Wednesday, 16 August 2017

CÚRAM Continues To Strengthen MedTech Ecosystem with New US Industry Partnership

Pioneering project to determine the potential of a synthetic product to advance the study and treatment of respiratory disease CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices, based at NUI Galway, has recently signed a collaborative research agreement with Factor Bioscience, a US based biotechnology SME that is pioneering nucleic-acid and cell-based technologies to advance the study and treatment of disease, including respiratory disease. This is the US company’s first collaboration in Ireland. The project goal is to determine the translational potential of a synthetic product from Factor Bioscience for use in Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). ARDS often affects the elderly and occurs when fluid builds up in the air sacs in the lungs and prevents them from filling with enough air. This means less oxygen is available to reach the bloodstream which deprives the organs of the oxygen they need to function properly. ARDS typically occurs in people who are already critically ill or who have significant injuries, and many people who develop ARDS don’t survive. Those who do can experience lasting damage to their lungs. “Factor engages in research collaborations to advance and deploy our technologies as quickly and broadly as possible”, says Matt Angel, Co-founder of Factor Bioscience. “We are an early-stage biotechnology company based in the Boston area with an Irish subsidiary, and we are looking to grow our operations in Ireland. By partnering with CÚRAM on this project we can access leading experts and resources in the medical device field, which will hopefully allow us to progress much faster in finding a better solution for patients suffering from ARDS. Currently we are developing synthetic protein-encoding RNA therapeutics using our patented and patent-pending chemistries and sequences. In the near term, we are interested in expanding our technology in the area of delivering these therapeutics to various tissues and organs in the body.” Dr Daniel O'Toole, a CÚRAM collaborator in the School of Medicine will coordinate the collaborative laboratory research at NUI Galway, said: “Factor Bioscience has an exciting panel of innovative and highly promising therapeutics that we feel have real potential to address unmet clinical needs. We’re looking forward to developing and testing these for treatment of a range of inflammatory and infectious diseases.” CÚRAM is working to develop a positive, long lasting impact on the MedTech sector as well as for patients suffering from chronic illness. The global financial cost of managing chronic illnesses are ever increasing and both clinical and economic needs have to be met. CÚRAM’s goal is to come up with affordable solutions to meet these needs. The project was developed following an introduction to both partners, facilitated by IDA Ireland in Boston. “I am delighted to have been able to make the introduction between CÚRAM and Factor Bioscience and to hear it has resulted in an exciting new research partnership”, said Ivan Houlihan, Vice President of IDA Ireland, Boston. “Making connections and facilitating introductions between companies and third-level institutions and research centres is a key function of IDA Ireland, we try to ensure the necessary skills, experience and research capabilities exist to drive their business forward.” Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM, said: “Key to our success is our collaboration with industry partners to continue to enhance medical device technologies and their clinical application. Through collaborations such as these we can strengthen the R&D capability in Ireland to support the growth of a vibrant start up community within the MedTech ecosystem.” -Ends-


