industry. Professor Pandit will speak on the “Best Practice Partner Country Ireland” panel to highlight CURAM’s involvement in the Irish ecosystem and its EU programs as well as key industry collaborations. Prof Pandit will also take part in the panel discussion on "Strengthening Strategic Autonomy in the Industrial Healthcare Industry" which will explore the topic of R & D funding and life science location funding in Ireland. Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, Neale Richmond, will be in attendance. Minister Richmond said: "I am delighted to attend this event as Ireland’s representative and meet with senior leaders across industry and Government to further strengthen our excellent relationship with Germany.” "Ireland’s reputation as a global location of excellence in medtech and next-gen biopharma products is a result of our continued investment in innovation. Investing in leading-edge healthcare and health technology drives economic performance, but more importantly it helps us to discover new innovations which can improve healthcare standards for our citizens, allowing people to live longer, healthier lives with more independence." Ireland is partner country to the conference this year, which presents a valuable opportunity to strengthen the development of the healthcare industry and to foster the relationship between Ireland and Germany. Since 2005, the conference has developed into one of the health industry’s most important annual meeting points, providing a platform for establishing and intensifying contacts between key industry representatives. The programme will include presentations from Ireland’s enterprise agencies, Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland, along will panel discussions with representatives from Science Foundation Ireland, the Tyndall National Institute, and the Health Innovation Hub Ireland. The life sciences sector in Ireland contributes significantly to our economy, accounting for over €100 billion in exports and employing over 80,000 people in Ireland in activities ranging from manufacturing, R&D, supply chain and a variety of EMEA and global services. Germany is an important export market for Ireland’s medical and pharmaceutical products with our trading relationship growing all the time. In 2021, the total value of Ireland's trade with Germany was valued at €53 billion which marks a 155% increase in the 10 years since 2011. About CÚRAM CÚRAM, Ireland’s National Medical Device Research and Development Centre, has established itself as a global leader in the field, with committed funding of over €270 million. The primary objective of CÚRAM is to enhance the quality of life for individuals afflicted with chronic illnesses. To achieve this, the Centre's scientific program addresses significant issues, technical hurdles, and the existing limitations pertaining to medical device design and functionalization. CÚRAM's core focus revolves around the enhancement of existing devices, the development of convergent technologies for clinical solutions, and the facilitation of clinical translation. The Centre excels in its capacity to bring together specialized researchers, industry partners, and clinicians, thereby fostering collaborative networks that aim to develop solutions for global health challenges. CÚRAM's researchers concentrate on engineering strategies for repair and remodelling, advancements in drug delivery solutions, and the design of superior and smart medical implants to treat chronic diseases effectively. These diseases encompass a broad spectrum of conditions, including chronic and acute respiratory ailments, cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, neurodegenerative and musculoskeletal conditions. With the intention of fostering fruitful collaborations, CÚRAM seeks to utilize this event as a platform to introduce and engage with policy, academic and industry partners from Germany. The primary objective is to explore collaborative opportunities for the creation and translation of medical devices that are ready for clinical implementation and prioritize the needs of patients. By forging partnerships with German entities, CÚRAM aims to leverage the collective expertise and resources of both nations to develop innovative medical solutions that can directly benefit individuals in need.

