Tuesday, 21 April 2020

NUI Galway Research Fellows and UHG staff introduce video calling system using Cisco software and hardware donated by Cisco with the free support of IBM volunteers and the wider Galway community University Hospital Galway (UHG) has introduced a new video call system known as ICU FamilyLink which will enable contact between families, patients and the clinical teams providing care. This is particularly important as currently visitors are not permitted in the hospital, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When the visiting restrictions were introduced in early March, the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) team in Galway appreciated that it was going to be very difficult to keep families and patients in the ICU updated and connected, particularly where family members may be in physical isolation in different locations. In an effort to address these challenges, the ICU team at UHG reached out to its academic partners in NUI Galway, who in turned reached out to industry contacts in Galway and beyond. NUI Galway, Cisco and IBM assembled a team to answer the call and working closely with the ICU and Clinical Engineering teams in UHG, have rapidly developed a state-of-the-art video call system specifically for the ICU setting. The systems runs on the hospital’s Cisco Enterprise Wireless Network using Cisco Webex Meetings software and Cisco Webex Devices donated from Cisco’s software development office in Oranmore. The secure system is designed for easy setup where close family members are invited by the nurse looking after the patient, to see and speak to their loved one. ICU FamilyLink also enables staff to advise the family and discuss medical and treatment issues that arise. The project is supported by a team of IBM volunteers who are available by phone to family members to offer any technical support. The system is complemented by Apple iPads to facilitate staff-to-staff Webex video calls. All the equipment and expertise required to get this system operational has been kindly donated by the collaborators and a wider set of supportive organisations. Commenting Chris Kane, Hospital Manager said, “We are very grateful to everyone who has given their time and expertise to support the delivery of such an important project in such a short timeframe. The last number of weeks have been very difficult for patients in ICU and their families; the staff recognised this and wanted to do something to support them.” Ann Conroy, Clinical Nurse Manager 3 who works in the ICU in UHG said, “The system was designed and implemented to make it as easy as possible for the nurse caring for the patient to use safely and securely. This was based on listening to the nurses and addressing the needs that we identified. The simplicity of the unit is what makes this such a success for the nurses who are busy caring for the patient and for the families who are at home. Also the quality of the video image is excellent which means it is as close as a family member will get to being in the ICU.” Mrs Maura McNamara, the wife of a patient from Galway City who was treated in the ICU said, “We got an opportunity to use the video conferencing system to keep in touch with my husband while he was in the ICU. It was fantastic to get to see him and how he was doing and get updates from the nurses. It is difficult not being able to visit the hospital and this was the next best thing to being there.” Irial Conroy and Dr Aoife Murray, both NUI Galway Research Fellows said, “In Galway we are fortunate to have existing partnerships between UHG, NUI Galway, Tech and MedTech companies. This meant that a team could be formed in less than a day, and the project could be delivered in less than 3 weeks. Having a mix of medical and technical skills on the core team, was key to introducing this into the complex hospital setting. The hospital staff were key in advocating the needs of patients and families.” David Bermingham, Director of AI Applications, IBM Ireland, commented, “COVID-19 has brought unprecedented challenges for frontline medical professionals and patients’ families who cannot visit loved ones in hospital. I am very grateful to all the IBM volunteers who are dedicating time as part of the team to help set up and customise the experience to make it easy for families to stay connected in difficult times.” “The frontline medics are the real heroes here; we’re just proud to play our small part. Deploying a solution like this across multiple organisations would typically take months. However, through collaboration and commitment, we were able to do this far faster, to help patients and their loved ones stay connected during these exceptional times. I’m grateful to all the skilled volunteers who made this happen”, added Keith Griffin, Site Leader, Cisco Galway. This initiative would not have been possible without Irial Conroy (NUI Galway and IBM), Dr Aoife Murray (NUI Galway), Brian O’Donoghue (Cisco), Breda McColgan (IBM), PJ McKenna (IBM), Frank Kirrane (GUH), Leonie Cullen (GUH), Dr Bairbre McNicholas (GUH), GUH IT department, Cisco, IBM and wider GUH, NUI Galway staff and other organisations that kindly provided support. Ends

Monday, 20 April 2020

As the world grapples with a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), Irish academics are exploring eco-sustainable solutions to decontaminate single use masks Researchers and clinicians from Athlone Institute of Technology and NUI Galway have joined forces to tackle the global shortage of N95 masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment (PPE) desperately needed by frontline workers and other healthcare professionals. Offering protection from coronavirus, PPE needs to be carefully removed and disposed of after each use to prevent the spread of the highly infectious disease. Due to its material composition, PPE is extremely heat sensitive and not intended for reprocessing. Conscious of this, Professor Neil J Rowan, Director of the Bioscience Research Institute at Athlone Institute of Technology, and John Laffey, Professor of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine at NUI Galway and Galway University Hospitals, are exploring ways to decontaminate PPE without destroying it. “A key priority is making sure our frontline healthcare workers have the PPE they need to be protected against COVID-19. Unfortunately, the combination of supply chain challenges and unprecedented levels of global demand means that some hospitals are now facing PPE shortages,” explains Professor Laffey. “Reprocessing of PPE using novel decontamination approaches is essential to protecting our frontline workers. Of course, these novel approaches must be assessed and validated to ensure that they are safe and effective to meet regulatory requirements,” he adds. These eco-sustainable solutions, which were recently published in leading environmental journal STOTEN, harness the power of vaporised hydrogen peroxide (VH2O2) to neutralise COVID-19 and other contagions. Use of this gas has just been FDA-authorized for decontaminating N95 masks and a similar authorized approach is likely to be deployed in the Republic of Ireland. Professors Rowan and Laffey’s research indicates demand has overtaken supply for vital PPE where there is a critical shortage for frontline healthcare workers. What is proposed are best solutions to ensure supply including provision for reprocessed PPE that would be safe and fit for purpose during this COVID-19 crisis. “A pandemic foists untold and unexpected demands on society that includes provision or contingency planning for reprocessing PPE. The majority of existing in-house hospital and adjacent minimal processing technologies, as used in food industry, will not be effective for reprocessing PPE,” explains Professor Rowan, who is also an Adjunct Professor at NUI Galway’s School of Medicine. “However, review of best evidence suggests that VH2O2 and possibly UV irradiation technologies for deploying within healthcare environment can be used to fill this gap and will be paramount to ensuring the safety of our healthcare workers during this public health emergency.” Their vital research is being supported by ‘INSPIRE’, a programme led by Professors Martin O’Halloran and John Laffey, and composed of academics, clinicians and scientists from University Hospital Galway, the BioInnovate Programme and the Translational Medical Device Lab at NUI Galway, CÚRAM, the SFI Centre for Research in Medical Devices, GMIT and AIT’Software Research Institute and Applied Polymer Technology Centre. The INSPIRE programme has been met with much enthusiasm globally, especially from developing nations like Costa Rica and South Africa. According to Professor Abhay Pandit, Director of CÚRAM: “In the absence of a vaccine, disease countermeasures must rely upon preventing or slowing person-to-person transmission.” He notes that despite increased efforts to protect frontline workers, there is still “a growing international concern” regarding the shortage of PPE, making ready access to suitable decontamination technology crucial. -Ends-

