4i Principal Investigators have successfully competed for research funding from the grant authorities listed here, as well as from Philanthropic and Corporate donors. We are extremely grateful for this support.

New Cystic Fibrosis device to reduce antibiotic usage

A medical device for Cystic Fibrosis (CF) sufferers which lessens their exposure to infections resulting in fewer doctors’ visits, reduced antibiotic usage and shorter hospital stays, is expected to be market ready within two years.

University of Limerick (UL) inventors recently secured funding for the new percussion device that helps remove mucus from the airways and will, they hope, greatly improve the quality of life for cystic fibrosis patients. Ireland has the highest incidence of CF in the world and CF is the most common, fatal hereditary disease in the United States. Professor Colum Dunne, who is Foundation Chair and Director of Research at UL’s Graduate Entry Medical School (GEMS), explained the background to the development of the product. “Patients with respiratory diseases use various devices, which help the removal of mucus from the airways and the improvement of pulmonary or lung function. One example that we have focused on here is the CF patient airway, which is defective in ciliary function; resulting, due to ineffective removal, in a mucus-rich environment favouring growth of bacteria. These bacteria include potential pathogens, associated with chronic infection, decreased lung function and accelerated respiratory disease”. Currently, there are percussion-based chest physiotherapy devices on the market, but according to Professor Dunne, these “can sometimes become reservoirs for the bacteria that cause infections in Cystic Fibrosis patients”. Because the new device, SoloPep, is disposable, it poses no threat of reinfection. “In our research, we have observed that compliance with hygiene practices for reusable devices, by patient, is potentially poor. As such, despite even excellent compliance with prescribed antimicrobial regimens, the devices may become colonised with problematic or opportunistic pathogenic microbes,” Professor Dunne outlined. “The devices may, therefore, function as a reservoir that does not come into contact with the antimicrobial agents. Subsequently, re-infection may occur post-antimicrobial cessation by microbes present in the reservoir. Therefore, there is a need to develop novel inexpensive, single-use devices,” he added. “Ireland has the highest per capita incidence of Cystic Fibrosis globally. Because of this, it is reasonable to expect treatment innovations generated by Irish researchers and carers. In this case, our studies included patient involvement from the outset and allowed us to develop something that is truly technologically disruptive. The design of this new positive expiratory pressure (PEP) device is clever and focused on the end user from the beginning. It removes significant risk for patients by improving their microbiology hygiene and safety,” Professor Dunne added. Dr Leonard O’Sullivan from UL’s School of Design is co-principal investigator for this device. “SoloPEP is a good example of user-centred design and it will have a dramatic impact on the quality of life of cystic fibrosis patients in a sector with significant commercial opportunity,” he said. The Limerick-based team, which recently secured €500,000 in Enterprise Ireland funding for the development of the product, involves microbiologists, product designers and medical doctors who specialise in treating both paediatric and adult respiratory illness. The team includes Professor Deirdre McGrath (UL GEMS and Respiratory Consultant at Barrington’s Hospital) and Dr Barry Linnane (Senior Clinical Lecturer and Paediatric Consultant University Hospital Limerick). “This product has the potential to improve the lives of Cystic Fibrosis and other patients. But for that to happen the product must actually be available to them,” Professor Dunne concluded.

UL Researchers Awarded Funding to Improve Detection of Delirium
Researchers at the School of Medicine have been awarded €175,000 funding to develop a portable automated device that can be used in any clinical or community setting to allow early diagnosis and treatment of delirium. 

Professor David Meagher, Chair of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, UL and lead researcher explains the clinical significance of delirium.  "Delirium is a medically urgent, acute neuropsychiatric syndrome that is associated with considerable morbidity and mortality and poor prognosis in the elderly."
"Delirium affects 11-42% of medical-surgical inpatients and as many as 80% of intensive care and nursing home patients.  Poor detection results in about 50% of cases being missed in real-world practice.  This poor level of detection is a direct consequence of the absence of systematic and formalized approaches to cognitive assessment in routine healthcare."

This research is a good example of fundamental clinical research being translated into a practical device.  Professor Meagher has collaborated with Professor Paula Trzepacz, Eli-Lilly & Company/Indiana University Medical School, USA for a numbers of years in order to clarify the characteristics of delirium. Through clinical research, the features of delirium have been identified and can now be assessed using a computerized diagnostic device that minimizes the demands upon patients, many of whom may be uncooperative due to presence of delirium.

Enterprise Ireland Clinical Innovation Award
UL is continuing to build on its success in medical device research, the University was recently awarded top prizes at the Enterprise Ireland Clinical Innovation Award. Professor Colum Dunne, Director of Research, School of Medicine highlights the significance of research in this field: "This funding is another important step in building on UL's success in medical device and diagnostic research. Our clinicians are leading research which will not only enhance patient safety and clinical outcomes but they are developing innovative products which will drive Ireland's leading role in the medical device and diagnostics sector."