News Archive

Monday, 14 August 2017

Charity renews its call for a specific family homelessness strategy following an independent research report carried out by NUI Galway and TCD Focus Ireland welcomed a new independent research report on the difficulties faced by families that are homeless in accessing healthy food and having normal family meals. The report, which was jointly funded by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) and the Department of Health, was carried out by Marita Hennessy at NUI Galway and Dr Michelle Share, who is an internationally recognised expert on food poverty and a Senior Research Fellow at Trinity College Dublin. The new report entitled Food Access and Nutritional Health among Families in Emergency Homeless Accommodation, outlined the negative impact food poverty has on the health and wellbeing of children living in emergency homeless accommodation in Dublin. The Food Report was launched by the Director of Investigations at the Ombudsman for Children, Nuala Ward. Mike Allen, Director of Advocacy in Focus Ireland said: “This report highlights the enormous difficulties faced by the over 1,000 families that are homeless and living in emergency accommodation. But it is also a very positive and forward looking report, setting out useful guidelines and standards which should inform the development of the new Family Homeless Hubs. It also clearly sets out the answer for these families must be homes of their own.” Focus Ireland managed the commissioning and publication of the report on behalf of the DCYA and Department of Health. The research outlines parents’ daily struggle to provide healthy meals for their children and themselves due to the challenging circumstances of living on very low incomes in emergency homeless accommodation.  Mr Allen said: “This research highlights the complex issues arising in trying to support families that are homeless. It reinforces Focus Ireland’s call for a specific homeless sub-strategy for families, with a cast-iron commitment families will not spend more than 6 months in emergency accommodation.” The Food Report highlighted the lack of access to cooking and storage facilities, it has led to families supplementing their diets with noodles, instant pasta, chicken and chips and pizza. The research included detailed interviews with ten parents living in emergency homeless accommodation and also six service providers involved in the provision of health and social services for people who are homeless.   The study sought to explore the food situation for these families and to make recommendations for policy-makers and front-line service providers to help improve food security, health and well-being among families who are homeless. The parents interviewed spoke of huge difficulties finding healthy meals for their children due to restricted times of access to kitchen facilities, communal eating facilities and a lack of storage facilities and utensils for food. The research has found that regimented meal times and the constrained food provision conditions in homeless accommodation services negatively influence children’s dietary intake. Dr Michelle Share from TCD explained: “It’s not just about food and nutrition: families have to rely on takeaways and convenience foods. It makes it harder for children to develop good eating habits as they have to eat in socially unacceptable circumstances, like dining on the bed, or on the floor, lined up at a counter and sometimes even under CCTV surveillance. “They get used to dining in communal settings or with tourists - rather than as a family around their own table. All of this means a loss of dignity. On a practical level it can inhibit other important parts of children’s lives such as free play and completing homework.” The research found that all families interviewed shared a bedroom, and just one of the ten families surveyed were provided with breakfast and dinner in their emergency accommodation. All parents highlighted that their children’s food was a priority for them and that they went to considerable efforts in challenging circumstances to provide for them. This was clearly shown by parents who always tried to provide fruit for their children to ensure they received vitamins.  The key recommendations of the research include: Rules and regulations in relation to the use of kitchens and eating facilities across all emergency accommodation for families need to be flexible to meet the different routines and need for privacy for families and to help avoid ‘institutionalisation’ arising from extended stays in emergency accommodation. All emergency accommodation must provide a kitchen table in a private and appropriately sized space. The challenges families face in the preparation of nutritious meals are primarily due to practical barriers and restricted facilities, rather than any lack of awareness of healthy eating. All emergency accommodation must provide a kitchen table in a private and appropriately-sized space. The challenges families face in the preparation of nutritious meals are primarily due to practical barriers and restricted facilities, rather than any lack of awareness of healthy eating. A set of standards in relation to any premises defined as family emergency accommodation. While the Department of Housing and the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) have emphasised the range of improved facilities that will be available in Family Hubs, no standard framework has been published to set out minimum standards to apply to the operation of Hubs. Rebuilding Ireland should outline this. Emergency accommodation must be a temporary measure. No matter what improvements are made in the physical quality and access to services in emergency accommodation, living there still has a detrimental impact on the health and well-being of family members. Over time, poor nutrition can lead to a decline in general health and mental health of families. The most effective improvement in the provision of emergency accommodation is to ensure that it is for the shortest time possible, through the provision of secure and affordable homes. Focus Ireland’s family team works hard with Dublin Region Homeless Executive to support families and children who are homeless. The Focus Ireland Advice and Information services based in Dublin and elsewhere are funded by a range of statutory and non-statutory funders. The service plays a vital role in preventing families and individuals becoming homeless. This new report comes at a time of change in the policy guiding the provision of family emergency homeless accommodation as up to 600 families are due to be moved into family hub accommodation. The DRHE has indicated that family hubs will feature permanent on-site support services (in some cases 24/7) and access to cooking and laundry facilities. Focus Ireland Director of Advocacy Mike Allen said: “The report underlined the fact that the longer the stays in emergency accommodation, the more difficult it can be for families to move on from homelessness to independent living. We are repeating our call for a dedicated sub-strategy to address family homelessness that includes a target of supporting all families out of homelessness within six months and also providing a range of supports to avert the potentially devastating effects on the children involved.” To read the full report, visit: http://bit.ly/2vUlpCM -Ends-