Monday, 20 April 2020

The fifth national Public and Patient Involvement (PPI) in Research Conference, hosted by NUI Galway, will take place on Wednesday, 6 May, but this year all attending will join online. In addition, to members of the research community, there is a particular welcome to the public, patients and to patient and community organisations. At a time when researchers worldwide are in a race against time to understand the COVID 19 virus and to find effective treatments, or better still, a cure, researchers at Irish Universities are rising to the challenge. But with research projects being set up very quickly, in many cases backed by significant public funding, now more than ever it is important that one vital voice – that of the public and patient who will be impacted by research results – has a place at the research planning table. The conference, jointly hosted by the HRB Primary Care Clinical Trials Network Ireland and PPI Ignite at NUI Galway, will showcase many examples of PPI in research, that is, how public and patients are working in partnership with research teams, ensuring that the research conducted is more relevant for patients and that the research focuses on improving things that matter most to patients. Importantly, PPI contributors, those who bring the public and patient voice to research, can contribute greatly to making sure the results of the research are shared with the public in non-technical language and are used to bring about change. The theme of the conference is ‘PPI across the lifecourse’. The conference will open with a focus on the importance of hearing the patient voice when using research results to influence health policy, illustrated by the voice of people with dementia and their carers in shaping the national dementia policy. In contrast, young people from the Mayo Tusla Children and Young People’s Advisory Group, will discuss how they shaped research about social media use among their own age group. Anne Lennon Bird will share her personal experience of Huntington’s Disease, and describe the journey of a small patient organisation, initially set up to provide support to families, that has now become involved in the international research arena. Society as a whole has rapidly got up to speed with online technology, and moving the conference online is a major step that has been welcomed by PPI contributors.  Anne Daly, a health coach, specialising in diabetes and thyroid health and a PPI contributor, working with a number of research teams at NUI Galway, said: “I am very happy to be involved with PPI, which is mutually beneficial for both researchers and myself as a public representative in research. It is good for all concerned that this conference has gone ahead despite the current challenges. Where there's a will there's a way! It's reassuring that PPI is being included in COVID 19 related research projects and that researchers have not just abandoned us PPI contributors due to the urgency of COVID 19. My PPI colleagues and I expedite all requests at this this critical time.” Denise Dunne from Croí, the heart and stroke charity, and NUI Galway’s Dr Chris Noone will share their perspectives of developing a PPI partnership, through a new Health Research Board (HRB) funded programme. Denise said: “Involvement in the CES-P project has been a great opportunity for me, both professionally and personally, it is great to really get patients involved and not just pay lip service to the process. It has been eye opening for me and it is now also fully embedded in our research processes at Croí, feedback from patients has been one of a real openness and positivity to the whole process and we plan to continue a Croí PPI panel into the future.” Contributions from members of the ME/CFS Association of Ireland and the Endometriosis Society of Ireland and researchers they worked with will highlight the important differences well-conducted PPI can bring to the quality and impact of research. To close out the conference, Professor Sean Dinneen, who leads PPI at NUI Galway, will reflect on how and why it is so important that PPI continues in this time of pandemic, and that the voice of the patient is maintained in the swathe of new COVID 19 studies being pursued.   Casey Donaghey, one of three PPI contributors on the conference organising committee said: “Having a voice in these weird times was a blessing. Being able to move the conference online and still reach people was very important to us, and I’m glad we all (people and researchers) could work together to do it.” Registration for the conference is free, but essential and can be done at www.eventbrite.ie or at the PPI conference section of www.primarycaretrials.ie. A test run will be done in advance to allow people to make sure that they know how to connect into the conference on the day. For more information email info@primarycaretrials.ie or ppi@nuigalway.ie . -Ends-

Saturday, 18 April 2020

New research  due to be presented at this year’s European Congress on Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ECCMID)* has revealed the presence of disease-causing E.coli  in recreational waters, including from beaches rated excellent under EU criteria. The study is led by Professor Dearbháile Morris and Dr Louise O’Connor at the School of Medicine, NUI Galway. E.coli are part of the normal gut flora of humans and animals, but not all E. coli are exactly the same. Some E. coli can produce toxins that can cause serious infection in humans. Shiga -toxigenic E. coli (STEC) are pathogenic E. coli that can cause severe intestinal infection and potentially renal failure and death. Ireland has had the highest incidence rate for human infection with STEC among EU member states for many years, reporting 10 times the EU average in 2017. This research looked at recreational waters for the presence of STEC. Seawater, river and lake samples were collected around Ireland between December 2018 and October 2019 and examined for genetic markers of STEC. Of the 75 samples tested, 49 (65%) were positive for the presence of STEC genetic markers, including 29/52 (56%) seawater samples, 14/15 (93%) river samples and 6/8 (75%) lake samples. Professor Morris says: “To our knowledge this is the first investigation of recreational waters across Ireland for the presence of STEC. There was a high occurrence of genetic markers for STEC in the samples tested, highlighting the need for further investigation to establish the scale of the problem, not only in Ireland but globally. It is worth noting that all of the bathing waters tested were designated as of good or excellent quality based on current EU bathing water quality monitoring criteria. Bathing water quality is assessed based on estimating the total number of E. coli in a 100ml sample over a defined time-period (May to September). Bathing waters in Europe and elsewhere are not routinely monitored for the presence of STEC.  This study highlights the limitations of only assessing the total number of E. coli present as an indicator of water quality without taking into consideration the potential pathogenicity of some variants.” -Ends-

Friday, 17 April 2020

The Health Research Board - Trials Methodology Research Network, Evidence Synthesis Ireland and Cochrane Ireland based in the School of Nursing and Midwifery in NUI Galway will help the public quickly and easily check the reliability of health claims being circulated by social media. The new website, iHealthFacts.ie, is funded by the Health Research Board in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has also brought with it an infodemic of misinformation and disinformation. The pandemic has meant the general public are faced with a constant stream of false information through a range of sources including social media and personal communication, for example messaging groups. Members of the public can submit any health claims they are curious about to the iHealthFacts website. A team of researchers in NUI Galway have established a process for assessing prioritised health claims by searching for evidence to support or refute the claim. The prepared responses are also reviewed by a team of Evidence Advisors from NUI Galway, UCD, TCD, UL, UCC and RCSI and by a panel of Public and Patient Advisors (PPI Ignite, NUI Galway). The result is a short, easy to read, clearly presented response to help the public make informed decisions about their own health. iHealthFacts is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and is intended for information purposes only. The website will be updated regularly in response to the submitted and prioritised claims so members of the public can quickly and easily check the reliability of a health claim circulated by social media. The researchers hope this information will help people think critically about health claims and make well-informed choices. Elaine Finucane, iHealthFacts.ie lead and Research Associate in the Health Research Board - Trials Methodology Research Network, said: “Unreliable claims can lead to poorly informed choices, under- or over-use of things we do to improve or maintain health. Unreliable claims can also lead to unnecessary waste and human suffering. iHealthFacts.ie offers a platform to help tease out the reliability of health claims. We hope it also helps the public think critically about health claims.” Dr Tom Conway, iHealthFacts.ie co-lead and Research Associate in the Health Research Board - Trials Methodology Research Network and HRB Clinical Research Facility Galway, said: “Now more than ever people need access to open, trustworthy, information and iHealthFacts offers the public a simple way to take control and fact check health claims.” Dr Sandra Galvin, HRB-TMRN Programme Manager at NUI Galway, said: “Our team of researchers have already collected and addressed a number of claims which can be viewed on iHealthFacts.ie. Given the current COVID-19 pandemic. These include: Can spraying alcohol or chlorine on your body prevent you becoming infected with the new coronavirus? Does taking ibuprofen worsen the symptoms of COVID-19? Does the use of petrol pumps spread COVID-19 rapidly? iHealthFacts.ie is easy to use, and we welcome the public’s help in submitting health claims to be prioritised for review.” To learn more visit www.iHealthFacts.ie, email info@ihealthfacts.ie, or follow on Twitter @iHealthFacts1, Facebook, Instagram.  -Ends-

Friday, 17 April 2020

New technology to protect Defence Forces, HSE and An Post staff against COVID-19 This week Aquila Bioscience started delivery of AntiBioAgent Decontamination Wipes (ABDs) to frontline services in Ireland, including the Defence Forces, the HSE and An Post.  ABDs will serve as a safe and effective decontamination wipe for first-responders, healthcare workers and postal workers to reduce the spread of COVID-19. ABDs contain components that bind to and decontaminate the surface, trapping the virus for safe disposal. Unlike other decontamination methods, which contain chemicals that can be harmful to skin, ABDs contain no harmful ingredients and can be used on skin and sensitive mucosal areas such as eyes, nose and mouth (the main portals for virus infection). Aquila is a spin-out of NUI Galway, and the concept for this technology was driven by the Irish Defence Forces and an identified capability need in the Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) protection measures. ABD technology was developed by University researchers to safely and effectively decontaminate multiple bio-threat agents (including viruses), and its use will significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19. Professor Lokesh Joshi, the founder of Aquila Bioscience and Vice-President for Research and Innovation at NUI Galway said: “It was the pioneering work done with the Defence Forces Ordnance Corps in countering biological pathogens that led to the development of the ABDs, and the hope is by now putting these in the hands of frontline workers, it will allow them to more effectively protect themselves and the people they’re helping in the fight against coronavirus.”  Speaking today, Comdt Sharon McManus from the Defence Forces said: “The Defence Forces needs to innovate their procedures and technologies regularly to deal with constant challenges presented to them, as well as to gain value and efficiency for the organisation. Research, technology and innovation activities are long term cycles and the ABDs are an example of this innovation cycle. Collaboration started with Aquila Bioscience over four years over, when the Ordnance Corps identified a need for a specific PPE which would deal with chemical agents and through the research and development phases also discovered its relevance for biological agents. Aquila Bioscience, of NUI Galway, an Irish start up, were the ideal partners to work with in developing this product. The personal protection of our key asset, our people, is of the utmost importance to the Defence Forces. The Defence forces have now procured a large quantity of these ABDs and these will be distributed to our troops both at home and overseas for ongoing force protection as well as during the Covid-19 crisis.” In welcoming the official launch of the ABwipe, VADM Mark Mellett, DSM, Chief of Staff, Óglaigh na hÉireann remarked: “For many years I have been to the forefront in advocating for open diverse networks to sense and explore answers to challenging problems. In some cases we have created diverse partnerships to seize and exploit these ideas with a view to creating new technologies, with end user solutions to end user identified problems working with academia, enterprise and others. It was such a partnership that enabled our Defence Forces’ Ordnance Corps to collaborate with researchers from NUIG, as far back as 2016, to develop a cellulose based material for wipes and masks specifically designed to capture microbes such as COVID-19 virus, trapping them inside the material, thereby reducing transmission of the pathogen. I am delighted to see the culmination of our joint research and innovation with NUIG in delivering this non chemical, bio-degradable wipe for use by the Defence Forces and first responders from the HSE, An Post and others, during the COVID-19 crisis.” While there is significant demand for ABDs from other international armed forces and healthcare providers, Aquila is currently focused on supplying public service agencies in Ireland.  Professor Lokesh Joshi added: “As we ramp up our production over the coming weeks we’ll be better able to supply some of the international agencies currently seeking our help in the struggle in their countries, and make this new technology part of the global fight against COVID-19.” -Ends-

