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Dean’s Research Initiative Funding for six School of Medicine researchers

Six researchers from the School of Medicine have been announced in the Dean’s Research Initiatives Fund for 2021-22.

The Faculty of Health Sciences Dean's Research Initiatives Fund, with additional supports from the Dean of Research, awarded funding to seven research projects in total.

The Dean's Research Initiatives Fund is specifically designed to support new and innovative research that will enhance Trinity College's and the Faculty of Health Sciences ability to compete for large-scale, interdisciplinary, single- and multi-investigator extramural awards. The fund aims to advance the research priorities of Trinity College's Strategic Plan, to raise the national and international profile of the University and to increase receipt of Horizon 2020, Horizon Europe, HRB awards and other funding.

Project details:

Dr Claire Healy, Research Fellow, Clinical Medicine

Health systems across four continents, as a global leader in research and policy around health system resilience and reform, alongside his experience of advising governments and international organisations. This event also provided Prof Thomas an opportunity to reflect on his personal journey, acknowledging the support and influence of his family, friends and colleagues. A recording of his Inaugural Lecture can be accessed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h632uDRYkiAProfessor Steve Thomas gave his (Covid-19 delayed) Inaugural Lecture on 29th September 2022. Professor Thomas is the Edward Kennedy Chair of Health Policy and Management and the Director of Health Policy and Engagement for the School of Medicine. During his lecture, he reflected on his 27 years of international experience in health systems across four continents, as a global leader in research and policy around health system resilience and reform, alongside his experience of advising governments and international organisations. This event also provided Prof Thomas an opportunity to reflect on his personal journey, acknowledging the support and influence of his family, friends and colleagues. A recording of his Inaugural Lecture can be accessed here.

Title: Dissecting host-pathogen interactions between Mycobacterium avium and alveolar macrophages in the context of the COPD lung microenvironment.

Dr Healy said:

A long-term goal of this project is to build on the knowledge, techniques and models developed in this research to determine the mechanisms driving increased susceptibility to NTM-LD in people living with chronic lung disease. The potential impact of this proposed research is that we will identify key pathways/processes that drive chronic NTM respiratory infections which can ultimately lead to novel therapies benefiting patients, clinicians, and healthcare systems. Support from the Dean’s Research Initiatives Fund will greatly strengthen my track record and support my research and career development. This funding will give me the opportunity to drive a novel avenue of research, as well as produce valuable knowledge to support future extramural grant applications to further develop this novel research at TCD and my support my career progression towards becoming an independent research group leader.

Dr Lucia Celkova, Research Fellow, Clinical Medicine

Title: Generating induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) from patient-derived blood samples for the study of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Dr Celkova said:

Despite great efforts in previous years, effective pharmacological treatments for AMD remain rather limited. Currently, approximately 1 in 5 people over the age of 70 suffer from the disease and as life expectancy increases globally, the health and economic burden due to AMD pose a significant challenge for our aging society, further highlighting an urgent requirement for novel strategies and models to develop effective therapies. Availability of a direct disease model in the form of generated AMD patient-specific iPSCs will present a valuable tool for subsequent mechanistic studies in order to aid our effort to dissect the complex molecular mechanisms underlying AMD pathology, which is key to identifying novel targets and strategies for therapeutic intervention in AMD.

Dr Kiva Brennan, Research Fellow, Clinical Medicine

Title: Improving Paediatric Vaccines - Closing the Window of Vulnerability

Dr Brennan said:

Improving current vaccines through addition of a paediatric-specific adjuvant could cut down on the number of boosters needed for effective protection against disease and allow vaccination to occur earlier in life, thereby narrowing the window of vulnerability to vaccine-preventable infection in a child’s life. Globally, decreasing the number of boosters and vaccinating earlier is particularly important in lower- and middle-income countries & areas of conflict where access to vaccination is not always easy. Vaccination within the first 24 hours of life, a key point of healthcare contact, during which the immune system is most distinct could save millions of lives.

This award will allow us to investigate whether our new paediatric adjuvant, identified in cord blood, can improve vaccine responses to a current vaccine in an in vivo setting. This project will use a novel neonatal murine model of vaccine efficacy to provide vital information to the vaccine development pipeline and outline potential improvements to paediatric vaccines.
This award will also facilitate the development of an outreach video explaining our current research and aims. We hope to engage the public to improve understanding of how childhood vaccines work.

Dr Sharee Basdeo; Research Assistant Professor, Clinical Medicine

Title: Defining prolonged innate immune alterations in people post-acute infection to develop a high-risk, high-gain proposal for an ERC Starting Grant application.

Dr Basdeo said:

This project has the long term aim to improve post infection health and to help stem antimicrobial resistance by therapeutically preventing secondary events.

  • Potential to support and promote post-infection well-being in the general population, thereby reducing the use of antibiotics post viral infection in the community.
  • Potential to reduce the reliance on prophylactic antibiotics in clinical settings.
  • Potential to reduce to the risk of secondary events and their burden on our health systems.

This award will allow me to develop preliminary data for a European Research Council Starting Application and therefore is coming at a crucial time for my career development. Understanding mechanisms behind post-infection sequelae will have applications in diverse clinical settings not addressed within this project, which will lead to further grant proposals and new collaborations.

Dr Lucy Norris: Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology

Title: Thrombomodulin as a predictor for chemotherapy associated venous thromboembolism applicant.

Dr Norris said:

VTE is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in cancer patients. VTE can interfere with planned chemotherapy regimens and have serious effects on patient’s quality of life. The increased costs associated with treatment of VTE are also an additional burden. This proposal will facilitate the development of a predictive tool for VTE during chemotherapy reducing the substantial burden of cancer associated VTE to the health service and the patient. This aligns with Health Research Board’s Strategic objective investing in research that delivers value for health, the health system and the economy. The project also aligns with 2021 HSE National Service Plan where VTE has also been named as a priority area for action. It is anticipated that the results from this study will be presented at national and international meetings and will generate at least one peer reviewed paper.

Dr Geraldine Foley, Assistant Professor in Occupational Therapy

Title: Patient and family caregiver treatment decision-making in specialist palliative care.

Dr Foley said:

Patients and family caregivers in specialist palliative care can experience distress associated with living with a life-limiting illness, and which impacts adversely on their quality of life. Furthermore, population-based needs are rising significantly in palliative care and physical, psychological, social, and existential distresses are projected to increase for both patients and family caregivers in specialist palliative care. Distress for patients and family caregivers can increase when they do not readily communicate their preferences or concerns to one another. Understanding what actions and behaviours constitute how patients and family caregivers in specialist palliative care support and/or hinder one another in treatment decision-making is transformative because it will help guide healthcare professionals in specialist palliative care on how best to facilitate patient and family caregiver open communication in treatment decision-making. This would in turn reduce distress and improve quality of life for both patients and family caregivers in specialist palliative care.