Tuesday, 6 June 2023

A conversation with Swansong Film’s Niamh Heery about the work she and Eric Dolan are doing with CÚRAM, Ardán, and the National Talent Academy Animation (NTAA) to bring scientific research to the screen via animations to make it more accessible.     About Swansong Films   Niamh founded Swansong Films in 2005 with Eric Dolan, where she works primarily as a documentary and drama film maker, but also as a youth and community work film maker. Eric has always jumped on board with her as a producer or to do VFX (visual effects) work on various projects where help is needed. They also come together to work as partners on work they are both interested in, for example the Science of Screen project – A Tiny Spark – in 2018 and the current 2022 / 2023 project.     Niamh & Eric’s background   Niamh originally studied media and communications in Tallaght , as well as a BA in Visual Arts Practice in IADT, and she then went on to complete her Master’s in Production and Direction in the Huston School of Film at the University of Galway. Eric’s background is in animation VFX (visual effects) and he’s worked with major production companies including Windmill Lane and Piranha Bar as well as high-end commercial and feature film work. Their collaboration works well, where on some productions Niamh can lead production and Eric can get into the ‘fun VFX and animation stuff’, then Niamh can lead on the documentary and drama projects she enjoys, and Eric supports with VFX.     Working with CÚRAM & Ardán   This is the second Science on Screen initiative that Swansong Film has worked on with CÚRAM and Ardán (previously known as Galway Film Centre.) Niamh had seen Alice McDowell and Mia Mullarkey’s work from 2017 – Feats of Modest Valour – so she and Eric applied for the commission in 2018.      Their successful commission in 2018 resulted in the animated production of A Tiny Spark.     Noting the success of that piece in festivals locally and internationally, Niamh could see firsthand the power of mixing science and creativity to reach audiences in a different way. Niamh spotted the 2022 competition, this time to create two short animations with CÚRAM, Ardán, and the NTA for Animation.     Adding narrative and visual metaphor to scientific research   The production of such a piece for Science on Screen draws on the creative strengths of filmmakers and combines it with key medical research that is being done to develop better new and medical devices.       Within the allocated budget, animation teams were asked to collaborate with CÚRAM researchers to create an animation that is a minimum of 40 seconds in length, that works for a public audience, which provides a platform to explain fundamental scientific concepts used to develop effective treatments for chronic illnesses.   The goal with the Science on Screen initiative is to give audiences the opportunity to gain a better understanding of these concepts, and also to provide a tool for scientists to engage with the public on the core concepts involved in their research and its relevance to future treatments.     The two animation projects: Pep Bucal & Stent Device   The first project aims to create a patch device to deliver drugs (macromolecules) across the cheek.   The second project aims to create a device that provides reliable access into the wall of the colon, specifically the submucosa, under the mucosal lining, for injection.     The question they asked themselves was, “How can we narrow this crazy world of science down to match a narrative?” The Swansong team looked at macro and micro systems, as well as at drone imagery and at ecosystems and how they are observed from a big aspect down into the smaller details.     The idea they started with was to be able to see things happening from above – inside the human body – and then how all these systems work together. In the end they chose a landscape version, and zoomed in on one person, and looked at what was the issue that was happening to them, and then zoomed further inside the body to see the science behind the issue, and what’s the medicine that can fix it.      With that simple concept, they were able then to structure a narrative with characters to make a very short animation – 50 seconds – one minute, moving from a wide shot of the landscape to a medium shot to see the person and issue, and then a closeup of the inner workings of the body and the medicine.      Preparation and production time   Preparation for production included writing a script and creating a mood board, and then completing a panel interview with key stakeholders from Ardán, the NTAA, and CÚRAM. From there, Niamh and Eric could delve further into the detail of the animations before getting into production mode.      Production was relatively smooth, as the Swansong team had a lot of the prep done beforehand, and with the aid of feedback from the researchers, the team could get the correct terminology finalised.      “Getting the voiceover right is key in a production like this as you only have 50-ish seconds in which to explain a difficult concept, so getting the script right for that was key.” This also included explaining to the researchers that the text couldn’t have a big paragraph of scientific research in there, it would need to be edited down to the bones of the idea to work well. Niamh noted that CÚRAM are very good with this process, as they have public engagement people on hand who can help to simplify the language.     Once the script was finalised, the Swansong team moved into preparing the story board, and once that was greenlit by all the collaborators, Niamh and Eric provided style frames (animation stills) of some of the characters and some of the medical devices, to show how the final look of the animation would be. The style frames allowed the researchers to visualise the final concept to give feedback pre-production.     What were the approximate number of hours spent on pre-production, production, and post? Pre-production and planning took about 20 hours, then actual production took approximately 250 hours, and post-production required about 40 hours of time to finalise the animations for public viewing.     Learnings from the 2018 process   What was a key insight that you took from working on a similar Science on Screen process back in 2018?   According to Niamh; “Speaking, listening, and communicating is key. You have to ask questions, and ask for lots of plain language explanations, then sit there and listen and take notes, because you’re not the expert, and if you do that at the beginning there are less mistakes to tidy up later on in the project, when it’s harder to do. Once you have that framework, CÚRAM are then very open to new approaches, and provide freedom to create.”     “The 2018 piece (A Tiny Spark) was documentary mixed with quite lyrical 2D animation, as it is quite abstract and difficult at times to play and portray the experience of someone having a stroke, so animation was great for that. But this time around it was very precise work to leave more room for the medical devices to be showcased.”     In 2018, the work was different, as they travelled to film festivals and had A Tiny Spark screened on RTÉ. This time around it has been more about creating pieces that are part of an overall project that can be shown as a tool at conferences to attract funding and push the devices into the market, as well as public engagement with what the device itself does.     Highlights from the experience   The organisation of the whole project was great, CÚRAM had the team of scientists on hand to help, including Professor David Brayden for the PEP BUCCAL Project from UCD, Dr Eoin O’Cearbhaill, for the Stent Coating Project from UCD, and Claire Riordan, the CÚRAM Education and Public Engagement Manager.     From a project management perspective, Kenny Gaughan and the team at Ardán was brilliant to help with all the contracts and documentation and generally being able to bounce ideas off each other in terms of managing the types of documentation that were needed for the whole project scope.    The NTAA (National Talent Academy Animation) mentorship with Pa Lynch as an advisor for filling out the audio and soundscape of animation was key, as that was a whole new world of work to learn. The NTAA is led by Deirdre Barry as Programme Director, with Joe Orr as Animation Course Coordinator.    Challenges of working in the film industry   Funding is always the main issue, according to Niamh, when working professionally in this industry. The process of applying for funding, waiting for decisions on funding applications, and managing that whole process is the time-consuming part a lot of the time. Where Eric is a freelancer, she noted, and can work on other projects and productions in VFX where he is in high-demand, Niamh focuses a lot of her in-between time managing the production itself from pre to post, and that is a full-time job in itself.     From ideation, to applying for funding, to producing the piece to all the work that comes after, it takes time. With the Science on Screen project, she noted, what was great was that as soon as the project idea was accepted by the teams involved, the funding and the process of work was already in place.     What’s next for Swansong Films? Niamh has a feature script in process right now – A Means to an End – an eco-drama about a small village in north rural Ireland that is fighting a fracking operation. They are waiting to see if that goes into further development. Again, it all depends on funding. Beyond that, Niamh continues to work on other smaller commissions and youth and community filmmaking projects which always inform her work.     Always juggling several projects – Niamh noted the only time you’ll be focussed on one project is when you are in production mode – otherwise you are always juggling some aspect of pre or post-production.     Overall, they found it a very positive experience working on Science on Screen. In Niamh’s words, with science and animation it is like two different places in the mind coming together to explain something.     “It’s fun, it’s challenging, but it’s cool to see a film pushing a scientific idea forward in its development.”  For more information on CURAM’s work, visit    To find out more about upcoming Science on Screen projects with CÚRAM and Ardán contact: 

Wednesday, 31 May 2023

CÚRAM Funded Investigator Professor Timothy O'Brien is one of six University of Galway researchers to secure funding under Science Foundation Ireland’s Frontiers for the Future Programme. The awards were unveiled by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, TD, as part of grants totalling €42 million to support research across the higher education sector. Prof. O'Brien is researching new hybrid advanced therapy medicinal products. The project will use combinations of genes, cells and biomaterials to treat patients who suffer blood vessel blockage in the legs leading to bypass surgery or amputation. Professor Jim Livesey, Vice-President Research and Innovation at University of Galway, said: “Government investment in these research projects at University of Galway are testament to the expertise and excellence of our people and their vision to tackle issues of global importance. We wish all of the successful researchers the best as they work to make lasting impact.” University of Galway research projects are: Gordon Bromley, School of Geography & Archaeology, College of Arts, Social Sciences and Celtic Studies, aims to improve future climate projections by investigating the impact of historic oceanic shifts in Ireland. The project is co-funded by Geological Survey Ireland. Audrey Morley, School of Geography & Archaeology, College of Arts, Social Sciences and Celtic Studies, will pioneer a new approach to assess past climate change effects in the Arctic, providing a basis to resolve current climate debates on the stability of our global climate. The project is co-funded by Geological Survey Ireland. Derek Morris and Dara Cannon, College of Science and Engineering and College of Medicine, Nursing & Health Sciences aim to research the prediction cognitive dysfunction and psychosocial disability in schizophrenia using genetic, neuroimaging and environmental data. Timothy O'Brien, College of Medicine, Nursing & Health Sciences, is researching new hybrid advanced therapy medicinal products - using combinations of genes, cells and biomaterials - to treat patients who suffer blood vessel blockage in the legs leading to bypass surgery or amputation. Andrea Erxleben, College of Science and Engineering, will research novel platinum-based mitocans for the treatment of resistant cancers. Conor O'Byrne, College of Science and Engineering, will research the characterisation of the function and regulation of GadR, a novel transcriptional regulator of acid resistance in Listeria monocytogenes. This Frontiers for the Future programme was funded in collaboration with the Children’s Health Foundation (CHF) and Geological Survey Ireland (GSI). Minister Harris said: “These awards, supported under the SFI Frontiers for the Future programme, will enable research ideas to contribute new knowledge, solving problems faced by our society, while also providing a continuum of support from early career to established researchers, thus growing and retaining top talent in Ireland. The SFI Frontiers for the Future programme takes important steps to address gender imbalance and to provide support and opportunity for emerging investigators who are returning to their research after a period of leave.” Professor Philip Nolan, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland, said: “A key action of SFI’s strategy is to deliver 140 investigator grants every year to support excellent research and to attract top talent. The Frontiers for the Future programme is the primary mechanism to achieve this goal. It is vital that we invest in excellent and innovative research in Ireland. I would like to thank the Children’s Health Foundation and Geological Survey Ireland for collaborating on this programme with SFI, allowing us to fund projects which will have a significant impact in key areas." Ends