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Researchers in the Health Behaviour Change Research Group at the School of Psychology in NUI Galway are collaborating with a team of over 100 behavioural scientists from more than 20 countries around the world on the International Covid-19 Awareness and Responses Evaluation (I-CARE) Study. The international survey assesses people’s awareness, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours in response to the various measures put in place to prevent and reduce the spread of COVID-19 across the world. The study has is endorsed by the Behavioural Change Subgroup who are advising the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) COVID-19. Data from the study will be fed back to the Behavioural Change Subgroup by Professor Molly Byrne, Director of the Health Behaviour Change Research Group at NUI Galway, and a member of the Subgroup. The findings of this study will be used to inform current responses nationally and globally for tackling COVID-19. The research team plan four waves of pushes for the global survey, which is open now, and hope to reach 100,000 respondents each time. The pushes will take place every four weeks, with the researchers making new data analyses openly available every two weeks. This study is being coordinated by the Montreal Behavioural Medicine Centre by Professors Kim Lavoie and Simon Bacon, who work closely with the Health Behaviour Change Research Group. Professor Molly Byrne said: “The COVID-19 pandemic is the most significant public health threat many of us will experience. As countries around the world struggle to manage this deadly virus, governments must develop public health strategies to ensure that people follow challenging preventive actions, such as self isolation at home, social distancing, responding to symptoms, hand hygiene and coughing etiquette. The global response to COVID-19 has resulted in exceptionally high levels of international collaboration, as the world comes together to tackle this global threat. The iCARE study focusing on the public response to national strategies is an excellent example of what can be achieved when scientists around the world collaborate. The findings will be used to inform the response to COVID-19, at both a national and global level.” Co-Director of the study, Professor Kim Lavoie, said: “This study will provide us with ongoing information about how people are responding to government messages and strategies and to identify not only what is working, but where. This is important to understand so that we can adapt as quickly as possible to develop new strategies to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic.” With the survey available in over 40 languages and understood by two-thirds of the global population, Prof Simon Bacon co-Director of the study, believes the team will benefit from a diversity of opinions that will create a clearer understanding of global attitudes toward the pandemic. “This is critically important because different countries are at different stages of outbreak and are deploying different policies,” he says. “To be able to really understand what is working and what is not working requires us to capture as broad a cross section of the world as possible. This range of answers will let us compare different policies across the globe.” To complete and share the survey visit bit.ly/icarestudy.    For further information on the study email covid19study@mbmc-cmcm.ca or contact Professor Molly Byrne at molly.byrne@nuigalway.ie. -Ends-

Monday, 13 April 2020

The preliminary findings from a survey of over 100,000 respondents show that since Government restrictions were imposed* the vast majority of the general public in Ireland has adapted their behaviours in response to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. The population-wide survey conducted by research teams at NUI Galway, Dublin City University, and the Insight SFI Centre for Data Analytics (NUI Galway) is looking at the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the associated restrictive measures (lock down, social distancing) on daily life in Ireland. Respondents reported that they found the recommendations made by the government to curb the spread of the virus very clear. 92% indicated an understanding of the measures around social distancing; 79% of those surveyed were clear on the guidelines around shopping. The figures were also similarly high with regards to social isolation and the advice around leisure activities. Over 85% of the sample reported adapting their behaviours at home. Interestingly, while 75% of people felt they have adapted their behaviour in public, only 37% of respondents felt that others around them in public, have changed their behaviour. Playing board games, indoor exercises and home work-outs as well as going for a walk were the most popular activities carried out by people in the past week.  The results are from the Corona Citizens’ Science Project, a national anonymous online survey conducted in order to understand how people are dealing with the pandemic and how it has impacted on their home life; working life; childcare arrangements; physical and emotional wellbeing. The survey was conducted over a 24 hour period on Wednesday, April 8th and will be repeated again on the 22nd of April. Dr Akke Vellinga, Epidemiologist/Senior Lecturer, NUI Galway, joint research lead said, “The response to our corona-study has surpassed our expectations and shows the desire of the Irish people for their voice to be heard. The results are a barometer of how the pandemic impacts daily life. The next survey on Wednesday April the 22nd will show us how these trends progress and we are appealing to the public to take part and provide feedback on how they are coping.” Professor Anthony Staines, Professor of Health Systems, DCU and joint research lead said, “This is a baseline study on how we are coping with the restrictive measure put in place by the Government to try and flatten the curve of the coronavirus pandemic in Ireland.  As these restrictions have now been extended to May 5th we plan to repeat the study every two weeks to continually check the pulse of the nation and our ability to deal with the current situation.” Some parents have had to adopt the role of teacher during this time with over a fifth of respondents home-schooling their primary school aged children and while they did not report any issues with schooling some indicated they didn’t have the necessary resources, such as a laptop or access to computers (3%). Almost one tenth have a child aged 15 or under in secondary school and reported that schools are sending work home (30%); setting regular home-work and providing additional online support (67%). In the case of those aged between 15-17, it showed that in 67% of cases, schools were setting home-work and providing extra support online. 10% of respondents (10,000 plus) were in receipt of the COVID-19 pandemic unemployment payment. Over 70,000 people of the sample survey reported as employed and of that 63% were working from home. 54% reported contact with people by chatting in person and observing social distancing; 77% reported contact through screen-time or over the phone (86%). Most respondents have a broadband connection (88%), and about 9% have mobile phone internet connection. * February 29th, 2020 Employment/Working from home: 69% of respondents were employed. Students accounted for (4%); those identifying as retired represented 13% and 7% of respondents were homemakers.Of the people who were in employment (70,000 respondents), 6% used to work from home every day, 19% only sometimes and 41% never. Of the respondents who did not work from home it was usually because their job requires face to face contact (44%) while 17% indicated that working from home was not allowed in their company.Interestingly, of the respondents in employment, about 63% did work from home in the past week; 19% were essential workers and 19% were not working anymore. Contact with people: In general, younger respondents talked on average to slightly more people face-to-face than older respondents. It was found that those under 30 met on average over four other people; over 50s on average over three people, while those in between 30 and 50 also met with on average over three people. Childcare/school: In relation to childcare, over 9,000 reported having children in preschool, who are now at home (89%). 26,000 respondents have children in primary school; the vast majority of this category reported favourably about schooling, stating they did not encounter any problems (77%). However, some indicated they did not have the necessary resources such as access to a laptop or computers; others said there weren't enough laptops/computers available and 4% were dissatisfied with an unreliable internet connection. Health 6,000 respondents indicated to have had flu-like symptoms in the last 14 days. Of these symptoms, most common was tiredness/exhaustion (64%), sore throat (54%), dry, throaty cough (44%) runny nose (42%) and/or muscle pain (38%). In relation to the sample of  people who had flu-like symptoms; 52% thought they had symptoms of coronavirus and 53% contacted their GP. Of these; 36% were referred for testing. In relation to people who did receive test results,10% were positive, 18% were negative. Demographics: 76% of the survey respondents were females. The mean and median age was 47 and was the same for male and female respondents.The vast majority of answers came from Dublin (38%); Galway (12%), Cork (6%) and all other counties at less than 5%. Of the respondents, 14% had secondary education, or were going through this, 4% had a technical or vocational diploma, 19% a national cert or diploma and 63% had a University degree. -ends-

