Taoiseach Opens State-of the Art Clinical Research Facility that will improve Patient Care in Ireland

Posted on: 31 May 2013

A state- of- the- art  €7 million Clinical Research Facility (CRF),  a  joint initiative between Trinity College Dublin and St James’s Hospital was opened on May 30th by  Taoiseach, Enda Kenny. This exciting new initiative is funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Health Research Board (HRB) on the St James’s Hospital campus and is part of the ongoing development of the knowledge economy in Ireland.

The Wellcome Trust-HRB Clinical Research Facility, located at the heart of the hospital will conduct high-quality clinical research, bringing clinicians and researchers together with the common goal of addressing major challenges in health and disease in Ireland. The facility is jointly governed by Trinity College Dublin and St James’s Hospital and will enable patient and volunteer research in medicine, nursing, pharmacy, physiotherapy and psychology at the institutions and their collaborating partners.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD and Mary Cunneen, Biobank Technologist

On the occasion of the opening, Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD said: “I believe that today’s health research is tomorrow’s health care.  In that regard, this new facility is good news for patients as it will allow the testing of new and innovative therapies, technologies and products and should increase the speed at which these innovations and discoveries enter health care services.  This facility shows the real benefits of collaboration as it will allow greater consolidation of activities between Trinity College and St James’s Hospital and provide first-class patient-focused research almost at the patient’s bedside while supporting excellence in medical education and research.”

The Clinical Research Facility has high technology features that are unique in Ireland to enable cutting-edge experimental medicine studies and early and late phase clinical trials at the forefront of biomedical research. These comprise a research pharmacy capable of safely compounding cancer drugs and handling novel gene therapies and vaccines; inpatient isolation rooms to nurse patients with infections or compromised immune systems; a neuropsychology suite that will permit high-quality brain activity and cognition studies, and a sample processing laboratory for rapid preparation and storage of biological samples.

The facility has a rapidly developing study pipeline with, 25 translational research projects already planned or underway. Examples include the PEACHI project, an EU funded project to develop a simple, affordable and effective vaccine against hepatitis C in HIV positive patients.  A clinical trial of radiotherapy versus chemotherapy for patients with Oesophageal Cancer and a trial of an antidiabetic medication in the protection of elderly patients against memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease.

“The Clinical Research Facility will enable 21st century clinical and scientific research and the development of new knowledge-based enterprise in Ireland. This development has a crucial role in the biomedical research infrastructure in this country and will contribute to positioning Ireland on the European and global stage.  It will attract foreign direct investment to sustain and grow Ireland’s reputation in clinical research driving excellence in clinical care,”  commented  Trinity’s Provost, Dr Patrick Prendergast.

“Teaching and research drive excellence in clinical care. The facility, placed at the interface between University and Hospital is an early model for the newly announced Hospital groupings and Academic Medical Centres with greater integration between the healthcare agenda and the teaching, training, research and innovation agenda,”  continued Professor Michael Gill, Clinical Director of the new facility.

“It will bring the best science from the laboratory onto the ward for the benefit of patients and St James’s Hospital is delighted to host such ground-breaking endeavours,” added St James’s Hospital Chairman, Professor Derry Shanley.

The Clinical Research Facility is part of the Dublin Centre for Clinical Research (DCCR) a joint initiative between Trinity College, UCD, RCSI and Molecular Medicine Ireland funded as a result of a competitive process by the Wellcome Trust and the Health Research Board. The Trust allocated  €7.3m  funding for the construction and equipment costs of the facility (1,300 m²), and the HRB allocated €5m core operating costs for the facility and €8.2m in funding to the DCCR network operations. This is the only investment in Ireland by the UK-based Wellcome Trust for such a facility.     “The Wellcome Trust has a strong track record of working in partnership with the Health Research Board (HRB) to build research capacity and infrastructure in Ireland. This latest venture will create an innovative research environment where world-class scientists and clinical researchers can investigate some of the most pressing challenges in human health and disease,” said Acting Director of the Wellcome Trust Ted Bianco.

“We believe our investment in the Wellcome Trust Health Research Board Clinical Research Facility creates the opportunity for researchers, patients and health professionals to work together. We know that this will increase the speed at which scientific discoveries can be turned into better health, improved patient care and advances in health service delivery,” said Chief Executive at the Health Research Board, Enda Connolly.

Examples of Research to be conducted at the Clinical Research Facility

– Trial of an Asthma inhaler device (INCA)

This study involves the asthma patients using an inhaler tracking device to determine if asthma patients are using their inhalers appropriately.  Where patients are found not to be compliant with the best inhaler technique they are provided with education about inhaler use.  This study follows patients over time to see how the feedback provided and education about inhaler technique improves the quality of life of asthma patients.  The tracking device is an electronic device developed by an RCSI Respiratory Consultant and the TCD School of Bioengineering… Recruitment for this study has already started at Beaumont and St. Vincent’s University Hospital and will start soon at St. James’s Hospital. (Academic lead; Professor Richard Costello)

– Trial of a treatment to prevent or delay onset of  Alzheimers Disease

Part of a multi-centre industry-funded initiative, It will determine if a medicinal product, used normally for type II diabetes, taken prospectively reduces the probability, or delays the onset and progression of Alzheimers Disease.  This important study requires the long-term follow-up and assessment of 100 volunteers over four years and will use the CRF for this purpose. (Academic lead; Professor Brian Lawlor)

– Hep C and HIV Vaccine Trial

The PEACHI (Prevention of Hepatitis C and HIV Infections) Consortium has been awarded funding from the European Commission Framework 7 Programme to develop and translate new vaccine concepts that aim to impact significantly on HCV and HIV-1 co-infection. The goal of the PEACHI project is to develop simple, affordable and effective vaccine strategies that can be given alone or in combination to prevent hepatitis C virus (HCV), human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) and co-infections. The Consortium will evaluate the vaccines in a series of clinical trials involving both healthy volunteers and individuals with HIV infection.  This study involves four Consortium partners: Oxford University, Okairos, a biopharmaceutical company based in Italy, St James’ Hospital and Kantonsspital St Gallen, Switzerland. (Academic lead; Professor Colm Bergin)

– A Clinical trial of Radiotherapy Vs Chemotherapy for patients with Oesophageal Cancer

This trial involves patients being treated for Oesophageal Cancer at St James’s Hospital and Beaumont Hospital.  This is a randomised control trial where 400 to 500 patients are either treated with chemotherapy alone (standard care), or a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.  The study involves long-term follow up of patients and the CRF is critical as a place where these patients can be comprehensively assessed to determine the long-term efficacy of these two alternative treatment regimes.   (Academic lead; Professor John Reynolds)

 – TB Biobank and Registry

This study involves establishing a National Biobank for Tuberculosis.  It involves collaborators in Cork and the Mater Hospital and is important for supporting biomedical research in this important disease area. (Academic lead; Professor Joe Keane)