Monday, 22 May 2023

Four original short animations created by Irish animators to explore and explain science research have recently been completed. The short films were created through a strand of the highly successful Science on Screen programme, a partnership between CÚRAM Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Research Centre for Medical Devices and Ardán. The animations (which can be viewed here) are the product of a new strand of CÚRAM and Ardan’s Science on Screen Scheme and were launched in 2022 in association with the National Talent Academy Animation (NTAA). About the 2022-2023 programme The project invited animators to apply to create one minute long, easy to understand animations that present scientific concepts currently being explored through research projects at CÚRAM. Swansong Films (Niamh Heery and Eric Dolan) and Studio 9 (Joe Coveney and John O'Connell) were selected and have each made two animations for the scheme. The films explore such topics as a new delivery system for the treatment of diabetes; how to effectively deliver pain relief to the site of osteoarthritis; a novel coating for stents used in the gastro system and a targeted approach to combatting hypertension caused by tumour growth on the adrenal gland. Feedback from the participants "Working with CÚRAM was a fantastic opportunity for us at Studio 9. Their work is fascinating, and it was a wonderful challenge to help them communicate their research with a broader audience. The team at CÚRAM gave us enough creative freedom to produce something that inspired us visually and allowed our way of working to show through.  There was fantastic support from the team - with good communication and excellent feedback." - Joe Coveney of Studio 9 “The highlights were the soundscape mentoring from Pa Lynch lined up by NTAA. The organisation of the whole project was great, CÚRAM had Dr David Brayden from UCD, Dr Eoin O'Cearbhaill from UCD, and Claire Riordan, the CÚRAM Education and Public Engagement Manager on hand to help with any questions we had. From a management perspective, Ardán was brilliant to help with all the contracts and documentation and generally being able to bounce ideas off each other in terms of managing the types of documentation that might be needed for the project.” - Niamh Heery of Swansong Films CÚRAM Scientific Director Professor Abhay Pandit said: “The product of this collaboration between animators and CÚRAM scientists has been hugely valuable in creating clear ways to inform the public about what we do and its value.” The resulting animations are highly effective in conveying complex ideas in an easy-to-understand way and have shown the role which both film and animation can have in engaging with the public and meeting the goals of the Science on Screen scheme. About Science on Screen Science on Screen is a partnership project run by CÚRAM (the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices at University of Galway) & Ardán (formerly Galway Film Centre). The partnership began in 2016 and aims to facilitate, promote and increase the inclusion of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) content in Irish film and TV production through the production of documentary films that incorporate current research at CÚRAM and its partners. Since 2016, eight Science on Screen films have been produced, covering such topics as developments in precision tailored cancer treatment, Parkinson’s Disease, living with diabetes, and the newest documentary which focuses on the Home Health project on Clare Island, investigating how digital healthcare can improve patient care on the island. Interested in getting involved? CÚRAM and Ardán in association with National Talent Academy Animation hope to do more animations in the future, animators can keep in touch with future projects by following CÚRAM, Ardán and National Talent Academy Animation on social media and subscribing to the Ardán newsletter at Watch the completed animations here: ‌Title: Macromolecules Delivery Patch for Cheek Animated By: Swansong Films Researcher: Dr David Brayden Title: Extended Pain Relief for Osteoarthritis Animated By: Studio 9 Researcher: Dr David Brayden Title: Development of new Stent Coating Technique Animated By: Swansong Films Researcher: Dr. Eoin O’Cearbhaill Title: Adrenal Gland Targeted Energy Delivery Animated By: Studio 9 Researcher: Dr Martin O’Halloran

Thursday, 18 May 2023

University of Galway is to join 18 international research and academic partners in a Horizon Europe funded project to develop new biodegradable vascular implants. The BIOMEND programme will be led by Dr Ted Vaughan, Associate Professor in Biomedical Engineering and Principal Investigator in the Biomechanics Research Centre at the University of Galway, with his colleague Professor Peter McHugh, and in close partnership with Dr Alexander Kopp, founder of Meotec Gmbh, located in Aachen, Germany, a world-leader in the production of biodegradable metal alloys for medical applications. Biodegradable materials are a category of biomaterial that gradually degrade when implanted in the body and have the potential to form the basis for the next-generation of endovascular stents, as they can reduce long-term complications associated with existing devices. Together with the wider BIOMEND consortium, the research team will tackle key technological challenges in the area of biodegradable implants so that they can be safely used in the human body. Dr Ted Vaughan, Associate Professor in Biomedical Engineering at University of Galway, said: "We are delighted to receive this funding, which allows us to bring together leading experts from across Europe to develop the next-generation of biodegradable implants. Our goal is to develop a range of endovascular stent implants that reduce the risk of long-term complications and improve patient outcomes." Funded through the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions scheme, the BIOMEND project is structured as an integrated research and training programme. As the proposal lead and BIOMEND training coordinator, Dr Eva Barrett, School of Engineering at University of Galway, explains: “BIOMEND will deliver world-class interdisciplinary training to 15 PhD researchers, who will carry out industry-based doctorates across the BIOMEND network. This will significantly enhance the career development and employment prospects of these researchers, promoting their future development into leading innovators of medical technologies.” Ends