Friday, 10 April 2020

New system to safely deliver adjustable ventilation and will halve the number of ventilators needed for patients Clinicians and members of the medical technology (MedTech) sector in Galway have designed a new ventilation system to maximise the usage of ventilators treating patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Inspire Team, based at NUI Galway, have designed a new system to support clinicians to safely split ventilation between two patients, while maintaining the ability to individualize the breath size and the pressure levels required by each.  With health systems globally coming under significant pressure to ventilate COVID-19 patients, it is hoped this new system can help alleviate the pressure on resources in hospitals.  The system is being made available to health services globally on the website  www.galwayventshare.com and it has been designed so that it can be replicated using medically approved ventilator equipment that already exists in most hospitals. The system allows for delivery of the correct lung volume based on each patient’s requirements which can be adjusted as necessary. The amount delivered can be verified through a tablet connected to the ventilator, giving more confidence to the clinicians through individual patient monitoring. The design has been approached from a COVID patient perspective. Patient requirements can vary and the team have ensured that the volume can be adjusted for each patient to cater for this and adjust over time as needed. This is particularly effective for people with lung disease or respiratory illness. Speaking today, alongside co-leads Jack Connolly and Atif Shahzad, Tim Jones said: “The team has come together mindful of the need for speed in developing and sharing solutions that can treat the COVID-19 pandemic. We are making our findings available to colleagues worldwide to help alleviate some of the pressure on hospitals challenged by a shortage of ventilators.  We are meanwhile moving to complete sensor and interface prototypes and rigorously test the full system, with all findings to be shared widely as soon as they’re available.” The Inspire Team is comprised of alumni of the BioInnovate medical device training programme at NUI Galway, who work throughout Galway, one of the world’s MedTech hubs, where approximately half of the world’s ventilators are produced.    Commenting on the potential benefits to hospitals Professor John Laffey, Professor of Anaesthesia at the School of Medicine in NUI Galway, and a Consultant in Anaesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine at Galway University Hospitals, remarked: “The idea of using a ventilator to ventilate the lungs of two patients is very much a last resort. Unfortunately, we have heard some reports of intensive care colleagues in other countries in the tragic situation of having to choose which one of two COVID-19 patients to offer ventilator support to. This innovation will change that decision from one of having to decide which patient to provide this life supporting technology to allowing one to provide ventilatory support to both patients, buying time to allow one source additional ventilators. This solution developed in Galway is an important advance over others because it allows one to control key ventilatory parameters for each patient separately, which is really important for a severe lung disease like COVID-19, and it monitors each patient separately.” Speaking today, President of NUI Galway, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh said: “Experts in the Galway med-tech hub are playing an active part in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Inspire Team have come together from a range of industry and clinical backgrounds with one aim – to help patients during this pandemic.  It’s a core value of our University to work for the public good and the alumni of our Bioinnovate programme are exemplars of this mind-set, by sharing their knowledge globally to support health systems and humanity around the world.” -Ends-

Thursday, 9 April 2020

NUI Galway, University of Limerick, INSIGHT SFI Centre for Data Analytics and Orreco collaboration produces MyCovidSymptoms.ie to track the spread of COVID19 Symptoms in Ireland NUI Galway has collaborated with the University of Limerick and Orreco on a new software package to track the spread of COVID19 symptoms in Ireland. MyCovidSymptoms.ie is a free COVID19 symptom logging website that will be used as a tool to quickly and easily track the spread of COVID-19 in Ireland by gathering anonymous symptom data. This means that researchers can more accurately estimate the prevalence of COVID-19 infections and help authorities make timely, data-driven decisions about protective measures. MyCovidSymptoms.ie Coronavirus Symptom Checker aims to gather information about the clinical presentation of COVID-19. This system is not intended for the diagnosis or treatment of disease but rather a collection of clinical symptoms in the context of COVID19. All data captured is anonymous and there is no way for it to be connected back to an individual. The aggregate anonymous data will be provided to the Irish health authorities to help with their planning and will be used in research by NUI Galway and University of Limerick to help prevent and mitigate future pandemics. Professor Derek O’Keeffe, Consultant Physician University Hospital Galway and Professor of Medical Device Technology at NUI Galway is leading the research. Professor O’Keeffe developed the innovative software solution with INSIGHT SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics (Dr Andrew Simpkin, Marc Mellotte, Carlos Tighe) and collaborators Dr Kevin Johnson, University of Limerick and Gearóid Hynes, Conor Maguire and Kevin McGinley of Orreco, with graphic design by Eamon Whyte. NUI Galway’s Professor Derek O’Keeffe said: “To defeat your enemy you must know where it is and the data from MyCovidSymptoms.ie and COVID19 testing allows us to do this. Clinically it is important to know where COVID19 is in the community, so that we can plan accordingly and learn more about the disease. Globally other leading academic institutions, such as Harvard University, USA and Kings College London, have also seen the importance of this kind of research and developed country specific solutions. We expect that the Irish knowledge that we learn from this will help us all fight COVID19 both now and in the future.” INSIGHT’s Dr Andrew Simpkin said: "MyCovidSymptoms.ie is an opportunity for citizen scientists to help us fight back against COVID19. Having a geographical and temporal picture of symptoms will allow us to answer critical research questions and give the health services a head start in testing. " Dr Gearóid Hynes, Orreco, said: “There is a lot to be learned about COVID19, such as how it spreads in the community and the prevalence of symptoms within the Irish population. By providing a simple mechanism for people in Ireland to record their symptoms MyCovidSymptoms.ie helps address this knowledge gap and we at Orreco are honoured to help this initiative with our data science and software development expertise.“ Dr Kevin Johnson, University of Limerick, said:  “COVID19 is a global problem, we need innovative solutions. Everyone has to part to play with their different skills and that’s what my colleagues and I have done by helping to develop MyCovidSymptoms.ie.” For more information visit www.mycovidsymptoms.ie -Ends-

Thursday, 9 April 2020

A joint investment of €12 million has been announced through a tripartite research and development partnership between the United States of America (USA), Republic of Ireland (RoI) and Northern Ireland (NI). The US-Ireland Research and Development Partnership, launched in July 2006, is a unique initiative that aims to increase the level of collaborative R&D amongst researchers and industry professionals across the three jurisdictions. CÚRAM Investigators Dr Michael Conall Dennedy and Professor Martin O’Halloran are amongst the four awards announced, which will support over 40 research positions across 10 research institutions, for three to five years. Dr Dennedy, lead researcher at the adrenal research laboratory, NUI Galway and Professor O’Halloran, Director of the Translational Medical Device laboratory and Techrete Professor of Medical Electronics at NUI Galway will partner with Ulster University (NI) and Kansas State University (US). The collaborative team of clinicians, scientists, engineers and mathematicians will research an image-guided approach for minimally invasive microwave thermotherapy (MWT) of aldosterone producing adenomas (APAs) for the treatment of secondary hypertension or high blood pressure. They will also develop machine-learnt techniques for identifying APAs and monitoring therapy using nanocontrast technology. The commonest specifically treatable cause of high blood pressure is known as primary aldosteronism (PA). This is a condition of hormonal excess whereby the kidney retains salt and water to increase blood pressure. It is caused by small benign nodules on the adrenal gland called aldosterone producing adenomas (APA). Surgical removal of APAs can cure complicating high blood pressure. In this study, the team of researchers will develop new methodologies for diagnosing and treating aldosterone producing adenomas which avoid the need for surgery and improve patient outcomes and experience. Welcoming the announcement, Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said: “The continued success of the US-Ireland R&D Partnership Programme demonstrates the strong open relationship between our countries and highlights Ireland’s scientific standing internationally. I would like to congratulate all of the award recipients and their collaborators, who are forging innovation and discovery across the Atlantic, with the potential to greatly benefit our collective societies and economies.” Commenting on the award, Dr Dennedy remarked: "This US-Ireland R&D Partnership award will provide the resources necessary to carry out detailed research into the area of thermal therapy of functioning adrenocortical tumours. From a translational viewpoint, it is highly important that we develop methodologies to intervene in conditions such as primary aldosteronism safely and in a manner which preserves as much normal adrenal gland as possible while disrupting the disease causing benign tumour. Ours is the first cross-disciplinary group across science, medicine and engineering to focus specifically on this area, and to receive this funding is a welcome endorsement of our work to date, and our plans for the future.” The US-Ireland Research and Development partnership agencies in the Republic of Ireland are Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), the Health Research Board (HRB) and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM). The partnership is facilitated by the National Science Foundation (NSF), US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), within the US Department of Agriculture in the USA. In Northern Ireland, the Health & Social Care R&D Division (HSC R&D), the Department for the Economy (DfE), and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) are partners. For more information on the programme, visit https://www.sfi.ie/funding/funding-calls/us-ireland-rd-partnership/. -ends-

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

“The EU institutional response after 2009 did not respect, observe or promote human or housing rights. This time it must be different” says Dr Padraic Kenna, NUI Galway Dr Padraic Kenna, Director of the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy at the School of Law, NUI Galway, has said that the EU should avoid the mistakes of the 2009 crisis by ensuring that human rights, and particularly housing rights are embedded within its response to Covid-19. In a set of three new Briefing Papers available at http://www.nuigalway.ie/chlrp/news/this-time-it-will-be-different.html  Dr Kenna outlines how EU institutions interacting with Member States’ in response to this crisis, must now apply the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, especially in economic governance and financial supervision.  He said that nowhere was this more important than in the way in which housing is treated. The three Briefing Papers will form the basis for a significant submission to the European Commission on a New Strategy for the Implementation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, now part of Treaty law for 10 years. Dr Kenna said: “Housing is a fundamental right and need on which so many other rights depend, like health, safety, privacy and home life, as Covid-19 has so clearly shown. Access to adequate and affordable housing for all is becoming a key test of the economic, social and environmental sustainability of the Union.” “Housing is a major political issue in many Member States, including as we know, here in Ireland,” he continued. “Over 80 million Europeans are overburdened by housing costs.  One quarter of Europeans live in overcrowded housing, and an estimated 700,000 people were homeless in 2019. Housing is, once again ,the wobbly pillar of EU banking stability, and this will be exacerbated following Covid-19.” Dr Kenna also commented that a ‘business as usual’ attitude by EU institutions when it comes to responding to the Covid-19 tragedy was no longer good enough for EU citizens. “Maintaining the legitimacy of all our EU institutions is now a vital part of the recovery we need. To do this, we all need to see a real human and housing based-reboot.” -Ends-

