8 Feb 2018
Dr Keelin Murphy and Prof. Geraldine Boylan, INFANT Research Centre

INFANT Centre Receives Innovator Award from the Wellcome Trust to Develop Neonatal Brain Health Monitoring System

The Irish Centre for Fetal and Neonatal Translational Research (INFANT) in University College Cork, has been awarded £500,000 (€570,000) by the global charitable foundation Wellcome Trust, to develop a smart brain monitoring system for newborns that may have brain injury. Named ‘Delphi’, the new system will help to detect the severity of brain injury as soon as possible enabling early intervention and appropriate therapies tailored to each individual baby.

Brain injury around the time of birth, potentially due to lack of oxygen or blood supply to the brain, sepsis and other conditions, can leave newborns with permanent disabilities such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy or learning difficulties. Early detection of neonatal brain injury can be vital to improve outcomes and reduce the impact of the injury. While vital signs such as heart rate, respiration, temperature and blood pressure are monitored closely when newborns are in neonatal intensive care (NICU), electrical monitoring of the brain (EEG) is not routinely available due to its complexity and the need for expert interpretation.

Speaking at the announcement of the funding award by Wellcome Trust, INFANT Centre Director and Professor of Neonatal Physiology Geraldine Boylan said,
“This award by Wellcome Trust acknowledges the calibre of research capability and global impact of the work that we are doing at INFANT; we are delighted to partner with the Wellcome Trust on this 2 year research project, which will undoubtedly have enormous impact on newborn brain health research and provide a new and ‘smart’ way of monitoring the newborn brain so the earliest and most appropriate treatment can be delivered.”

The Delphi project will create a prototype monitoring system using modern deep learning techniques that will analyse neonatal electrical brain patterns and combine this data with other vital sign information to provide an overall brain health index for the baby. Ultimately this system will be integrated into cot-side patient monitoring of all infants admitted to neonatal intensive care units. The artificial intelligence project team will be led by INFANT research fellow Dr Keelin Murphy, an expert in machine learning, specifically deep learning and overseen by INFANT Director Prof. Geraldine Boylan.

Wellcome Trust is awarding over half a million euro to the 2 year Delphi research project at the INFANT Centre, a world leading Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre. Each year 1.15 million full term babies develop encephalopathy (impaired neurological function), so there is a clear and urgent need to be able to assess and grade the severity of the newborns’ injuries so that the most appropriate treatment pathways can be offered quickly.
The Delphi project, devised by INFANT Research Centre, has the potential to become a globally adopted solution that will improve outcomes for newborns with brain injury all over the world. With expertise in artificial intelligence and deep learning techniques, INFANT is an ideal fit for Wellcome Trust as a leading health research foundation.

Prof Anita Maguire, Vice President for Research& Innovation at UCC noted “This research has the potential to improve outcomes for newborn babies and their families around the world. We are delighted to welcome this award from the Wellcome Trust to the INFANT Centre to support research and innovation which will impact on our healthcare services”.

Since it’s launch in 2015, the Science Foundation Ireland INFANT research centre, based at University College Cork and Cork University Maternity Hospital, has won over €30 million in research income from national and EU programmes, industry and philanthropic investment.

Research and Innovation

Taighde agus Nuálaíocht

Office of Vice President for Research & Innovation 4th Floor Block E, Food Science Building UCC