Wednesday, 10 May 2023

Researchers at University of Galway studying cell interactions in bowel cancer have identified innovative strategies to enhance how the body and drug treatments fight the disease. Colorectal, also known as bowel, cancer is a leading cause of death globally with increasing incidence in developing countries and in younger people. In Ireland alone, there are more than 2,500 newly diagnosed cases of bowel cancer every year, with limited treatment options for patients at advanced disease stage.  The findings of the research have been published in life science journal Cell Reports. Aideen Ryan, Associate Professor in Tumour Immunology at University of Galway’s College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, and Funded Investigator at CÚRAM said: “Unfortunately, a high proportion of colorectal cancer patients do not respond to immunotherapy. We have identified sugar coated molecules with sialic acid, called sialoglycans, that are present on cells in tumours, known as stromal cells. These are associated with poor responses to immunotherapy. Targeting these molecules enhances the immune response in tumours that have high levels of these cells.” The research was carried out by University of Galway in collaboration with VUB, Belgium; Palleon Pharmaceuticals, Boston, USA; CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices; Glasgow Beatson Institute for Cancer Research; Queen’s University Belfast.   What did the researchers investigate? Approximately 25% of bowel cancer patients have a high density of stromal cells, a type of cancer-supporting cell found in close proximity to cancer cells. These patients are the hardest to treat.  Stromal cells use a number of methods to inhibit or suppress immune cell responses, many of which are utilised by the cancer cells themselves, to promote tumour growth.  This leads to conventional anti-cancer therapies such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy and, more recently, immunotherapies, having less than favourable results. The researchers studied a previously unknown mechanism of stromal cell immunosuppression. It occurs as sugar coated molecules expressed on the stromal cell surface binds to specific protein receptors expressed on the surface of immune T-cells.    What did the researchers discover? The sugars - sialic acids (or sialoglycans) – bind to receptors called Siglecs. The Siglecs stop the cancer killing T cells from working.  The research showed that stromal cells, when exposed to inflammatory molecules released by bowel cancer cells, express increased amounts of the sialoglycans - on their surface. It also showed that T cells could be re-activated by using specific drugs to disrupt the binding between the cells. The researchers tested the findings using stromal cells isolated from bowel cancer patient biopsies and got the same results, confirming that targeting the binding of sialic acid/Siglecs may represent an innovative strategy to enhance anti-tumour immunity in immunosuppressive tumour microenvironments.   Dr Ryan added: “Our plan now is to test the effects of combining this new targeting approach with clinically approved immunotherapies in the hope that the combination will improve immune responses to cancer.  “We are fortunate to have access to drugs, called sialidases, that target sialoglycans through our collaborators Palleon Pharmaceuticals to test these new combinations in our laboratory. These sialidase molecules derived from Palleon's EAGLE glyco-immunology drug development platform has recent clinical proof of mechanism.” Li Peng, chief scientific officer, Palleon, said: “We are delighted to collaborate with Dr Ryan in studying the role of sialoglycans on tumour-associated stromal cells in inhibiting anti-tumour immune responses. Dr Ryan's ground-breaking research highlights the therapeutic potential of targeting stromal cell sialoglycans in the tumour microenvironment as a cancer treatment approach, utilising a sialidase molecule derived from Palleon's EAGLE glyco-immunology drug development platform that has clinical proof of mechanism."   Read full paper here -

Thursday, 27 April 2023

A lunar rover which was due to land on the Moon this week carrying samples developed in a lab at Dublin City University (DCU). The plastic and metal strips were attached to the wheels of the spacecraft and were to be used to study the way moon dust sticks to different surfaces. Japanese lunar exploration company iSpace was behind the mission but deemed the attempt to be unsuccessful after communication was lost with the unmanned spacecraft. "We have to assume that we could not complete the landing on the lunar surface," said iSpace CEO Takeshi Hakamada. If successful, it would have been the first lunar landing by a private company. Polymer and metal samples were produced in the DCU School of Chemical Sciences and were affixed to the wheel of the Rashid Lunar Rover which was designed and constructed by engineers and scientists at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) in the United Arab Emirates. The project is part of a collaboration with the European Astronaut Centre in the European Space Agency (ESA). Moon dust is very sharp, dry, fine and difficult to reproduce on Earth. It can interfere with electronics and can stick to everything from astronauts' boots to gloves, suits, cords and tools. Eight sample surfaces, a combination of polymer and metal samples with micro and nano-scale patterns on their surface, as well as unpatterned control samples, were prepared for the lunar rover in the labs at DCU with the help of funding from both Science Foundation Ireland and the Irish Research Council. The samples were launched to the Moon aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida in December. Scientists at DCU, including the project lead Dr Susan Kelleher, gathered this evening to watch the lunar landing live. Dr Kelleher is a Funded Investigator at CÚRAM. "We were very excited to be here on the day to see it getting so far, so not matter what happens I think it is a huge outcome here for DCU, for Ireland and for the international space industry," Dr Kelleher said. "This project will help us to understand how we can solve the sticky problem of moon dust for future human or robot explorers on the Moon," Dr Susan Kelleher said. "Working with these types of materials teaches us even more about developing new surfaces that can kill bacteria, which will have applications here on Earth, for example, in healthcare settings and in the International Space Station too," she added. The lander, standing just over two metres tall and weighing 340kg, has been in lunar orbit since last month. Its descent and landing was fully automated and it was supposed to reestablish communication as soon as it touched down. Officials from iSpace said they would continue to try and establish contact with the spacecraft, which was carrying payloads from several countries, including a lunar rover from the United Arab Emirates.   This article was republished from RTE News. The original can be found here -

Tuesday, 11 April 2023

From the HRB News RoundUp - find the original article here   The problem When someone is critically ill, particularly with a serious infection or pneumonia, their lungs can become severely damaged, and this can lead to death. Previous research has shown that adult stem cells might be useful to help treat people with acute lung injury (ALI) and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), but injection of the whole cells into patients can be problematic.   The project   A collaboration between University of Galway and Irish companies Aerogen (Dr Ronan MacLoughlin) and Orbsen Therapeutics (Dr Steve Elliman) collected biological sacs released naturally by stem cells that contain potentially medicinal molecules and tested how they could be delivered directly into the lungs using a nebuliser.   The outcomes The research showed that substances from stem cells with the potential to treat lung injury could be collected and then delivered into lung tissue in a lab model The project found that the stem cell products fared well in the nebuliser The work has paved the way for upcoming clinical trials in humans using cell therapy and nebuliser technology at the HRB Clinical Research Facility in Galway. Dr Daniel O’Toole, Principal Investigator in CÚRAM and REMEDI at the University of Galway, says: “Using products from stem cells, rather than the stem cells themselves, opens up the opportunity to deliver promising medicines directly deep into injured lungs. Working with Orbsen Therapeutics meant that we had stem cell products of full medical standard and the quantity we needed for all the planned experiments, while the Aerogen nebuliser technology allowed us to test the delivery. Our findings pave the way for us to plan and conduct future clinical trials.” "Getting the benefits of stem cells into injured lungs" is part of a wider collection of success stories across four themes from this year's annual Health Research in Action. Download the full publication.

