Press Release

Minister Varadkar announces €13.5M for research into cancer, antibiotics & other vital treatments

Cancer, asthma, kidney injuries and antibiotics are just some of the areas likely to benefit from €13.5 million in funding for new health research projects announced today by Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar.

A total of 36 projects are being supported by the Health Research Board (HRB) over the next three – five years.

Announcing the investment, Minister Varadkar said:

“These 36 projects cover a huge range of areas, including research into stem cell research to fight pneumonia, developing diet and exercise plans following cancer surgery and combating osteoporosis in older HIV patients. Others will look at how to help asthma sufferers who cannot control their condition, new treatments for resistant types of breast cancer, and the impact of salt on kidney function. Many of these projects receiving funding today will go on to make a real difference to people’s lives, not just in Ireland but around the world.

“This investment highlights the Government’s commitment to developing new research in areas with a clear health benefit, as well as developing new approaches to health care, and boosting the medical science sector. Every treatment, every medical device and every procedure in our health service starts with a good idea that has been proved in practice.”

Speaking at the launch of the awards, Graham Love, Chief Executive at the Health Research Board said,

“The HRB focuses on driving more research into policy and practice. This is illustrated by today’s investments. Innovation can help bridge the gap between demand for health services and the resources to pay for them. That innovation comes from implementing top class research, which is our raison d’être at the HRB.”

Contracts have just been signed and research will start immediately. Thirty two of them will receive awards of up to €330,000 and must be completed in three years, while four will receive up to €800,000 and will be completed within five years. The successful research projects were selected from a long-list of 190 projects.

The research teams are spread across Ireland, with researchers linked to TCD, UCD, NUI Galway, UCC, RCSI, Athlone Institute of Technology, Maynooth University and University of Limerick. The HRB will monitor progress in each project and will receive annual and end-of-grant reports. The outcomes from the projects will be assessed, using an international framework, in terms of short and medium terms outcomes like new knowledge, research capacity building, and informing policy. The HRB will also look at the longer term impact of each project such as new innovations including devices, new diagnostics, approaches to care; changes in policy or practice; or economic and commercial activity such as patents and spin-offs.

A selection of projects funded

A full list of projects and summaries is available to download hereHRA__2014_Awardees_-_36_lay_summaries.doc

Dr Juliette Hussey from TCD will assess the effect of a diet and exercise rehabilitation plan aimed at helping patients recovering from surgery for cancer of the oesophagus to return to pre-cancer levels of activity and performance.Working with John Reynolds Surgery team at the HRB – Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Facility at St James’s Hospital, the team will complete measures of physical performance (walking and ability to climb stairs) at cancer diagnosis and throughout treatment to gain a greater understanding of the extent to which physical performance is negatively affected by oesophageal cancer treatment. In addition, they will track changes in body composition (body fat and muscle content), food intake and blood markers.  When the cancer treatment is complete, patients will be invited to complete a 12-week recovery programme which will include a walking programme, diet advice and education sessions with different healthcare professionals.

The aim of this programme is to assist to patients return to normal activity levels and to improve their quality of life. This study will be the first to measure the impact that treatments for oesophageal cancer has on the ability of patients to complete normal activities. It will also show for the first time how a rehabilitation programme involving exercise and diet advice may help patient recovery in the early period following treatment.

Dr Patrick Mallon in UCD aims to limit bone loss in HIV patients on anti-retroviral drugs.

As people with HIV now live into old age because of the success of antiretroviral therapy, long-term effects of HIV and its treatment, such as osteoporosis, are becoming major issues. Most bone loss occurs with initiation of antiretroviral therapy and this project aims to determine if this bone loss can be limited with a short course of a drug commonly used to treat osteoporosis; alendronate.

The group will conduct a clinical trial to randomize 80 people with HIV who are about to start antiretroviral therapy to either receive a short course of alendronate or a placebo taken weekly for 14 weeks and will determine the loss of bone density over the first year of antiretroviral therapy between the two treatment groups. This trial will help improve long-term management not only of people with HIV in Ireland, but across the world and increase our understanding of osteoporosis, which is a very common condition.

Prof Neil Rowan from Athlone Institute of Technology and collaborators from the National University of Ireland Galway will conduct research using a novel combination of adult stem cells and medicinal fungi to see if they can help the immune system fight pneumonia infections.

The researchers hope that the result, could in the long term, help introduce an alternative to antibiotics. Pneumonia is a common disease accounting for 5% of deaths in Ireland and is the most common cause of acute lung injury and acute respiratory distress syndrome where there currently remains no specific therapy.

Dr Steve Thomas from Trinity College Dublin will look at mapping a pathway to universal health care.

This research adapts and applies to Ireland new international methods for assessing the progress made towards universal access to health care and measuring the gap with universalisation. It also appraises options for getting there, reviewing international case studies and assessing the modelling options according to key criteria such as cost, human resource requirements and complexity. Finally the research identifies the implementation challenges likely to be faced, by assessing international experiences and evaluates whether and to what extent the currents systems of organisation have the necessary capacity and flexibility to deliver their stated objectives. This evidence will help inform decision making and progress Ireland towards universal access, free at the point of delivery, for all the population.


For more information contact:  Gillian Markey,  Communications Manager, HRB   m: 0872288514 e: