News and Views

HRB grants €3.2 million for 14 new research projects

9 Nov 2018
The 14 research projects, including three from UCC, will address the research needs of specific patient populations.

Executioner proteins, high-intensity interval training for cancer recovery, gold nanoparticles to fight oesophageal cancer, gut bacteria that may influence epilepsy, and light activated polymers to kill infections, were just some of the projects announced by the Health Research Board (HRB) and Medical Research Charities Group (MRCG).

Supporting research among medical charities

The 14 research projects, including three from UCC, will address the research needs of specific patient populations and were awarded through the Health Research Board (HRB) and Medical Research Charities Group (MRCG) Joint Funding Scheme.


Professor Fergal O'Gara, UCC
Charity: Irish Thoracic Society
Professor O'Hara is evaluating a macrolide-based early intervention in the clinical management of chronic infections and inflammation in Cystic Fibrosis. Chronic, persistent respiratory disease is a leading cause of death worldwide. Despite years of global research, the clinical management of respiratory disease, including the life-limiting genetic disease cystic fibrosis (CF), remains a significant challenge. Treatment options are minimal, due in part to the increased pathogen resistance to conventional antibiotics and the lack of development of effective alternatives. The collaborative group involved in this proposal have shown over the last five years that the accumulation of bile acids in the lungs of paediatric patients with CF correlates strongly with pathogen acquisition, chronicity, and the onset of inflammation. 

Dr Sharon McKenna, UCC
Charity: Breakthrough Cancer Research
Many oesophageal cancers develop resistance to the drugs currently used to treat this disease. This allows the cancer cells to survive and the cancer can come back again at variable times after the initial treatment. Research already performed by this group has identified genetic differences between cancer cells that respond well to treatment and those that do not. This project will examine how the genes involved can re-program cancers and influence their response to treatment. The group has already identified a novel gene pathway that can dramatically improve how cancer cells respond to chemotherapy. Understanding these novel genes and how they regulate death and survival in cancer cells will enable us to develop more specific anti-cancer agents for the future. The overall aim of this project is to identify new ways of targeting resistant cancers, so that chemotherapeutic regimes can be improved and recurrent disease eliminated in cancer patients.

Dr Patrick Forde, University College Cork
Charity: Breakthrough Cancer Research
Successful cancer treatment aims to eliminate the entire tumour and the risk of recurrence. Treatment currently relies on the removal of the primary tumour by surgery or radiotherapy followed by control of the remaining dispersed cancer cells in the whole body usually by chemotherapy. The Cork Cancer Research Centre (CCRC) has been examining these two aspects of treatment (removal of the tumour mass and the cancer cells circulating in the body) with the aim of eliminating the tumour mass non-invasively and recruiting an immune response against the remaining cancer cells. Short electric pulses have been demonstrated to make tissue temporarily more porous and allow a higher uptake of therapeutic agents by the cancer cells. More than 400 patients with inoperable skin cancers have been treated with this approach at the CCRC, with over 85% showing a positive response to treatment.

Dr Darrin Morrissey, Chief Executive of the HRB, hailed the impressive ideas among the new research awards. "The ingenuity of the research, as well as the impact that it will have on people's lives, demonstrates why it is so important to build a health research culture at the heart of our health services."

Dr Avril Kennan, Chief Executive of the Medical Research Charities Group noted: "This programme provides a particular opportunity for medical research charities to support research that is in response to what patients actually need. With matched funding from the HRB, charities can in effect double their research budgets."

Dr Caitriona Creely, Programme Manager from the HRB added that the MRCG/HRB Joint Funding Scheme is "an opportunity for the HRB to work with charities and support excellent research of relevance to patients, from understanding the cause of diseases to looking for a cure, to focusing on care for people and families living with conditions day to day."

The scheme runs approximately every two years, and the next round of applications is expected to open in September 2019.

For the full of list of awards and their lay summaries, click here. 






University College Cork

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