Friday, 7 April 2023

CÚRAM received 7.1m in co-funding from the European Union to launch MedTrain+, an enhanced innovative Marie-Curie Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action postdoctoral training programme. The vision of MedTrain+ is to create 50 postdoctoral fellowship opportunities to develop future leaders in medical device research. CÚRAM, Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Research Centre for Medical Devices, is recruiting for 50 new postdoctoral positions in the coming months. A national centre, CÚRAM is hosted by University of Galway, with academic partners at nine HEIs across Ireland. The research positions will be based across partner institutions. The MedTrain+ programme duration is 60 months with fellowships based on individual-driven mobility: Fellows can freely choose their research area (within CÚRAM’s remit), their supervisor and secondment organisation. Fellowships will be open to candidates of any nationality who have not resided in or carried out their main work, studies, etc. in Ireland for more than 12 months in the three years prior to the MedTrain+ recruitment deadline. Professor Abhay Pandit said: “CÚRAM is perfectly positioned to coordinate MedTrain+ given its innovative strengths, active industry collaborations, and its missions to continue to train and empower the next generation of researchers who can engage with the public and stakeholders to promote Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines and CÚRAM outputs. The 50 postdoctoral researchers will join our large team of multidisciplinary researchers working at the cutting edge of medical devices.” The MedTrain+ funding supports CÚRAM’s vision to be a global leader in the creation and translation of clinic-ready and patient focused medical devices; to develop the next generation of industry-relevant, publicly engaged researchers and to become an anchor for industry applicable research. MedTrain+ will combine the expertise across CÚRAM’s academic network to host and train fellows across Ireland and existing partnerships with Irish companies and multinationals in the medical device, pharmaceutical, and biotechnology sectors. These non-academic secondment visits will provide the training ground for designing and manufacturing next-generation devices and implants, some of which can be developed with strong clinical collaborations to enable rapid translation to clinics. MedTrain+ research outputs will benefit outcomes for chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cardiovascular, neurodegenerative, and musculoskeletal diseases. MedTrain+ also offers fellows the unique opportunity to work in Europe’s first certified Green Lab at the University of Galway. Two fellowship levels will be offered ensuring varying depths of experience: Level 1 candidates will have fewer than four years’ experience post PhD; Level 2 candidates will have four or more years’ experience post PhD. MedTrain+ fellows will be equipped with the necessary technical and transferable skills to take up leadership roles in their chosen fields with an established collaborative international network to draw from. MedTrain+ aims to strengthen the excellence of Ireland’s and Europe’s global leadership in medical device research innovation with the goal of enriching partnerships with participating organisations in research and innovation to bring economic benefits to local, regional and/or national ecosystems. For more details and to apply, visit MedTrain+ is cofunded by the European Union’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) and CÚRAM, Grant Agreement Number 101081457 (Dec 2022 to Nov 2027). Call identifier: HORIZON-MSCA-2021-COFUND-01-01.    

Thursday, 6 April 2023

Dr Eoin O'Cearbhaill, an Associate Professor in Biomedical Engineering at the UCD School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering and a CÚRAM Funded Investigator, has been named recipient of the 2023 NovaUCD Innovation Champion of the Year Award. He was presented with the Award by Professor Mark Rogers, Acting UCD President, as part of the annual presentation of the NovaUCD Innovation Awards which took place at the UCD University Club. Speaking at the Awards event Professor Mark Rogers, Acting UCD President said, “The NovaUCD Innovation Awards are a key annual event at UCD recognising and highlighting successes achieved by our research, innovation and entrepreneurial communities across the University and I congratulate all those who have received awards. I would also like to take the opportunity of wishing them ongoing success in the future as they continue to deliver economic and societal impact through their commercialisation, consultancy, entrepreneurial and innovation activities.” Dr O'Cearbhaill is co-Director of the UCD BE and ME Biomedical Engineering programmes  and is also the Director of the UCD Centre for Biomedical Engineering and a funded investigator with the SFI Research Centres, Cúram, I-Form and Amber. Dr O’Cearbhaill is focused on the translation of medical devices from concept through to clinical use and his research interests include; medical device innovation, design and commercialisation, particularly minimally invasive devices and delivery systems. Since joining UCD in 2013, Dr O’Cearbhaill has been championing the promotion of innovation and entrepreneurship within his Research Centre, School and College. Through his research group he has supported multiple research teams, over many years, to complete NovaUCD commercialisation programmes, including the UCD VentureLaunch Accelerator. These include Latch Medical, a UCD spin-out headquartered at NovaUCD, along with emerging UCD start-ups, Lia Therapeutics and LaNua Medical, both of which are currently fund raising. On receiving the 2023 NovaUCD Innovation Champion of the Year Award, Dr O'Cearbhaill, said, “I am delighted to accept this award on behalf of the wonderful team of researchers and innovators that I have had the fortune to work with over the past several years at UCD.” “I would like to thank the NovaUCD team for helping to create a culture of innovation and an emerging medtech ecosystem at UCD. I’d also like to thank our funding agencies, particularly the great support from Enterprise Ireland especially through the Commercialisation Fund, which is a wonderful funding mechanism to advance university-based spin-out companies.” Dr O’Cearbhaill has also introduced a Medical Device Design module, based on the Stanford Biodesign process, to help foster medtech innovation as part of the engineering teaching curriculum and has been involved in multiple industry collaborative projects with national and international medical device companies. He has also co-invented 12 issued or pending medical device patents. ENDS 31 March 2023 For more information contact Micéal Whelan, Communications and Media Relations Manager, NovaUCD, UCD Research and Innovation, e:

Monday, 3 April 2023

Dr Michael Monaghan was recently awarded the Robert Brown Early Career Investigator Award from the European Chapter of the Tissue Engineering Regenerative Medicine International Society (TERMIS-EU) at their annual conference in Manchester, UK. The Robert Brown Early Career Principal Investigator Award recognizes an individual who has demonstrated outstanding achievements in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine research during the early stages of their career with clear evidence of a growing profile. On receiving the award, Dr Monaghan stated, “I am honoured and delighted to receive the Robert Brown Early Career Investigator Award from EU TERMIS. Thank you to all past and present colleagues and friends along the journey to this point.” Dr Michael Monaghan is an Assistant Professor in Biomedical Engineering at the Dept of Mechanical, Manufacturing & Biomedical Engineering and Trinity Centre for Biomedical Engineering, Trinity College Dublin. He is a funded investigator at the Science Foundation Ireland research centres CÚRAM and Amber. Monaghan’s research looks at how stem cells can repair cardiac muscle post-heart attack, the generation of novel materials and methods to manufacture them, and metabolic imaging.   Read more about Dr Monaghan -

Wednesday, 15 March 2023

CÚRAM researchers at Dublin City University, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, and the University of Galway have recently published a collaborative review of two-photon polymerization (TPP) systems which have emerged to enable rapid prototyping of micro- and nano-featured polymeric materials.   TPPs which provide significant opportunities exist for expanding modification strategies of polymeric materials with extensive possibilities to produce devices with chemical functionality through facile conjugation reactions and click chemistry. TPP has become widely adopted in cell biology, optical engineering, and medical device development. It boasts an unparalleled ability to produce micro- and nanostructures with resolutions and arbitrary geometry beyond the capabilities of other subtractive and additive manufacturing approaches. Extensive work has been undertaken using commercially available photoresists, using rigid materials such as acrylates, epoxides, and OIHs to produce optically smooth microstructures for applications in micro-optics and biocompatible materials for the production of next-generation medical devices. Lead author Dr Andrew Kellett, Professor of Inorganic and Medicinal Chemistry in DCU School of Chemical Sciences, Principal Investigator of Biodesign Europe, and Funded Investigator of the SSPC and CÚRAM SFI Research Centres, said: “There is now extensive scope to produce custom formulated resins using systematic and multistep approaches for the creation of next-generation multifunctional microscale polymeric devices.”   Polymerization techniques are a staple of modern chemical production and they are applied extensively within industry generating the items of everyday life. While there are numerous polymerization methods—ranging from classical processes to more complex solid-phase methods—this review focuses on photochemical radical and cationic polymerization. The review paper was published by Advanced Materials and can be read in full here -  

