May 01 2020 Posted: 13:00 IST

CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Medical Devices, based at NUI Galway, is participating in two of the seven new NUI Galway projects to respond to the COVID-19 emergency announced by Minister for Business, Enterprise, and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, TD yesterday.  The rapid response research projects are part of the national, coordinated research and innovation funding response to the COVID-19 pandemic involving leading funding and innovation agencies*.

The projects in which CÚRAM are involved are;

Professor Martin O’Halloran and Professor John Laffey will further develop their CPAP/BiPAP Hood for safe oxygen delivery to COVID-19 patients. Supported by local med-tech companies, the multidisciplinary Inspire team are developing oxygen equipment that is easy to manufacture and safe to use, and will reduce risk of infection to front-line healthcare staff and help reduce the demand on more invasive, mechanical ventilators for patients.  The INSPIRE team is composed NUI Galway and GMIT researchers, UHG clinicians, medical physics and nursing staff, and is supported by groups and individuals from across Galway, including local medtech, ICT, manufacturing, and quality and regulatory advisors.

Professor John Laffey is also collaborating on a project led by Dr Kasia Whysall, from the Discipline of Physiology, which aims to help improve long-term patient recovery by reducing muscle wasting and frailty, especially among older patients. Her approach will investigate whether microRNAs, small molecules which regulate the function of our cells, can predict or improve muscle health and strength following critical illness such as COVID-19.  The project also involves NUI Galway’s Dr Brian McDonagh, Dr Bairbre McNicholas of University Hospital Galway, Professor Ken O'Halloran from UCC and Dr Rónán O’Caoimh from Mercy University Hospital Cork.

 Prof Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM said ‘CÚRAM is committed to providing support, expertise and facilitating collaboration in any way that we can during this crisis. We take pride in seeing how swiftly our colleagues have come together to respond and will continue to provide strong support to help the country come through this crisis together.’

Following the announcement, NUI Galway President, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh said:  “As a region renowned for creativity and as a global medtech hub, our University has been to the fore in looking at innovations that can support the response to the COVID-19 crisis.  Our main aim is to serve the public good and the range of activities announced today highlight how we are working not only to address the health challenges created by this pandemic, but also our understanding of the economic and social implications.

“It’s important that as a society, we firstly address the current crisis and then look to the future.  We find ourselves having to re-imagine our humanity as we face new times and new realities. Our community is at the centre of innovations to respond to the crisis and the solutions to restore our society after this pandemic.”   

Vice President of Research at NUI Galway and CÚRAM Principal Investigator, Professor Lokesh Joshi added: "There has been a tremendous response to the COVID-19 pandemic from our research and innovation community here in Galway. Our people have mobilised across all the disciplines and are collaborating to find innovative approaches and new insights for this globally-shared challenge.  Ireland's COVID-19 Rapid Response research and innovation funding initiative is a welcome support to these efforts, and I congratulate the many NUI Galway awardees whose projects seek to benefit patients, frontline healthcare workers, and wider society."

*Health Research Board, Irish Research Council, Science Foundation Ireland, IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland.

The complete list of the seven NUI Galway projects to be awarded funding are: 

  • Equipment to make it easier and safer for patients with COVID-19 to breathe
  • Expediting the diagnosis of COVID-19 in a clinical setting using AI enabled analysis of CT scans
  • Improving long-term patient recovery and reducing disability after COVID-19 critical illness using microRNA-based approaches
  • Identifying mental health needs and best practice for psychological support in frontline healthcare workers during and after the COVID-19 outbreak and in future pandemics
  • Modelling real-time population-wide impacts of COVID-19
  • Optimising Covid-19 social distancing communications: Identifying and addressing psychosocial determinants of social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic
  • Rapid response and learning for later: establishing high quality information networks and evaluation frameworks for the National Ambulance Service response to COVID-19

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