Ireland’s Health Service to Benefit from Investment in Trinity College Dublin Researchers
Oct 08, 2012
Trinity College Dublin researchers have been granted awards under the recently announced €11 million Health Research Board (HRB) funding to build capacity of research leadership in hospitals through its clinician scientist programme this year. Out of eleven clinicians awarded the HRB Clinician Scientist Awards through a rigorous peer review process, four recipients were Trinity School of Medicine researchers: Professors Maureen O'Sullivan and John O'Leary of the Department Histopathology and Morbid Anatomy; and Professors Joseph Keane and Orla Hardiman of the Department of Clinical Medicine.
The HRB investment will allow leading doctors to split their time between clinical practice and research, develop research questions based on clinical issues they encounter with patients and to translate their research results into practice at the bedside. Areas that will benefit from this funding include mental health, cancer, heart disease, neurodegenerative disease, diabetes, obesity, and neonatal care. As part of the programme the HRB also pay to replace the consultant’s time in the clinic to ensure service levels remain the same.
Trinity College Dublin Research Project Profiles:
Professor Maureen O'Sullivan (Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin and Trinity College Dublin) is building on her previous work which successfully identified and characterised key gene mutations driving the development of soft tissue malignancies [sarcomas] in childhood. These cancers are currently poorly understood and associated with limited or even absent treatment response and patients with these tumours generally have poor outcomes. Her group will now study, on a functional level using cell models, how such mutations cause these childhood sarcomas with a view to developing targeted treatment for these cancers.
Professor Orla Hardiman (Beaumont Hospital and Trinity College Dublin) will investigate Motor Neurone Disease and and Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD). 70% of people with MND and MND/FTD die within 1000 days of their first symptom. Ireland is uniquely placed to perform detailed studies of patients with rare conditions like MND, and the Irish MND research group is a world leader in the detailed study subgroups of people with different variants of the disease. The work is of considerable importance as it will help to find new and more effective drugs. Drug development requires an extensive knowledge of disease mechanisms, the identification of the correct target group of patients for treatment, and the development of markers of both disease progression and of drug effectiveness. The Irish work has already made a significant international contribution to our understanding of the importance of subgroups, and is engaged in extensive collaborative research with European partners to find new and more effective treatments. The research will also establish efficient and cost effective protocols for patient care and services for neurodegenerative diseases.
Professor Joseph Keane (St. James's Hospital, Dublin and Trinity College Dublin) seeks to improve our understanding of how the bodies’ immune system deals with infection by the bacteria that causes tuberculosis. Using material from patients, and bacteria from infected persons, he will investigate the ways that human immunity is corrupted by this invading parasite. Specifically, it will examine how normally helpful T-cells are interfered with by TB-infected lung macrophages. Advances in this field will lead to therapies that can take on resistant infections, improve vaccine design and better address the emergence of multiple-drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR).
Professor John O'Leary (Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital, St. James's Hospital and Trinity College Dublin) A recently identified group of cancer cells called circulating tumour cells (CTC) seems to play a vital role in the way cancer spreads to different site within the body. These CTC cells are thought to direct the spread of cancer within the blood and lymphatic system and they appear to be able to evade treatments, like chemotherapy, that otherwise kill the main tumour. There are naturally occurring cells within the body, called Lymphoid cells (NK cells) which should be able to kill these CTC cells, but they don’t. This project aims to study this process in detail with a view to developing therapies that work specifically against CTC cells.
‘The best hospitals in the world have research at their core. The HRB Clinician Scientist Awards is part of our strategic aim to develop a culture of research and innovation in the health services, both for the benefit of patients and the Irish economy,’ stated Chief Executive of the HRB, Enda Connolly. ‘These consultants will not only conduct research on real-world solutions and apply them in practice, but will act as mentors to encourage research career paths in medicine. They will also play a central role in developing research partnerships with academics, health decision makers and industry to ensure new evidence brings change in practice, policy and leads to new medicines, diagnostics and devices.’
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