Minister Dempsey Opens TCD’s Institute of Molecular Medicine

Posted on: 07 November 2003

Research Institute to develop new approaches to diagnosis and treatment in diseases

A new research Institute devoted to a medical science that has revolutionised our understanding of how systems within the human body function in health and disease was opened today (Friday 7 November). The Institute of Molecular Medicine houses the TCD component of the Dublin Molecular Medicine Centre and also contains the John Durkan Leukaemia Laboratories. The Institute, located at the Trinity Centre for Health Sciences, St. James’s Hospital, comprises 4,500 sq.m. of research space. It will provide a centre for collaborative molecular medicine research, linking directly with areas of research into cancer, leukaemia and the molecular basis of disease, providing a major contribution to graduate education in the life sciences.

Funded under the Higher Education Authority’s Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions (PRTLI) Cycle 2, the Institute was officially opened by the Minister for Education and Science, Mr. Noel Dempsey, TD.

“Molecular medicine has already permitted the development of new strategies of disease prevention, diagnosis, therapy and cure. For example, conditions such as familial colon cancer can now be diagnosed at a genetic level before the disease has manifested itself and appropriate preventative measures can be introduced. Viral infections are now frequently identified at a molecular level long before the virus is visualised,” explained Prof. Dermot Kelleher, Director of the Institute.

“The completion of the Human Genome Project represents not an end, but a beginning. We now need to understand the functions of all of the sequenced genes and to understand how these functions can go wrong in the development of human disease. This process will best be served by a critical mass of high quality biomolecular and biomedical researchers closely affiliated to clinical centres of excellence. The opening of the Institute of Molecular Medicine at Trinity’s St James’s Hospital campus allows this synergy to take place on a major teaching hospital site in Dublin.”

A pioneering Masters course in Molecular Medicine operating from the Institute attracts students from all over the globe. It is one of the first of its kind in Europe and admits both medical and scientific graduates. A business stream has now been introduced in which students take modules in business methods, a novel development to prepare graduates for the world of pharmaceutical biotechnology.

In addition, the Institute of Molecular Medicine is linked to TCD’s Academic Centre for Oncology. Such educational developments are not only essential for the education of health professionals, but are also critical in order to provide support to Ireland’s rapidly expanding biotechnology industry.

The Institute is working to utilise state-of-the-art molecular biology approaches to understand mechanisms of disease and develop new approaches to diagnosis and treatment in three major disease areas: Cancer biology, including groundbreaking work in understanding leukaemia; Infection, inflammation and immunity, for example rheumatoid arthritis; and Vascular biology. It is collaborating with the Trinity College Institute for Neurosciences in the study of neuropsychiatric disease. In addition, a number of international collaborations have been established.

“The Institute of Molecular Medicine was a founding partner of the Dublin Molecular Medicine Centre (DMMC) with UCD’s Conway Institute. This highly focused research partnership in the life sciences, which more recently includes the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland, reflects the commitment of the institutions to forging a dynamic research collaboration that will serve Ireland’s broader social, economic and health needs going forward,” stated the Provost of Trinity College, Dr. John Hegarty.

The Institute of Molecular Medicine in collaboration with the DMMC aims to fuel Irish drug discovery and biotechnology ventures, and attract pharmaceutical contract R & D research to Ireland. An Enterprise Ireland grant has been awarded to develop a bio-incubator facility on this site which will permit rapid translation of the results of bench science to development of products of use in the diagnosis and treatment of disease. A number of new companies are in process as a result of IMM / DMMC research which have the potential to generate new strengths in the Irish economy in addition to providing for enhanced patient care.