DkIT Researchers Receive €2.5 million from Science Foundation Ireland for Ground-breaking Health Related Research
Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT) are thrilled to report a funding triumph of over €2.5 million for ground-breaking projects in areas of health research. As recently announced by Simon Harris, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation & Science, DkIT has been awarded significant funding for two projects under SFI’s Frontiers for Partnership Awards. Senior researchers from the Smooth Muscle and Regulated Software Research Centres at DkIT will lead the projects.
Professor Mark Hollywood, Principal Investigator in the Smooth Muscle Research Centre was awarded €1,285,576 for his project, run in partnership with Prof. Jochen Prehn from the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RSCI), University of Medicine and Health Sciences. This project aims to address the tremor associated with Parkinson’s disease. This disease is the second most common age-related neurodegenerative disease with over 10 million sufferers worldwide, but the causes of tremor are poorly understood, and treatment is wholly inadequate. In Ireland, more than 12,000 people are estimated to be living with Parkinson’s disease and although the symptoms can be managed to a degree, there is currently no cure. Many of the symptoms such as tremor are very poorly controlled, long term. The proposed project will investigate a new theory which will further understandings and support future pharmaceutical solutions around treating these debilitating tremor symptoms.
Professor Mark Hollywood said, “The scientific team in the Smooth Muscle Research Centre at DkIT and our collaborator Prof Jochen Prehn from RCSI Dublin are delighted to receive funding for this proposal, which will use a multidisciplinary approach to marry the expertise of research scientists and clinicians in hospitals, universities and Institutes of Technology and examine how LINGO1 levels in the human brain are associated with tremor in Parkinson’s.” He continued “In the proposed experiments we will identify the cells in which LINGO1 is upregulated, unravel the complex interplay between LINGO1 and ion channels, and detail the precise molecular interactions that lead to the functional knockdown of BK channels by LINGO1.” The main impact that this project will have is to enable a pharmacological targeting of LINGO1 for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and other conditions such as Essential Tremor. The research will take important steps towards achieving this goal and will investigate key biological mechanisms involved in LINGO1’s mechanism of action and BK channel regulation, test first candidates targeting LINGO1, and develop novel pre-clinical models in which drugs targeting LINGO1 can be tested by academic and industrial partners in the future. Mark thanked Dr Srikanth Dudem who carried out some of the preliminary experiments in the grant application and added “Securing funding like this simply would not be possible without the hard work of our talented team of PhD and post-doctoral scientists in the Smooth Muscle Research Centre in DkIT”
The second award, valued at €1,292,569 was granted to Professor Fergal McCaffery, Director of the Regulated Software Research Centre (RSRC)at DkIT for his project, Regulatory Compliance Framework for Trustworthy AI Medical Device Software (Reg-Fr-AIMs),in partnership with Prof. Mike O’Neill in University College Dublin.
This specific research project which was awarded funding by the SFI Frontiers for Partnership programme focuses upon the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology for Medical Device Software. The awarding panel confirmed the importance of this proposed work and the RSRC were highly commended for their already established expertise in the field. The focus for this research will be on the Irish market and the work will also address the elimination of biases due to gender that has become problematic in Artificial Intelligence.
Professor Fergal McCaffery said “Would you trust an adaptive software algorithm within a medical device that you rely upon to keep you alive, if it automatically adapts and changes its behaviour based upon changing indicators in your body? We are developing a framework to assist in making this type of Artificial Intelligence technology in medical devices to be trustworthy with safe, reliable behaviour and performance. The framework can be used by regulators to create new standards, and by medical device companies to ensure they produce safe, trustworthy and better medical devices”
Dr Tim McCormac, Head of Research and Graduate Studies, DkIT Said “Through these awards we are delighted to receive this endorsement by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) of our research endeavours. It further underlines the impact and strategic importance of our research within the health domain and the ability to secure such competitive national funding by both Profs Hollywood and McCaffery points to the excellent research being undertaken by their teams. It maintains our upward trajectory in research performance and points to the strategic approach we have taken over the past number of years in supporting our high performing research teams across the institute.”