Friday, 11 August 2017

CÚRAM PhD Candidate Publishes New Research on Modified Implantable Electrode Devices Used in Deep Brain Stimulation Catalina Vallejo, a PhD candidate at CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices, based at NUI Galway, has recently published the results of her work in the prestigious journal Advanced Functionalised Materials (AFM). Ms Vallejo’s research focuses on the modification of implantable electrode systems to improve their performance when used, for example, in neural recording and in deep brain stimulation in patients with neurological disease such as dystonia and Parkinson’s disease. This research provides a useful benchmark for anodization conditions for further studies with neural microelectrodes, micropatterning, and biochemical functionalisation. Catalina Vallejo’s research has shown that anodization offers the ability to modify ITO films and may provide an easier approach to the generation of electrode coatings with differential regions of charge conductance and cellular function capacities. It can be hypothesized that anodization with varying current densities may be employed to deposit insulator and charge carrier regions on a single electrode system, providing cytocompatible and functional coatings for implantable thin-film ITO devices. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) involves implanting stimulating electrodes into the brain. Catalina’s work explored the development of a coating for these electrodes, using a bench-top electrochemical process to formulate anodized indium tin oxide (ITO) films with altered roughness, conducting profiles, and thickness. In addition, Ms Vallejo examined the influence of these anodized films on neural cell adhesion, proliferation, and function, and showed that the compatibility of the coating with brain tissue can be altered by varying the anodization current density. She also showed how the films produced with a specific current density, increased primary neural cell survival, modulation of glial scar formation, and promotion of neural network activity when in situ in the brain. The modification of implantable electrodes for neural stimulation has been a major focus of neural engineering over the past five years. “A common occurrence following electrode implantation is the formation of a glial ‘scar’ around the implant”, explains Catalina. “This can accelerate neural loss, increase the barriers to the flow of the electrical signal to where it’s needed in the brain and so compromises the efficacy of a stimulating/recording system in the brain. My research aimed to develop a way to improve the efficacy of these devices, resulting in a better outcome for patients.” Traditionally, chemically inert conductors such as gold, platinum, and iridium, as well as semiconductors such as silicon, have been widely employed as electrode systems in both clinical and research settings. Recently, however, non-metallic electrically conducting biomaterials, including inherently conducting polymers and polymer composites have been explored as neuroelectrode alternatives in an effort to promote chronic functionality and enhanced biocompatibility. Catalina’s journey through her PhD was not without its challenges. “During my first year, I was learning the basics of electrochemistry and electrodeposition and I initially intended on making electrodeposited conducting polymer films onto the surface of the ITO. I was using a very old Potentiostat, a Princeton Applied Research electrochemical Potentiostat / Galvanostat model 263A running Verastudio software. After almost a full years work, I came to understand that Potentiostat had reversed the electrode configuration/connections. This resulted in the anodization of the ITO films and not in the electrodeposition of the conducting polymer – the opposite of what I wanted to achieve.” Commenting on Catalina’s work, Dr Manus Biggs, Principal Investigator at CÚRAM said: “Catalina is extremely dedicated and at the time the ITO process was confusing, frustrating and quite demotivating for her, but in the end we have learned a lot from this. A research career is full of enlightening errors, and this process was crucial in helping to illuminate some of the bases of her work in conducting polymers, and eventually resulted in the development of a process to formulate these anodized ITO films.” Congratulating Catalina on her work, Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM said: “Ultimately, what we are trying to do at CÚRAM is to improve quality of life for patients with chronic illnesses through the development of new and enhanced implants and devices. It’s fantastic to see how our PhD candidates are contributing significantly to the knowledge base in this area.” To read the full paper entitled ‘Preparation of Cytocompatible ITO Neuroelectrodes with Enhanced Electrochemical Characteristics Using a Facile Anodic Oxidation Process’ in the Advanced Functionalised Materials journal, visit: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/adfm.201605035/abstract -Ends-