Ireland's medical technologies sector is a significant global cluster for medical device and diagnostic products. Exports of medical device and diagnostics products are valued in excess of €7 billion annually, representing 9% of Ireland's total merchandise exports. The sector employs 25,000 people, the highest number of people working in the industry in Europe, per head of population, with 60% employed in the West and Midwest region. This research is led by Professor David Meagher, Chair of Psychiatry, Graduate Entry Medical School and Consultant Psychiatrist, University Hospital Limerick and involves a multidisciplinary team including Professor Colum Dunne, Director of Research, GEMS, Professor Walter Cullen, Chair of General Practice, GEMS, Dr Chris Exton, Department of Computer Science and Information Systems, Dr Con Cronin, St John's Hospital, Limerick, Professor Paula Trzepacz, Eli-Lilly & Company/Indiana University Medical School, USA and Dr Marion Conroy, Milford Hospice and University Hospital Limerick.

This research is funded by the Health Research Board under the Health Research Award Scheme 2011. For further information about the Graduate Entry Medical School (GEMS), UL go to : www.ul.ie/medicalschool

UL Researchers Evaluate Risk in Children of Parents with Early Heart Disease

Researchers at the School of Medicine, University of Limerick  and the Department of Paediatrics at Limerick University Hospital have launched a study to evaluate risk in children of parents with early heart disease. The research study will search for evidence of early heart and vessel disease in children and teenagers whose parents have had either heart attacks or heart bypass surgery at young ages.  The research is supported by The National Children's Research Centre and The Children's Medical & Research Foundation (Crumlin).

Professor Clodagh O'Gorman, lead researcher and Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Limerick and Limerick University Hospital explains the significance of this study; "This research is the first of its kind to evaluate risk in children whose parents had early heart disease. We are interested in identifying and monitoring indicators of early acquired heart disease in young children. Potentially, we can follow these children for progression of heart disease. And, if appropriate, we may consider treatments to alter the process of acquired heart disease".

Speaking at the launch of the study, GEMS Director of Research and lead researcher, Professor Colum Dunne said; "Research is a fundamental component of paediatric medicine.  We already know that having a parent with a heart disease places the child of that parent at increased risk when they reach adulthood, but we do not have information on the health of their hearts and vessels during youth. This study will begin to address these complex issues".

The School of Medicine marked its €1 million funding milestone which furthers its commitment to progressive medical research and education. The School of Medicine is implementing a research strategy focused on the themes of metabolic mediators of chronic disorder, life stage-specific conditions including aspects of ageing, and the provision of prophylactic guidance & therapeutic care in the community and acute facilities. The School has pursued recruitment of experienced professorial leaders across the clinical specialities who are actively engaged in relevant top-tier health-oriented research.

UL Medical School Reaches €1 million Research Funding Milestone
UL's School of Medicine continues its commitment to progressive medical education and research with today's announcement of €1 million funding milestone achieved. The School is implementing a research strategy focused on the themes of metabolic mediators of chronic disorder, life stage-specific conditions including aspects of ageing, and the provision of prophylactic guidance & therapeutic care in the community and acute facilities.

Director of Research at the School of Medicine, Professor Colum Dunne welcomed the development; "Achieving €1million in research funding is a specific initial milestone for GEMS. It represents progress in implementing what is an ambitious research strategy for Ireland's newest and largest provider of graduate-entry medical places".

The School has pursued recruitment of experienced professorial leaders across the clinical specialities who are actively engaged in relevant top-tier health-oriented research.  The School has succeeded in attracting competitive research funding from Irish agencies such as the Health Research Board (HRB), Health Services Executive (HSE), and The Children's Medical & Research Foundation.

Established in 2007, the School of Medicine celebrated the first graduates of its Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor of Surgery (BM BS) degrees this year. The Graduate Entry Medical School Programme at UL is open to graduates from any discipline and employs practical and interactive approaches to learning, particularly through the use of innovative Problem-Based Learning techniques.
Towards Early Intervention - HRB Support for a study at UL
Mental and substance use disorders are important issues for young people in Ireland, especially those living in deprived areas. They are common and associated with severe, enduring health outcomes. If identified and treated at an early stage ('early intervention'), health and social outcomes can be considerably improved. 

A collaborative group of researchers, headed by Prof Walter Cullen at University of Limerick School of Medicine, has been successful in attracting funding from the Health Research Board of Ireland to develop an approach which addresses barriers to 'early intervention' for mental and substance use disorders among young people that is both informed by international best practice and which addresses local barriers.

The programme will establish a clearer understanding of attitudes towards and experience of screening and treatment for mental health/substance use disorders among service users and health/social care professionals, subsequent development of a complex intervention to improve screening & treatment rates, and assessment of optimum implementation of this approach.

The team of collaborators includes representatives of Fatima Regeneration Board, Limerick regeneration Agencies, Health Services Executive, University College Dublin, University of Melbourne, Brown University Rhode Island, and Headstrong.