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Fresh hope for Irish patients


Professor Mark Ferguson

Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland

In the past, there wasn’t always access to the latest therapies from around the world for Irish blood cancer and heart disease patients. Today cutting-edge research in cardiology and haematology is changing this.

Every year approximately 1,500 people across Ireland are diagnosed with a blood cancer and one of the challenges, particularly for a small country, is to be able to get access to specific treatments. Recently, Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), Irish Cancer Society (ICS) and a number of multinational pharmaceutical companies each funded €1 million to Blood Cancer Network Ireland.

This national collaborative network, directed by Professor Michael O’ Dwyer, conducts early phase clinical trials and brings together patients from all over Ireland who have difficult blood cancers to treat. This allows the researchers to investigate and understand each individual’s underlying reason for a disease and tailor the treatment needed, which is really important. The patient gets direct access to try innovative and novel treatments from around the world.

There are many examples of research being done to uncover new ways to treat blood cancer and heart disease.

SFI funds 12 major research centres, one of which is known as Amber, headquartered at Trinity College Dublin. At Amber, Dr Garry Duffy is working on new biomaterials to deliver therapies to the heart, developing next-generation implants to try and help the heart muscle pump better or to get the heart to beat more regularly. Another SFI Research Centre, CURAM, headquartered at NUI Galway is pioneering research in medical devices in collaboration with the many excellent medical device companies in Ireland.

Professor Dermot Kenny, at one of SFI’s Research Centres called the Biomedical Diagnostics Institute, Dublin City University has developed the ‘dynamic platelet function assay.’ This novel diagnostic device analyses blood clotting and also identifies those who may be at high risk of side effects for heart medication. It has already been effectively trialled with 400 patients and is now going to be moving forward into a commercial product with a large multinational company, Becton Dickenson.

Ireland has a long and proud history in cardiovascular research. Belfast-born Frank Partridge developed portable defibrillators and CPR around the 1920s, and these are used all across the world. Ireland is ranked second in the world for standout nanotechnology, third for immunology and seventh for computer science.

In the fields of cardiology and haematology we have bright, established researchers and SFI are very interested in investing in impactful excellent research. SFI have research partnerships with large multinational companies, SME’s and charities in Ireland and internationally – and that’s important because excellent science is a global business.

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