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

The College of Engineering and Informatics at NUI Galway has announced details of this year’s Engineering Maths Qualifying Exam which gives students a second chance to pursue a career in engineering. The exam, which takes place on Wednesday, 23 August, is for students who achieve the CAO points for an undergraduate engineering degree course at NUI Galway but who have not met the obligatory maths requirement. For more than 20 years NUI Galway has provided this exam to help applicants who did not achieve the required grade H4 or better in higher level mathematics. Those who took lower level maths in the Leaving Cert may also apply for the exam. Students who pass this examination will be deemed to have satisfied the maths requirement and, providing they have the necessary points, will receive an additional CAO offer at Round Two. NUI Galway will also hold an intensive preparatory course for applicants intending to sit the exam. This free course will run from 17-22 August. The aim of the course is to bridge the gap between the Leaving Certificate lower level and that required to be successful in the exam. This will be achieved by tackling a variety of problems of increasing difficulty. Learning how to approach a problem and apply the knowledge available will be emphasised. Professor Peter McHugh, Dean of Engineering and Informatics at NUI Galway, said: “Engineers are designers and problem solvers, who innovate and generate the technology of tomorrow. Because of this, engineering programmes are focused on developing analytical and problem solving skills, and therefore require significant use of mathematics and applied mathematics. Every year we see a number of promising students who perform poorly on the day of the Leaving Cert exam. The Engineering Mathematics Qualifying Examination provides students with a second chance to demonstrate that they have the necessary standard in maths. Over the years, we have had some exceptionally talented students graduate and pursue successful careers in engineering because they were given the second chance which this exam represents.” NUI Galway offers students an undenominated entry to engineering. This programme is specifically designed for students who are interested in becoming an engineer, but are uncertain as to which field they want to specialise in. This programme offers students the option of studying engineering in a general way for one year before going on to specialise in their chosen field in year two. To apply for the Engineering Maths Qualifying Exam please visit: http://www.nuigalway.ie/engineering-informatics/undergraduatestudents/engineeringmathsqualifyingexamination/ Those interested in the revision maths course should visit  http://www.nuigalway.ie/engineering-informatics/undergraduatestudents/engineeringmathsqualifyingexaminationpreparatorycourse/    for further details. -Ends- ______________________________________  Seans Eile á thabhairt ag OÉ Gaillimh do Mhic Léinn na hArdteistiméireachta trí Scrúdú Cáilíochta Matamaitice de chuid na hInnealtóireachta a Reáchtáil Tá Coláiste na hInnealtóireachta agus na hIonformaitice in OÉ Gaillimh i ndiaidh sonraí a chur ar fáil faoi Scrúdú Cáilíochta Matamaitice de chuid na hInnealtóireachta, scrúdú a thugann