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Study published in Nature’s journal—Climate and Atmospheric Science New research published by NUI Galway’s Centre for Climate & Air Pollution Studies (C-CAPS) has shone light on the impact of clouds on climate change. The study has raised serious doubts of the likely impact of human-led interventions involving methods of cloud ‘brightening’ to counteract climate change. The new study has been published today in the Nature’s journal – Climate and Atmospheric Science. The study looks into clouds, with one of the most important types of elements in clouds thought to be sulphate.  Clouds, which are made of many droplets of condensed water on air particles, cool the climate by reflecting sunlight.  According to recent theories, more air pollution serves as condensation points for cloud droplets leading to more solar reflectance. This has led many to believe that fossil fuel emissions and other air pollutions may off-set global warming through cloud ’brightening’.  The Galway study found the addition of a small amount of sea-salt can dampen the effect of clouds becoming brighter as a result of increased sulphate in the atmosphere. Professor Colin O’Dowd, Director of C-CAPS and Established Chair of Atmospheric Physics, said: “The study backs up our previous thinking that sea-salt will factor out other substances and cause competition between potential nuclei influencing cloud reflectance. This means that recent theories that increased sulphate production can decrease the impact of climate change need to be reconsidered. Science is clearly pointing to the fact that carbon-based human activity is hurting our environment and there’s only one pathway to solve this - less fossil fuel and no interference with nature.” Researchers from NUI Galway joined the Spanish research vessel BIO Hesperides circling Antarctica’s Southern Ocean, known as the world’s cleanest laboratory.  The purpose of the expedition was to examine how the world’s atmosphere is functioning in a pollution free environment.  Lead author Dr Kirsten Fossum commented: “Clouds, particularly those overlying dark ocean surfaces, are the Earth’s key climate regulators, accounting for half of global reflectance. Pollution-induced changes to cloud reflectance, represent the single biggest uncertainty in predicting future climate change.  The large area covered and systematic evidence from the cruise to Antarctica provided the vast sample of clean air needed to conclusively support this study.” The study was funded by SFI through the MaREI centre and the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness. The Antarctic cruise that led to this study was organised by the Institut de Ciéncies del Mar (CSIC), Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. The researchers behind the study run the Mace Head Air Pollution and Climate Laboratory on the west coast of Ireland where they study the cleanest air in Europe and in the northern hemisphere. The team also recently released a unique smartphone app, known as StreamAir, it provides real-time weather forecasting and highlights key drivers of air pollution and climate disruption through air quality indications. To read the full study in Nature can be viewed at https://www.nature.com/npjclimatsci/. For more information on Mace Head, visit: www.macehead.org. -Ends-

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Research teams at NUI Galway, Dublin City University, and the Insight SFI Centre for Data Analytics based at NUI Galway, are working together on a population-wide survey to find out about the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic and the associated restrictive measures (lock down, social distancing) on daily life in Ireland. The Corona Citizens’ Science Project is a national anonymous online survey seeking to understand how people are dealing with the pandemic and how it has impacted on their home life; working life; childcare arrangements; physical and emotional wellbeing. The survey asks about the impact of the measures imposed by the government starting from the ‘Containment Phase’ (February 29th); the “Delay Phase” following the March 12th announcement regarding the closure of all schools, colleges and childcare facilities and the restrictions imposed on March 27th requesting people to stay at home until April 12th, and including for at risk groups, and over 70s to “cocoon”. The findings will be used to contribute to informing the government response to the pandemic and to also assist in planning future measures for COVID-19 and beyond. The survey will go live on Wednesday, April 8th and people nationwide are encouraged to fill in the questionnaire from 6am for a period of 24 hours. It is anticipated that the survey will be repeated again. Dr Akke Vellinga, Epidemiologist/Senior Lecturer, NUI Galway, joint research lead said: “The response of the Irish people to the restrictive measures has been great, but are they taking their toll? This is an opportunity for the Irish people to let us know how we can help. We are calling on everyone to fill out the survey and share the link. We need your help.” Professor Anthony Staines, Professor of Health Systems, DCU and joint research lead said: “This is a unique opportunity for all Irish people to shape our Government’s response to this unprecedented crisis, and start the long journey back to a more normal life, as the pandemic recedes.” The Corona Citizens’ Science Project follows a similar study carried out in Belgium by the University of Antwerp. The survey was conducted on three separate occasions; commencing on March 17th and gathering responses from over 1.5 million people. Key takeaways showed that 32% of respondents had trouble concentrating; 30% were sleeping less and 42% felt under more pressure. The research team found that as the weeks progressed, the percentage levels began to increase. The information was used to inform government policy on how well the population was responding to the measures imposed. -ends-

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Orbsen Therapeutics, a NUI Galway biotechnology company focused on the development and commercialization of first-in-class stromal cell immunotherapies, announced the beginning of a phase 2a clinical trial for the treatment of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) in COVID-19 patients. Between 80-90% of COVID19 deaths are caused by acute respiratory failure. In hyper-inflammed diseases like COVID19 induced ARDS, stromal cell immunotherapy may work by pushing the overactive immune system into initiating a pro-resolving and anti-inflammatory response. In pre-clinical studies led and published by Professor John Laffey at NUI Galway ORBCEL demonstrated the ability to mitigate the effects of pneumonia induced ARDS by improving lung oxygenation, reducing inflammation, reducing oedema and decreasing bacterial infection. This trial of its second-generation immunotherapy, ORBCEL, follows the recent successful completion of a phase 1 trial in 2019 in patients with moderate-severe ARDS. The phase 2a trial, funded by the Wellcome Trust, has been approved by the UK’s Medical Health Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and REALIST has been identified by the UK National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) as a National Urgent Public Health study. Professors Danny McAuley and Cecilia O’Kane at the UK’s Queen’s University Belfast, are leaders in the development and delivery of new medicines for critical care and ARDS and lead the trial which will includes five clinical sites in the United Kingdom. A recent statement from the four UK Chief Medical Officers outlined the importance of clinical trials amidst the COVID-19 crisis. Profssor Cecilia O’Kane – who leads the REALIST program highlighted:e “It is only through clinical trials will we be able to determine if new treatments are effective and safe in critically ill patients.” “The successful completion of ORBCEL’s phase 1 clinical trial confirms our belief in the potential of Orbsen's proprietary stromal cell immunotherapy technologies,” said Dr Larry Couture, CEO of Orbsen Therapeutics. “We believe ORBCEL will prove a valuable addition to the arsenal of therapies to combat the effects of COVID-19.” Orbsen CSO Dr Steve Elliman noted: “While there are over 100 vaccines & therapies in development targeting the SARS-CoV-2 infection - at present there are no disease modifying therapies approved for ARDS.  We’re delighted the REALIST trial was approved & listed by UK NIHR as an Urgent Public Health Research Study so we can continue assess the potential of our ORBCEL-C therapy in patients with ARDS and contribute to the global response to the COVID19 pandemic.” In pre-clinical studies led and published by Professor John Laffey at NUI Galway ORBCEL demonstrated the ability to mitigate the effects of pneumonia induced ARDS by improving lung oxygenation, reducing inflammation, reducing oedema and decreasing bacterial infection. Professor Laffey said: “This success is due to a large scale collaborative effort involving Queens University Belfast, Orbsen Therapeutics and the Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI) and CURAM at NUI Galway. It shows that we can rapidly adapt and offer a complex cell therapy intervention to patients in the time and resource pressured setting of a global pandemic. Clinical trials are the only way to rapidly and safely find therapies for this devastating condition.” -Ends-