Monday, 13 March 2023

Understanding the mysteries of how brains function normally and the processes that go awry in disease states and after injury is central to the neurological research ongoing at CÚRAM, the SFI Centre for Medical Devices at University of Galway. Neurological disorders are increasingly recognized as one of the most prevalent disorders with high burden to the patients, their families, and society. Neurological disorders can include stroke, spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. Next week marks International Brain Awareness Week, a global campaign to foster public enthusiasm and support for brain science. Every March, researchers share resources and host events that illustrate the impact of brain science on everyday lives.  CÚRAM has developed a range of resources on brain health and neurology research that are freely available to access. ‘Feats of Modest Valour’ is a documentary film that investigates three individuals’ challenging physical reality of living with Parkinson’s Disease. The film features the EU funded BrainMatTrain project, led by Dr Eilis Dowd, which is investigating novel biomaterials-based treatments for Parkinson’s Disease that could potentially halt or even cure the devastating disease. See full film here ‘A Tiny Spark’ focuses on research being led by Dr Karen Doyle, which involves analysis of removed blood clots to see what information they may yield. This is the first study of its kind in the world and is an international collaborative study between University of Galway, hospital partners in Beaumont Hospital and throughout Europe and the Mayo Clinic, USA. See full film here Finally, ‘The Effects of Exercise on the Brain’ provides information on how certain exercises create new neural pathways in the brain. Available here To find these resources, visit our website at  

Friday, 10 March 2023

Preclinical validation to commence following EU funding of €4.5m The European Union has awarded a European Consortium €4.5 million for the ELR-Scar project to validate a novel hydrogel biomaterial that will prevent scar tissue from forming in the heart following a heart attack. Myocardial infarction (MI), or heart attack, happens as a result of ischaemic heart disease (IHD). Europe has the highest rates of IHD worldwide, equalling almost 26.5 million patients. In the days and weeks following a heart attack, the damaged cells of the heart are replaced by scar tissue. This scarring or 'remodelling 'of the heart tissue can cause further dysfunction and complications for the patient. Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices at University of Galway, said: "There is a clear medical need for new treatment solutions that can prevent scar tissue formation and irreversible cardiac remodelling. Our hope is that this hydrogel will do exactly that to fundamentally improve clinical practice, reducing the enormous burden that a heart attack and its leading cause, ischaemic heart disease, places on society and the individual patient." Professor Pandit leads the ELR-Scar consortium and recently received the prestigious George Winter Award 2022 from the European Society for Biomaterials. The consortium includes seven industry and academic partners across Ireland, Spain, Belgium, Germany, Lithuania, Poland and the Netherlands. The hydrogel solution being developed by the team is biospecific, which means that its properties or activities vary according to the specific biological molecule it interacts with. It will have enhanced adhesion to cardiac tissue and is made of a degradable biomaterial that would be administered to the patient through an intravenous, endocardial catheter.  This EU funding recognises the importance of tackling economic and personal health burdens and adds to the €70 million in EU investment generated by CÚRAM researchers during its first eight years.  ELR-SCAR draws on collaborations across Western and Eastern European countries to work on the project's regulatory, manufacturing, and clinical needs.  Grant Agreement no. 101091766   Ends

Wednesday, 8 March 2023

While still a PhD candidate, Dr Isma Liza Mohd Isa invented a therapeutic biomaterial as an interventional strategy for low back pain treatment in degenerative disc disease. Recently awarded a research grant from the Health Research Board, Ireland, under the Emerging Investigator Award for Health 2022, Isma will now be working to develop disc-on-a-chip for the modelling of patient-specific disease development of intervertebral disc degeneration and underlying inflammatory pain. She sat down with us recently to talk about her career to date, and the potential impact her work will have on patients in future.   What inspired you to become a researcher? Do you have any specific memories that set off a spark? My enthusiasm for medical science and love to explore new things. It started during my PhD study in CÚRAM and Anatomy, at the University of Galway, Ireland. With the success of my PhD research, I was most inspired to pursue my career as a researcher and lecturer in academia. I invented a therapeutic biomaterial as an interventional strategy for low back pain treatment in degenerative disc disease, which was my major achievement during my PhD study. This was a huge motivation for me to keep going contributing to research. I am involved in research to develop new treatment strategies through the current advancement of medical technology for chronic diseases. I believe bench to bedside, which is translating science from the lab to the clinic, could save people's lives or at least improve the lives of patients.   Can you tell us about the research you’re currently working on?  I am expanding my research field in the intervertebral disc from my PhD. My research focuses on intervertebral disc degeneration (damage), specifically employing therapeutic biomaterials and stem cells for tissue repair targeting low back pain and disease modelling. The intervertebral disc is a pad of cartilage between our backbones. I am developing a biomaterial in a hydrogel format to mimic the nucleus pulposus (NP), a jelly-like core region in the intervertebral disc. The hydrogel technology is designed as an injection system or medical device implant for minimally invasive procedures or surgical implantation for the spine application. I collaborate with Prof Datuk Dr Sabarul Afian Mokhtar, a senior spine consultant at Orthopaedics and Traumatology UKM to gain clinical input in the project. Under the young researcher grant UKM, I lead a project on hydrogel’s biocompatibility and immuno-modulatory effect in the organ culture model. I collaborate with Bioserasi Lab, UKM, for the safety testing of hydrogel formulation in accordance with the ISO standard of medical devices, Dr Fairus Ahmad in Anatomy UKM and Dr Sibylle Grad of AO Research Institute, Davos, Switzerland to grow the intervertebral disc organ in the lab for hydrogel testing. In collaboration with Assoc Prof Dr Mohd Fauzi Busra from the Centre for Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine (CTERM) UKM, we also grow stem cells in the lab. We incorporated them within the 3D hydrogel system to guide them to become disc-like cells before implanting them within the hydrogel in a pre-clinical pain model in intervertebral disc injury. We aim to see the efficacy of this technology in promoting tissue healing and relieving pain in the intervertebral disc. I am the principal investigator in this project received funding from the Malaysian Ministry of Higher Education under the fundamental research scheme, which is a collaborative project between the Department of Anatomy, CTERM, the Department of Orthopaedics and Traumatology UKM as well as Pharmacology and Therapeutics, School of Medicine, University of Galway, Ireland. My current research has evolved from developing hydrogel technology with stem cells for regenerative therapy towards precision medicine for disease modelling in intervertebral discs. I recently secured a research grant from the Health Research Board, Ireland, under the Emerging Investigator Award for Health 2022 to develop disc-on-a-chip for the modelling of patient-specific pathogenesis of intervertebral disc degeneration underlying inflammatory pain. In this project, I will employ a precision medicine approach to prospectively study transcriptomic profiling of neuroinflammation markers in degenerative disc disease patients at multi-centre. The information from this study will lead to the developing a disc-on-a-chip model using 3D (bio)printing for disease modelling and pharmacological modulation. This is a multidisciplinary project in CÚRAM under the mentorship of Prof Abhay Pandit, the director of CÚRAM and co-mentor Prof David P Finn in Pharmacology and Therapeutics, University of Galway, involving cross-country research collaboration with Prof Aiden Devitt (Orthopaedic Surgery Galway University Hospital), Dr Patrick Kelly (Paediatrics Orthopaedic Surgery, Children Health Ireland Crumlin Dublin), Prof Datuk Dr Sabarul Afian Mokhtar (Orthopaedics and Traumatology UKM, Malaysia), Assoc Prof Dr Elvy Suhana Mohd Ramli (Anatomy UKM, Malaysia), and Prof Sulayman Dib-Hajj (Center for Neuroscience & Regeneration Research, Yale School of Medicine, USA).   Tell us why is your research important? Lower back pain is an unmet medical need; estimating that 42% of those who experience lower back pain are associated with degenerative disc disease. It is a leading cause of disability worldwide, causing a huge socio-economic burden to the country. Current treatments include medication, rehabilitation and surgical interventions that aim to reduce pain. Nevertheless, none of the treatments could restore intervertebral disc anatomy and functions. My goal is to find better solutions to relieve pain in patients and promote disc repair anatomically while maintaining mechanical functions without removing damaged discs. My research is also advanced towards the current trend of research. I employ a precision medicine approach in developing patient-specific disease models. Transcriptomic profiling in the subgroup of degenerative disc disease patients will explain the mechanism and key markers underlying painful disc degeneration at defined disease severity. The disc-on-a-chip model will provide a disease platform to investigate the patient-specific pathogenesis of painful disc degeneration, allowing for rapid prototyping through a 3D (bio)printing method and a high-precision drug testing system before clinical trials.   What commercial applications do you foresee for your research?   The hydrogel could be designed in an injectable format as an early intervention via minimally invasive injection. The hydrogel could also be designed as an advanced cell delivery system for stem cells via minimally invasive injection or surgical implantation at an advanced stage of the disease. Both strategies aim for tissue healing and relieving pain. The disc-on-a-chip could be a platform for in vitro diagnostic medical devices (IVDR)in testing new drugs for painful intervertebral disc degeneration.   What are some of the biggest challenges you face as a researcher in your field? We might see positive findings in the lab-based studies. A concern might be that we cannot see similar findings in humans. Only clinical trials could determine the efficacy and safety of the technology. Therefore, we must perform extensive lab-based studies, before testing it in humans. The disc-on-a-chip is a disease prototype that may not 100% replicate the pathologic features of painful disc degeneration.   What are some of the areas of research you’d like to see tackled in the years ahead? I would like to design the technology (treatment) tailored to the severity of the disease in the sub-group of patients, which could help prevent disease progression and enhance the efficacy of the treatment without complications. The technology could be minimally invasive and cost-effective. Dr Isma Liza Mohd Isa is an emerging Principal Investigator at CURAM, Honorary Senior Lecturer in Pharmacology, in the School of Medicine at the University of Galway and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Anatomy, Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Kebangsaan in Malaysia.  