seans eile do mhic léinn tabhairt faoi ghairm na hinnealtóireachta. Beidh an scrúdú ar siúl Dé Céadaoin, an 23 Lúnasa, agus tá sé dírithe ar mhic léinn a bhaineann na pointí cuí CAO amach chun cúrsa céime san innealtóireacht a dhéanamh in OÉ Gaillimh ach nach bhfuil an marc riachtanach acu sa mhatamaitic. Le breis agus scór bliain anuas, tá an scrúdú seo á reáchtáil ag OÉ Gaillimh chun cabhrú le hiarratasóirí nár éirigh leo an grád riachtanach H4 nó os a chionn a bhaint amach sa pháipéar matamaitice ardleibhéil. Féadfaidh daoine nach ndearna ardleibhéal matamaitice san Ardteistiméireacht cur isteach ar an scrúdú chomh maith. Má fhaigheann mac léinn pas sa scrúdú seo beidh an riachtanas matamaitice comhlíonta aici/aige agus gheobhaidh sí/sé tairiscint eile ó CAO i mBabhta 2, ach na pointí riachtanacha a bheith aici/aige. Chomh maith leis sin, beidh dianchúrsa ullmhúcháin ar siúl in OÉ Gaillimh roimh ré dóibh siúd ar mian leo an scrúdú a dhéanamh. Beidh an cúrsa saor in aisce seo ar siúl ón 17-22 Lúnasa. Is é an aidhm atá leis an gcúrsa seo cur lena mbíonn foghlamtha ag daltaí ag an ngnáthleibhéal san Ardteistiméireacht, le go n-éireoidh leo sa scrúdú matamaitice. Cuirfear é seo i gcrích trí dhul i ngleic le fadhbanna éagsúla ag leibhéil éagsúla deacrachta. Cuirfear béim ar an gcaoi le tabhairt faoi fhadhb agus ar an gcaoi a gcuirfear an t-eolas atá ar fáil i bhfeidhm. Dúirt an tOllamh Peter McHugh, Déan na hInnealtóireachta agus na hIonformaitice in OÉ Gaillimh: “Is ionann innealtóirí agus dearthóirí agus daoine atá go maith ag réiteach fadhbanna, a chruthaíonn agus a chuireann teicneolaíocht na linne seo romhainn ar fáil. Dá bharr seo, tá na cláir innealtóireachta seo dírithe ar fhorbairt a dhéanamh ar scileanna anailíseacha agus ar scileanna chun fadhbanna a réiteach, agus dá bhrí sin, caithfear úsáid shuntasach a bhaint as matamaitic agus as matamaitic fheidhmeach. Gach bliain feicimid daltaí cumasacha nach ndéanann chomh maith agus a d’fhéadfaidís ar lá an scrúdaithe Ardteistiméireachta. Tugann an Scrúdú Cáilíochta Matamaitice de chuid na hInnealtóireachta deis eile do dhaltaí léiriú go bhfuil an caighdeán riachtanach sa mhatamaitic bainte amach acu. I gcaitheamh na mblianta, d’éirigh le roinnt mic léinn a raibh cumas eisceachtúil iontu céim a bhaint amach agus dul sa tóir ar shlí bheatha dóibh féin san innealtóireacht mar go bhfuair siad an dara deis leis an scrúdú áirithe seo.” Tá cúrsa céime neamhainmnithe san innealtóireacht ar tairiscint do mhic léinn in OÉ Gaillimh. Tá an clár seo dírithe go háirithe ar mhic léinn a bhfuil suim acu a bheith ina n-innealtóirí ach nach bhfuil siad cinnte cén réimse ar mhaith leo díriú air. Tugann an clár seo deis do mhic léinn staidéar ginearálta a dhéanamh ar an innealtóireacht ar feadh bliana sula roghnaíonn siad a réimse speisialtóireachta i mbliain a dó.  Chun iarratas a dhéanamh ar an Scrúdú Cáilíochta Matamaitice de chuid na hInnealtóireachta téigh chuig: http://www.nuigalway.ie/engineering-informatics/undergraduatestudents/engineeringmathsqualifyingexamination/ Ba chóir do dhaoine ar spéis leo an cúrsa ullmhúcháin a dhéanamh dul chuig  http://www.nuigalway.ie/engineering-informatics/undergraduatestudents/engineeringmathsqualifyingexaminationpreparatorycourse/ chun tuilleadh eolais a fháil. -Críoch-