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

By Professor Patrick Lonergan, Professor of Drama and Theatre Studies, NUI Galway The university community is deeply saddened by the loss of Mary McPartlan. She was renowned as a singer, highly respected as a producer, and admired and appreciated as a mentor of other artists. She was also an inspirational educator, whose ‘Arts in Action’ programmes gave thousands of NUI Galway students the chance to experience live performances as part of their education. But we will remember her best as our dear colleague and friend – as a person of unique kindness, good humor and fortitude. Mary was originally from Drumkeerin in Leitrim, moving to Galway in the early 1980s. She worked with several arts organisations during those years, including TG4 and Galway Youth Theatre; she also ran her own arts consultancy company, Mac P. Illustrating her life-long commitment to supporting other artists, she founded Skehana theatre company in 1991, a group that staged plays by (among others) Michael Harding and Tom MacIntyre. The latter’s The Gallant John Joe was a popular success during a national tour that featured the distinguished Irish actor Tom Hickey. During that period, Mary become a well-known figure in the Irish arts community for her work as a singer – but it was the release of her debut album in 2004 that brought her to international attention. That recording, The Holland Handkerchief, was nominated for a Meteor Award and was voted Number 1 Folk Album by the UK’s Mojo magazine. It was followed by Petticoat Loose in 2008 and From Mountain to Mountain in 2016. The music collected on those albums is as intimate and it is heartfelt, ranging from folk ballads to bluegrass to jazz – and from Bess Cronin’s traditional songs to Shane McGowan’s ‘Rainy Night in Soho’ and beyond. From 2007 onwards, Mary taught on a wide range of courses at NUI Galway, and her practical experience and professional wisdom had a defining impact on the development of several courses – including the BA Connect in Theatre and Performance, the MA in Arts Policy and Practice, the MA in Drama and Theatre Studies, and others. She also developed a very popular module that introduced international students to the richness of Ireland’s traditional arts. Without question, her greatest educational legacy is the creation and curation of the ‘Arts in Action’ programme, which is supported by the university’s College of Arts, Social Sciences and Celtic Studies. That weekly series of performances runs throughout the academic year, and features an unparalleled range of events by Irish and international artists. Within the last year alone, these have included stand-up comedy from Tommy Tiernan, concerts by Christy Moore and the Gloaming’s Martin Hayes, an original new performance by students, and much more. Those events are open to all NUI Galway staff and students – for free, every week. Mary also taught and designed special Arts in Action modules that allowed students from a variety of subject-areas to include the creative arts in their learning. Over the years, students from Business, Law, Medicine, Engineering and many other areas (including the Arts, of course) have participated. She also founded the NUI Galway Medical Orchestra, allowing Medical students to obtain academic credit by engaging in musical performance – offering them the chance to reflect on the role that music plays within patient health and wellbeing, while also staging concerts that delighted music lovers within and beyond the university. Collectively, such achievements demonstrate that Mary was an educator who believed in overcoming boundaries, including the walls between the university and the city, the disciplinary divisions between academic subjects, and the space between artists and audiences. She believed that the NUI Galway students deserved to encounter great art. But she also believed that NUI Galway students are – and will continue to be – great artists. And while she overcame boundaries, she also believed in building links. She was a Fulbright scholar in 2012, teaching and studying in New York and Kentucky – and just last year she was honoured with the Ireland United States Association (IUSA) Distinguished Alumni Award, which recognizes people who demonstrated exemplary leadership in building links between Ireland and the United States. Mary used those relationships not only to inspire new art (her album From Mountain to Mountain developed directly from her time in the US) – but also to support NUI Galway students. For example, to honour the memory of the American singer-songwriter Jean Ritchie, Mary established a student exchange between NUI Galway and Berea College, Kentucky. She took great care to ensure that the exchange would provide free room and board for Galway students, thereby opening up the life-altering benefits of international exchange to people who might not otherwise have been able to experience it. That quiet commitment to fairness, and that unobtrusive attentiveness to the needs of others, were among her defining characteristics. Shortly after the release of her first album, Mary was diagnosed with cancer. It is a sign of both her resilience and her strength of character that she marked her recovery from that illness with the release of her second album and the launch of the Arts in Action programme at NUI Galway. With the return of that illness in recent years, those traits have again been in strong evidence: until very recently Mary was not only overseeing this year’s Arts in Action programme – but was avidly planning for next year. Our deepest sympathies go to Mary’s family – to Paddy, Mairead, Meabh – and to her wider family and her many friends. She will be missed by all of us in the university, but she will also be celebrated. She believed firmly that the arts must always be ‘in action’: that they must be for everyone, that they must enrich and embolden us, and that they must change the world for the better. That is a powerful legacy that we will cherish and carry forward.

Friday, 3 April 2020

Medical Students will Graduate with Ceremony on Facebook Live NUI Galway have announced details of two virtual conferring ceremonies which will be broadcast live to 310 graduates and their families.  Due to restrictions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, the University will for the first time in its 175 year history not hold physical conferring ceremonies, and will instead mark the occasion online. On Monday, 6 April, at 10am the University will confer 190 future doctors with an Honours Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery, and Bachelor of Obstetrics (MB, BCh, BAO) degree. The University took the decision to bring the final year medical examinations and graduation forward to ensure that the Medical graduates would be available to enter the healthcare workforce. On Wednesday, 8 April, at 12pm the University will hold the Research Conferring ceremony with over 110 students graduating. Nearly 90 students will be recognised by NUI Galway when they are conferred with a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). A number of students will also be conferred with Masters and Doctor of Medicine degrees. Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh said: “These are extraordinary times and our graduates are extraordinary people. While we are deeply disappointed that we cannot share this special day with our graduates in person, we are looking forward to marking the occasion and sharing good wishes online. We imagine together this day and, we hope, better days to come. “During the 175 year history of NUI Galway, our staff and students have shaped many world events and we are filled with pride by those who are bravely battling the COVID-19 pandemic in Ireland and internationally. This community joins those who were involved in previous challenging times, by committing to the public good and the values we hold dear. Our students and staff are on the front lines, testing and treating victims of this devastating illness, and their selflessness and commitment is an inspiration to us all. We look forward to celebrating the achievements of our students with them and their families in a virtual, but no less special way. We also plan to hold a more informal but nonetheless meaningful events in the autumn, circumstances permitting, to mark the success of these graduates who will be graduating remotely this week. These are important days in the life of our university and our students and we look forward to marking them together in better times.” The online ceremony will mark the achievements of students from across Ireland and Europe as well as Malaysia, Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, Brunei, Singapore, USA, China, South Korea, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Iraq, Brazil, Ecuador and Vietnam. It is hoped this global community can come together in shared pride at the achievements of NUI Galway’s Class of 2020. Both conferring ceremonies will be streamed live at www.facebook.com/nuigalway -Ends-

Friday, 3 April 2020

Bronnfar Céim ar Mhic Léinn Leighis ag Searmanas Bronnta ar Facebook Live D’fhógair OÉ Gaillimh go reáchtálfar dhá shearmanas bronnta fhíorúla a chraolfar beo do 310 céimí agus dá muintir. De bharr na srianta a bhaineann le paindéim COVID-19, den chéad uair riamh le 175 bliain ní reáchtálfaidh an Ollscoil searmanais bhronnta fhisiciúla, agus déanfar an ócáid a cheiliúradh ar líne ina áit sin. Dé Luain, an 6 Aibreán ag 10am bronnfaidh an Ollscoil Baitsiléir Onóracha sa Leigheas, Baitsiléir Onóracha sa Mháinliacht, agus Baitsiléir Onóracha san Obstatraic (MB, BCh, BAO) ar 190 ábhar dochtúra. Ghlac an Ollscoil an cinneadh scrúduithe leighis bhliain na céime agus an searmanas bronnta a reáchtáil níos luaithe ná mar a bhí beartaithe le cinntiú go mbeadh na céimithe Leighis ar fáil le dul ag obair sa chóras sláinte. Ar an gCéadaoin, an 8 Aibreán ag 12pm reáchtálfaidh an Ollscoil an searmanas Bronnta Taighde, ócáid ag a mbronnfar céim ar bhreis is 110 mac léinn. Tabharfaidh OÉ Gaillimh aitheantas do thuairim is 90 mac léinn nuair a bhronnfar Dochtúireacht le Fealsúnacht (PhD) orthu. Bronnfar céim Mháistreachta agus céim Leighis ar roinnt mac léinn chomh maith. Bhí an méid seo a leanas le rá ag an Ollamh Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh: “Is tréimhse neamhghnách na laethanta seo agus is daoine iontacha iad ár gcéimithe. Cé go bhfuil an-díomá orainn nach féidir linn an lá speisialta seo a cheiliúradh lenár gcéimithe go pearsanta, táimid ag súil go mór leis an ócáid a cheiliúradh agus beannachtaí a roinnt leo ar líne. Déanfaimid an lá seo a shamhlú le chéile agus muid ag breathnú chun cinn ar laethanta níos fearr amach anseo. “In imeacht 175 bliain OÉ Gaillimh, bhí lámh ag ár bhfoireann agus ag ár mic léinn san iomad imeachtaí domhanda agus táimid an-bhródúil astu siúd atá ag troid go cróga in éadan phaindéim COVID-19 in Éirinn agus i bhfad i gcéin. Ceanglaíonn an pobal seo na daoine sin a thug aghaidh ar dhúshláin mhóra san am atá thart, trí thiomantas a léiriú do leas an phobail agus do na luachanna is mó atá againn. Tá ár mic léinn agus ár bhfoireann ag obair sna seirbhísí tosaigh, ag déanamh tástálacha agus ag cur cóir leighis orthu siúd atá thíos leis an tinneas millteanach seo, agus is inspioráid dúinn uile an neamhleithleasacht agus an tiomantas a léiríonn siad. Táimid ag súil le héachtaí ár mac léinn a cheiliúradh leo féin agus lena muintir ar dhóigh fhíorúil, dóigh a mbeidh thar a bheith speisialta. Tá sé mar aidhm againn ócáidí neamhfhoirmeálta a chur ar siúl san fhómhar, má bhíonn deis ann, chun ceiliúradh a dhéanamh ar éachtaí na gcéimithe nua a bhainfidh céim amach ó chian an tseachtain seo. Laethanta tábhachtacha iad seo i saol na hollscoile agus ár mac léinn agus táimid ag súil le teacht le chéile in éineacht leo amach anseo nuair a bheidh laethanta níos fearr ann.” Ag an searmanas ar líne tabharfar aitheantas d’éachtaí na mac léinn fud fad na hÉireann agus na hEorpa chomh maith le héachtaí na mac léinn ón Malaeisia, Ceanada, Oileán na Tríonóide agus Tobága, Brúiné, Singeapór, SAM, an tSín, an Chóiré Theas, Neipeal, an India, an Phacastáin, an Iaráic, an Bhrasaíl, Eacuadór agus Vítneam. Táthar ag súil gur féidir leis an bpobal domhanda seo teacht le chéile le teann bróid chun éachtaí Rang 2020 OÉ Gaillimh a cheiliúradh. Déanfar an dá shearmanas bronnta seo a chraoladh beo ar www.facebook.com/nuigalway -Críoch-