Wednesday, 1 March 2023

mRNA encoding immunomodulatory proteins IκBα-SR and SOD3 ameliorated symptoms in bacterial pneumonia model Factor is investigating nebulized mRNA formulations for other therapeutic indications and next-generation vaccine applications CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Feb. 28, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- Factor Bioscience Inc. ("Factor"), a Cambridge-based biotechnology company focused on developing mRNA and cell-engineering technologies, announced the results of preclinical testing of aerosolized mRNA formulations currently under development for the treatment of pneumonia-associated lung inflammation. The study was led by Factor's collaborator, Dr. Daniel O'Toole, Senior Research Fellow, Senior Lecturer in Lung Regenerative Medicine and Principal Investigator in the CÚRAM and REMEDI institutes at the University of Galway. "Pneumonia is a debilitating disease in which infection causes inflammation of lung tissue, often leading to pulmonary edema, and in severe cases, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and death," said Dr. O'Toole. "There are currently no effective specific therapies for ARDS, and the mortality rate remains high. The ability to directly express anti-inflammatory proteins in lung tissue makes aerosolized mRNA an attractive candidate therapy for pneumonia. In particular, the speed with which cells express proteins when treated with mRNA is particularly important in the context of a rapid-onset disease such as ARDS." "mRNA offers unmatched flexibility as a vector for expressing therapeutic proteins safely and reliably." These results are the latest in the long-standing collaboration between Factor and CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices, which is now in its eighth year. Factor and CÚRAM have multiple active collaborative projects, including projects focused on the development of mRNA-reprogrammed induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell-derived therapies for the treatment of pulmonary diseases as well as next-generation aerosolized mRNA vaccines.   "We are incredibly proud of our collaboration with CÚRAM, and are excited about the results of this study," said Dr. Christopher Rohde, Chief Technology Officer of Factor. "mRNA offers unmatched flexibility as a vector for expressing therapeutic proteins safely and reliably, and the results of this study support the use of aerosolized mRNA formulations for expression of therapeutic proteins in the lung. We are excited to continue this work with the team at CÚRAM and advance product candidates based on these results towards clinical development." The results of this study were published last week in Nucleic Acid Therapeutics: About Factor Bioscience Founded in 2011, Factor Bioscience develops technologies for engineering cells to advance the study and treatment of disease. Factor's gene-editing technologies enable the precise deletion, insertion, and repair of DNA sequences in living cells to correct disease-causing mutations, make cells resistant to infection and degenerative disease, modulate the expression of immunoregulatory proteins to enable the generation of durable allogeneic cell therapies, and engineer immune cells to more effectively fight cancer. Factor's cell-reprogramming technologies enable the generation of clonal lines of pluripotent stem cells that can be expanded and differentiated into any desired cell type for the development of regenerative cell therapies. For more information, visit SOURCE Factor Bioscience

Tuesday, 28 February 2023

Rare Eye Diseases (REDs) collectively represent a major cause of visual impairment and blindness for children and young adults in Europe. But importantly, REDs also affect adults and the ageing population. Defective wound healing at the cornea and ocular surface, excessive inflammation, nerve degeneration, stem cell dysfunction, and aberrant vessel ingrowth are the common denominators in many REDs, representing a critical medical problem. Researchers at CÚRAM, led by Professor Thomas Ritter, are developing new approaches to address these rare conditions with the aim of making therapies more effective. Currently, the primary focus of Prof. Ritter’s research is on the application of mesenchymal stromal cell-based therapeutics to modulate corneal injury and transplantation and on its understanding of the molecular mechanisms behind it. In particular, small vesicles secreted from these mesenchymal stromal cells with proven therapeutic efficacy could pave the way for new effective medicines for REDs in the future. Professor Thomas Ritter is an immunologist and lecturer in Regenerative Medicine at the University of Galway and has over 25 years experience in the field of immunomodulation in organ transplantation and ocular surface disease.