Events Calendar

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Wednesday, 7 September 2016

The public are invited to a fascinating public lecture of a winter expedition with the German icebreaker “Polarstern” to Antarctica. The talk will be delivered by Professor Peter Lemke of the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), Helmholtz-Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Germany on Wednesday, 14 September, at 7.30pm in the Colm O’hEocha Theatre in the Arts Millenium Building at NUI Galway. Professor Lemke has participated in nine polar expeditions with the German research icebreaker “Polarstern”, and has collections of stunning photographs depicting the Antarctic landscape and intriguing experiences to share. He is visiting Galway to participate in the Atlantic Ocean Climate Scholars Programme which is a week-long intensive, accredited workshop examining how climate and oceans interact, with particular examples from the Atlantic Ocean and higher latitudes. The lecture is open to members of the public and is part of a workshop organised by Dr Pauhla McGrane of the Strategic Marine Alliance for Research and Training (SMART) being held in Galway, from 12-19 September,offered to international postgraduate students of marine, atmosphere and climate-related sciences. “Polar regions play an important role for our climate, but direct observations are difficult to obtain and can only be achieved with greatest effort. This is especially true in wintertime” said Professor Lemke. “Severe blizzards, being trapped between thick ice floes and forced to drift with the ice, the darkness of the polar night and temperatures around minus 30°C. This presentation will take you along on an extraordinary winter expedition into the Antarctic Ocean. It shows the beauty of the frozen ocean, presents some insight into polar and climate research, and demonstrates everyday life on a research icebreaker,” he continued. High latitudes have received attention recently because of significant changes in the atmosphere, sea ice, and ocean, and on land, especially in the Arctic. The surface air temperature in the Arctic has increased about twice as fast as the global air temperature. The Arctic sea-ice extent in summer has decreased by 35% since 1979, and the sea-ice thickness during late summer has declined in the Central Arctic by about 40% since 1958. A warming has also been observed at depth in the Arctic Ocean and the Southern Ocean. But surprisingly there is no negative trend observed in the Antarctic sea ice. Both, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are losing mass, and the sea level is rising. Most of these observed trends are in agreement with warming scenarios performed with coupled climate models, which indicate an amplified response in high latitudes to increased greenhouse gas concentrations. But details of the complex interaction between atmosphere, sea ice and ocean, and the impacts on the ecosystem and the human society are still only marginally understood. Results will be shown from the latest Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and from a winter expedition the speaker has lead into the ice-covered Weddell Sea (Antarctica). Dr Pauhla McGrane, coordinator of SMART said: “We are delighted that Proffessor Lemke has agreed to provide his unique insight into carrying out climate research in hostile polar environments, particulaly when accompanied by such beautiful stark images. This is especially relevant as this year we will run the second North South Atlantic Training Transect on-board the RV Polarstern from Germany to South Africa which will train 24 postgraduate students, including seven Irish students, in researching climate, ocean and atmospheric interactions at sea. These innovative offshore international collaboarations, developed with AWI, the Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans (POGO) and funded by the Nippon foundation are essential in developing excellent climate and ocean scientists to measure and understand our changing planet”. Professor Lemke continues to work on the observation of climate processes in atmosphere, sea ice and ocean and their simulation in numerical models for the polar components of the climate system. On six expeditions on Polarstern he acted as chief scientist.  For more than 30 years he served on many national and international committees on polar and climate research. He was the Coordinating Lead Author for Chapter 4 (Observations: Changes in Snow, Ice and Frozen Ground) of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report published in 2007. The IPCC was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize together with Al Gore in 2007. For the Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC published in 2013 Proffessor Lemke worked as Review Editor of Chapter 4 and as Lead Author of the Technical Summary. All members of the public are welcome and refreshments will be served afterwards. The Atlantic Ocean Climate Scholars Programme is a collaboaration between SMART, NUI Galway, AWI and the Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans (POGO) that is funded by the Nippon foundation under NF POGO Regional Training fund.  -ends-