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Professor Gary Donohoe, Established Professor of Psychology at NUI Galway and Director of the NUI Galway Center for Neuroimaging, Cognition and Genomics, and Dr Akke Vellinga, Epidemiologist and Senior Lecturer in the School of Medicine, have been named as two of five new Research Leaders by the Health Research Board. Each Research Leader has developed strong partnerships with different parts of the health sector to conduct research programmes that will deliver evidence to directly inform changes in health policy and practice. Professor Donohoe is aiming to provide psychosocial supports for young people with severe mental health challenges, while Dr Vellinga will provide actionable research to reduce infections and the use of antibiotics. Professor Donohoe’s award is in the area of youth mental health, in collaboration with the National Early Intervention for Psychosis Service. The overarching aim of this research program is to build capacity for evaluating and implementing psychological treatments in young people with mental health difficulties. 75% of all mental health difficulties first occur between 15-25 years of age, but despite this young people have the poorest access to treatment and supports. The more severe of these disorders, including schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, are ranked by the World Health Organisation as a top five cause of years lived with disability. Commenting on the award, Professor Donohoe said: “This is a tremendous opportunity to lead a collaboration with key figures in the Health Service Executive providing early psychosis services, and international experts in youth mental health research. This award recognises the critical need for research-informed services focused on youth mental health, informing implementation of best practice and new discoveries in routine care.” Dr Vellinga was named as HRB Research Leader for her Collaboration to reduce Antibiotic use and Resistance and identify opportunities for improvement and Awareness (CARA) project. In Europe, about 33,000 people die each year as a direct consequence of an infection due to bacteria resistant to antibiotics.  Dr Vellinga said: “Superbugs cause resistant infections which are difficult to treat and pose a serious threat to human health. This programme will combine, link and analyse data from multiple already existing databases about infection, antibiotic prescribing antibiotic resistance and other healthcare- information. The CARA data-infrastructure will be set up with dashboards for other researchers, clinicians, and healthcare workers to visualise relevant and linked data. Using data visualisation, we will be able to identify opportunities to reduce infections and antibiotic use and improve health care.” Dr Vellinga and her team will be working closely with Professor Mathieu d’Aquin from the Insight Centre for Data Analytics at the NUI Galway, as well as the Health Protection and Surveillance Centre, Irish College of General Practitioners, DCU, and Imperial College London. Dr Darrin Morrissey, CEO of the Health Research Board: “It is essential that we support health research leaders who can deliver solid evidence to improve decision making, practice and policy in relation topical health issues such as health service reform, mental health and antimicrobial resistance.” The research programs will support a team of researchers over five years, including PhD students, research assistants, and postdoctoral researchers, and provide dedicated academic and clinical time. The total value of each award is €1.5M. -Ends-

Friday, 27 March 2020

New therapies for pneumonia patients being developed Quick profiling of immune response in patients to be researched NUI Galway has begun a comprehensive review of its existing healthcare research to repurpose it to help fight the spread of COVID-19. A team of researchers at NUI Galway is examining an existing study of interventions for patients with community acquired pneumonia which is rapidly being repurposed to examine COVID-19 patients. This study is being revised and repurposed to enable healthcare professionals to offer novel emerging therapies to the sickest patients. A new working group has been established to give healthcare professionals the ability to quickly profile the immune response of severely ill patients with a view to guiding therapeutic options. The working group comprises of the University’s top academics in the fields of haematology, immunology and ID. The University’s critical care researchers are working with the Irish critical care trials group and international pandemic research consortia to develop and rapidly implement Clinical Trials in patients with COVID-19 Severe Respiratory Failure in order to test and gain access to novel therapies as they emerge. President of NUI Galway, Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh said “NUI Galway exists for the public good. The Irish people have answered the Government’s call to combat the spread of Covid 19, and the University is mobilising all its academic capabilities to join this global action.  While we’re also repurposing our research to combat this crisis, I’d like to pay particular tribute to our medical community, staff and student doctors and nurses who are on the frontline saving lives in our hospitals, nationally and internationally. They making a great contribution throughout the world and our impact is at its most profound through them and their commitment to others.  We are deeply grateful to them.” Vice Dean for Research at NUI Galway’s College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, and Professor of Anaesthesia, NUI Galway and Consultant in Anaesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine at Galway University Hospitals Professor John Laffey added: “There are several emerging drug therapies for COVID-19, including antivirals, chloroquine and derivatives, steroids and immune modulating drugs. However, the research is at an early stage and further comparative studies are needed to determine their effectiveness before we will know what are the best therapies for COVID patients. Our research focuses on what we already know about virus induced severe respiratory failure and how we can quickly adapt it to make early and effective interventions to save the lives of thousands of people.” Healthcare students at NUI Galway are playing a vital role in the provision of healthcare- in their clinical placement and through volunteering, both in contact tracing and at various testing centres across the city.  The Inspire project, led by Professors Martin O'Halloran and John Laffey, is an industry-academic partnership based at NUI Galway, designed to deliver fast-to-clinic medical devices to support the COVID-19 effort. The Inspire team is composed of over 30 clinicians, medical physicists, engineers and other healthcare staff from UHG, NUI Galway and the local medtech industry.  The team have a number of development streams, addressing topics ranging from infection control to improving oxygen delivery to critically ill patients. One notable stream involves the establishment of a video-conferencing system in ICUs, to allow isolated quarantined patients keep in daily contact with their families. This work is supported by IBM, Cisco and Apple. A second project seeks to reduce the infection risk associated with high-flow oxygen delivery, supported by Tympany, Venari Medical and Endowave, amongst others. If successful, this work will reduce the current dependency on ventilators, allowing for more patients to receive life-saving oxygen therapy.   A new website called www.covidmedsupply.org has been created by NUI Galway and the University of Limerick to offer essential aid in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. The new global platform is designed to help local organisations, such as industry, businesses, universities and labs provide available personal protective equipment. The teams in Evidence Synthesis Ireland, Cochrane Ireland and the HRB-TMRN, all based in NUI Galway are, with the help of the University Library and colleagues throughout the University and broader research community, supporting a number of prioritised COVID-19 related projects including membership of the International Cochrane COVID-19 Executive Response Team, conducting rapid updates of Cochrane systematic reviews (e.g., personal protection equipment), mapping of COVID-19 evidence and conducting a number of World Health Organisation prioritised rapid reviews of evidence. Other measures being investigated by NUI Galway researchers include; enhancing the capacity of doctors to provide respiratory support for COVID-19 patients; using data to accurately predict modelling and potential trends of the virus and preclinical studies into COVID-19. -Ends-

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Intelligence not only involves grey matter, but also white matter - the brain’s wiring system Largest meta-analysis looking at brain structure and cognitive function in schizophrenia An international collaborative study led by researchers from the NUI Galway provides findings on the neural basis of intelligence, otherwise known as general cognitive ability (IQ). This new research uses an imaging technique called diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to provide an insight into how small variations in this wiring system is associated with differences in IQ in both the general population and how disorders such as schizophrenia manifest. Over 40 scientists from around the world were involved in analysing brain MRI scans and measures of cognitive function of 1,717 participants, with both healthy functions and patients with schizophrenia. This resulted in a new method to harmonise data collection and analysis as part of the Enhancing Neuroimaging Genetics through Meta-Analysis project (ENIGMA), Schizophrenia Working Group.  The study, published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, was led by Dr Laurena Holleran, Lecturer in Clinical Neuroscience and Professor Gary Donohoe, Established Professor at NUI Galway’s School of Psychology and Centre for Neuroimaging Cognition and Genomics. Commenting on the findings, lead author Dr Laurena Holleran, stated that: "To date, this is the largest meta-analysis study of brain structure and cognitive function in schizophrenia. Understanding the neural basis of cognitive function is essential so that effective therapies that address difficulties associated with disorders like schizophrenia, which aren’t targeted by current treatments. This is important because cognitive deficits associated with the disorder strongly predict social and functional outcomes, such as employment or social relationships.   “Previous literature suggested that general intelligence relies on specific grey matter areas of the brain, including temporal, parietal and frontal regions. However, the results from this study indicate that efficient connection pathways across the entire brain provide a neural network that supports general cognitive function.” According to the study’s senior author Professor Gary Donohoe: “These results advance our knowledge in a number of ways. Firstly, we have demonstrated that the relationship between brain structure and intelligence not only involves grey matter, but also white matter - the brain’s wiring system. Secondly, it’s not just one part of this wiring system that is important for intelligence, but rather the wiring system as a whole. And finally, the relationship between intelligence and the brain’s wiring system is basically the same in patients with schizophrenia and healthy people, in that the lack of pattern explains their cognitive abilities. This suggests that cognitive function in patients is the same as the general population, at least as far as white matter is concerned.” Research at NUI Galway’s Centre for Neuroimaging Cognition and Genomics focuses on providing a deeper understanding of the complex relationship between genetic, brain structure and environmental risk factors associated with psychiatric disorders. By understanding the neural basis of cognitive deficits, researchers aim to establish whether and how these deficits can be ameliorated by therapeutic interventions, leading to better patient functional outcomes. -Ends-