Friday, 24 February 2023

CÚRAM SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices researchers have published in Nature Communications a key study establishing a new pre-clinical model to develop clinically relevant treatments for heart attacks.  Heart attacks (myocardial infarction (MI)) occur due to an acute complication of coronary artery disease and are a major cause of global mortality. The two main types of heart attack are ST-elevation (STEMI) and Non-ST elevation (NSTEMI). A non-ST-elevation is a type of heart attack that usually happens when your heart's oxygen needs are unmet. This condition gets its name because it doesn't have an easily identifiable electrical pattern like with an ST elevation that can be read from an electrocardiogram (ECG). Patients who survive a heart attack have variable degrees of damage to their cardiac tissue, which can lead to heart failure in a significant proportion of these patients. In the last two decades, NSTEMIs have markedly risen in hospitalised patients. This subtype of heart attack results in a smaller amount of tissue damage compared to STEMIs. Still, importantly, recent clinical registry data shows that NSTEMIs are associated with higher long-term mortality than STEMIs. Currently, preclinical models of heart attack mimic only full-thickness STEMI and hence cater only for an investigation into therapeutics and interventions directed at the NSTEMI subset of heart attack. In this new study, researchers have developed a preclinical model of NSTEMI by adopting a novel surgical procedure that closely resembles the complexity of clinical cases in humans. Researchers validated the presented model by comparing it with an established method to achieve STEMIs. They performed a detailed analysis at the main acute and late time points after the induction of NSTEMI, at 7 and 28 days, respectively.  Dr Paolo Contessotto and Dr Renza Spelat said: "Advanced analyses on the affected heart tissue highlighted a distinctive pattern of alterations in the tissue, especially in the sugar moieties (glycans) which compose cardiac cell membranes and extracellular matrix (the network of proteins and other molecules that surround, support, and give structure to cells and tissues in the body). Identifying such changes in molecular elements that can be accessed and treated with injectable drugs sheds light on how we can develop targeted pharmacological solutions to correct these changes." This research resulted from an established collaboration of CÚRAM with European institutions in Italy (University of Milano-Bicocca), France (University of Paris Est Créteil), Sweden (University of Gothenburg) and Lithuania (Lithuanian University of Health Sciences). Professor Abhay Pandit, CÚRAM Scientific Director and senior author of the study, said: "There is a need in the field to adopt clinically relevant models to study NSTEMI pathophysiology and reveal its functional differences with STEMI induction. This new model will facilitate the translation of future research in the field, enabling the discovery of new clinically relevant treatments for patients." Mr Mark Da Costa, Clinical Investigator at CÚRAM and senior author of the study, said: "Currently, NSTEMI is the most common presentation of acute heart attack. The concern is that NSTEMI patients have lower in-patient (during their admission for the primary NSTEMI) and short-term mortality rates but significantly higher long-term mortality than those of STEMI patients. A Danish registry study of 8,889 patients showed that the 5-year mortality after NSTEMI was 16%, and another registry study highlighted a 10-year survival rate of only around 50%. To the best of our knowledge, there are currently no models that can reproduce both the functional and histological characteristics of NSTEMIs. This novel model may specifically serve as a preclinical foundation to study interventions that could combat the short and long-term effects of NSTEMI." Ends Notes for editors Link to complete manuscript: Nature Communications volume 14, Article number: 995 (2023) This study was funded by the European Commission funding under the AngioMatTrain 7th Framework Programme (Grant Agreement Number 317304) and by the research grant from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) co-funded under the European Regional Development Fund under Grant Number 13/RC/2073 and13/RC/2073_P2 to A.P   About CÚRAM CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices, is developing the next generation of medical devices and training a highly-skilled workforce. Set up in 2015, CÚRAM is now a world-leading Irish Medical Device R&D Centre based out of NUI Galway. While led by University of Galway, CÚRAM's partner institutes include University College Dublin, University College Cork, Trinity College Dublin, University of Limerick, Royal College of Surgeons Ireland, Dublin City University, Technological University of the Shannon, National Institute Bioprocessing Research and Training and Technological University Dublin. The Centre focuses on developing biomedical implants and therapeutic and diagnostic devices that address the needs of patients with chronic illnesses. They also partner with local small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs) and multinational medical device and pharmaceutical companies to increase employment in Ireland. The Centre has seen numerous scientific breakthroughs as researchers focus on improving the quality of life for patients living with long-term chronic conditions such as diabetes, back pain, cardiovascular disease and stroke. Our researchers focus on engineering approaches for repair and remodelling, improved drug delivery solutions and superior medical implant designs to treat chronic diseases. CÚRAM was created because clinicians, industry, and researchers need to collaborate in developing medical devices that will create jobs and establish a global hub for MedTech. Follow us @CURAMdevices or visit

Thursday, 9 February 2023

Students at Claddagh National School in Galway paint mural inspired by Galway’s marine, medtech and football culture CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices based at University of Galway, has partnered with local artists Birgit and Peter Lochmann, to create a large-scale mural with students from Claddagh National School. The mural, funded by Claddagh Credit Union, was tailor-made to reflect the spirit of the school and community. Incorporating themes of the Galway community is at the heart of the mural, which was designed to reflect the students’ talents and interests. Galway’s marine culture and medtech industry are represented by the marine materials scientists research to identify new ways to heal the body.  In keeping with the school’s love of football, the mural was installed on the Astro pitch and features the late Eamonn “Chick” Deacy, a local Galway football legend. Through a cross-curricular co-creation process, students became aware of their locality and its link to scientific achievements, conservation, and the role of their community. CÚRAM researchers and the artists gave a series of art science workshops through which students learned how scientists use marine-inspired materials to discover ways of developing cures to treat various illnesses. This helped illustrate the importance of keeping our oceans healthy to keep our bodies healthy as well. The workshops reflected CÚRAM’s “Marine Meets Medtech” exhibit developed and hosted in partnership with Galway Atlantaquaria, National Aquarium of Ireland. The mural was officially launched on Wednesday, February 8 by players from the Galway United men's and women's squads: Conor O'Keeffe, Mikie Rowe, Abbie Callanan, Anna Fahey. Mark Langtry (‘Mark the Science Guy’) also performed his “Football Physics” show to teach students how science can enhance their sports performance. Gabriel Farragher, 6th class teacher at Claddagh National School, said: “We were delighted to participate in the project as it provided the pupils with an exciting opportunity to get involved in hands-on, cross-curricular workshops, on a weekly basis, incorporating the areas of Science and Art. The football angle added an even greater interest in the project for the pupils. The icing on the cake is the colourful mural that now brightens up our Astro pitch.” Louise Shields, CEO of Claddagh Credit Union, said of the project: “With community at the centre of this incredible project, reflecting community at the heart of our credit union, we were delighted to support this mural project. We are so impressed to see the outcome of this collaboration in the mural in Claddagh National School.” Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM, said: "We are always trying new ways for our researchers to collaborate with community partners to create a better understanding and awareness of our research and its importance for society. This collaboration with the Claddagh Credit Union and students of the Claddagh National School promotes the idea of transdisciplinary research and showcases the value of bringing the worlds of art and science together.”