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Fresh hope for Irish blood cancer patients

Professor Mark Ferguson

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

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 as a result.

Blood cancer diagnosis reach 1,500 people annually in Ireland. 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. It brings together patients from all over Ireland who have difficult blood cancers to treat. Furthermore, this allows the researchers to investigate and understand each individual’s underlying reason for a disease and tailor the treatment. This has proven incredibly important. The patient gets direct access to try innovative and novel treatments from around the world.

New ways to treat heart disease blood cancer patients are being researched.

Irish blood cancer patients have new research centres

Trinity College Dublin headquarters SFI funded Amber Research Centre. At Amber, Dr Garry Duffy is working on new biomaterials to deliver therapies to the heart. Similarly, they are developing next-generation implants to try and help the heart muscle pump better. They likewise aim 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. Also it identifies those who may be at high risk of side effects for heart medication. As a result, it has already been effectively trialled with 400 blood cancer 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. Frank Partridge developed portable defibrillators and CPR around the 1920s. They have worldwide use.

Ranked second in the world is in fact Ireland’s 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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