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Dúshláin roimh mhic léinn go leor de bharr Éigeandáil COVID-19 D’iarr Uachtarán OÉ Gaillimh, an tOllamh Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, ar úinéirí réadmhaoine oibriú i gcomhar leis an Ollscoil agus cion agus comhbhá a léiriú i leith mic léinn le linn éigeandáil COVID-19. Rinne an Ollscoil an cinneadh go ndéanfar na ranganna agus na measúnuithe go léir a reáchtáil ar líne as seo go deireadh an tseimeastair.  Is in OÉ Gaillimh atá an líon is mó mac léinn ó thaobh scaipeadh tíreolaíoch de thar aon ollscoil sa tír agus moladh do mhic léinn filleadh abhaile ar a muintir féin le linn éigeandáil COVID-19.  I gcás roinnt mac léinn níl ar a gcumas filleadh abhaile, agus is cosúil go bhfuil fógraí díshealbhaithe tugtha do mhic léinn reatha.  Cé go dtacóidh reachtaíocht nua le mic léinn atá sa chás seo, tá cásanna ann freisin a bhfuil deacrachtaí ag cuid de na mic léinn a d’fhill abhaile de bharr gur fhág siad níos luaithe ná mar a bhí beartaithe, agus tá éarlaisí á gcoinneáil siar uathu.  Bhí an méid seo a leanas le rá ag an Ollamh Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh inniu: “Is tréimhse dhúshlánach í seo dár bpobal uile.  D’fhan go leor mac léinn i nGaillimh ag an am seo, mar go raibh orthu.  D’fhill go leor eile abhaile, mar go raibh orthu.  Tuigeann OÉ Gaillimh an tionchar atá ag COVID-19 maidir le cúram sláinte, cúrsaí sóisialta agus eacnamaíochta ar gach duine dár sochaí. Molaimid na tiarnaí talún a léirigh cineáltas den scoth dár mic léinn.  “Is tréimhse í seo ina gcuimhneoimid ar an méid a rinneamar agus ar an gcaoi ar chaitheamar leis na daoine timpeall orainn. San fhadtréimhse, is ar mhaithe linn ar fad é go mbeidh clú agus cáil ar Ghaillimh mar áit fháilteach ina bhfuil meas ar chách.  Dá bhrí sin, iarraimid ar úinéirí réadmhaoine a bhfuil ár gcuid mac léinn ina dtionóntaí acu cion, comhbhá agus beagán solúbthachta a léiriú ag an am cinniúnach agus riachtanach seo.” Tá lóistín campas na hOllscoile oscailte i gcónaí do mhic léinn a bhfuil orthu fanacht i nGaillimh, agus tá socruithe i bhfeidhm do mhic léinn a mbeidh orthu fanacht amach ón bpobal más gá dóibh.   Chun mic léinn reatha a choinneáil ar an eolas faoi na forbairtí is deireanaí maidir le folláine agus tacaíocht, reáchtálfaidh an Ollscoil sraith seisiún Ceisteanna & Freagraí ar líne, ag tosú le ceisteanna maidir le lóistín.  Bí linn Dé hAoine, an 27 Márta idir 11am-1pm áit a ndéanfar do chuid ceisteanna uile a bhaineann le lóistín a fhreagairt ag https://nuigalway.pubble.io/app/preview/66049 -Críoch-

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Many Students Faced with Challenges Arising from COVID-19 Emergency NUI Galway President, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, has called for property owners to work with the University and show care and compassion to students during the COVID-19 emergency. The University has made the decision that all classes and assessments will move online for the remainder of the semester. NUI Galway has the most geographically spread student population of any university in the country and students have been encouraged to return home to their families during the COVID-19 emergency. With some unable to do so, there have been reports of current students being served with eviction notices. While new legislation will support such students, there have also been cases where some of those who have returned home have faced difficulties in leaving earlier than planned, with deposits being withheld from them. Speaking today, Professor Ó hÓgartaigh said: “These are challenging times for all our community. Many students have remained in Galway at this time, by necessity. Many have returned home, also by necessity. NUI Galway is mindful of the healthcare, social and economic impacts of COVID-19 on all members of our society. We commend the many landlords who have shown remarkable kindness to our students. “This is a time when we will remember what we did and how we were to our fellow human beings. In the long-term, Galway’s reputation as a welcoming, respectful place is in the interests – and to the benefit – of us all. We therefore request that property owners who have our students as tenants in their properties show care, compassion and some flexibility at this time of urgency and need.” The University’s campus accommodation remains open to students who need to remain in Galway, with arrangements in place for students to self-isolate if needed.   To keep current students up-to-date on all developments in relation to wellbeing and support, the University is hosting a series of online Q&A sessions, starting with accommodation queries. Join us on Friday, 27 March from 11am-1pm where all your accommodation questions will be answered at https://nuigalway.pubble.io/app/preview/66049 -Ends-

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

NUI Galway and University of Limerick collaboration to help front line clinical staff Researchers at NUI Galway and University of Limerick have designed a new innovative Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) emergency supply donation website to connect industry PPE stock to hospitals worldwide. The COVID19 pandemic has overwhelmed the resources of the world’s health systems, often leaving frontline clinical staff without the required PPE, as traditional supply logistic chains lag behind the surge. Professor Derek O’Keeffe, Consultant Physician University Hospital Galway and Professor of Medical Device Technology, NUI Galway, has developed this innovative solution with his engineering colleague Dr Kevin Johnson, University of Limerick, Ireland to help combat this problem. The new global platform, www.covidmedsupply.org, allows local organisations, such as industry, business, universities, and laboratories, who may have PPE stock in supply to list the categories of what they have on inventory of PPE’s, such as gloves, gowns, goggles etc., with contact details and then drop a map pin to show their geographic location. If a COVID19 surge occurs in their geographic area, for example Cairo, Cork, Calgary, then the local hospital or clinic can simply click on the map of their surroundings and see what emergency PPE/Medical stock is in the vicinity and access it quickly. Professor Derek O’Keeffe said: “Speaking with my clinical colleagues across the world and looking at the repeating patterns of health supply logistics breakdowns that have occurred as COVID19 surges have swept across the world, it is clear that innovative alternative solutions need to be developed such as www.covidmedsupply.org to enable frontline staff get vital PPE to keep them and their patients safe.” Dr Kevin Johnson said: “Everybody has a role to play in this fight against the COVID19 pandemic – that could be simply to self-isolate, use your skillset to create a website such as www.covidmedsupply.org or donate any surplus supplies you might have to this worthy cause. With so much technology at our fingertips, why not use it for the good of your community. “ For more information visit www.covidmedsupply.org. -Ends-

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Roadmap critical in the COVID-19 crisis An international conference on ‘Inclusive Ageing: The Way Ahead’, recently held in Brussels in conjunction with the European Committee of the Regions, called for governments, civil society, and researchers to commit to reducing social exclusion of older people and addressing the multiple forms of disadvantage that can take hold in later life. The Conference was co-organised by the ROSEnet European research and policy stakeholder network, AGE Platform Europe and the European Committee of the Regions, and featured an opening address by Katerina Ivanovic, Head of the, Social Affairs Unit within the DG for Employment, Social Affairs and Social Inclusion. Launching a Roadmap for reducing social exclusion amongst older people, Professor Kieran Walsh, Chair of ROSEnet and Director of the Irish Centre for Social Gerontology at NUI Galway, said: “We must maximise the commitment of all stakeholders to engage together to combat exclusion in older age, and to advance innovations in policy and practice interventions.” “It is on this basis that we present a roadmap to reduce old-age social exclusion through research and policy. Critically, the roadmap outlines specific actions with respect to: how we should measure and monitor exclusion in later life; the sort of policy we need to reduce disadvantage in older age; and the sort of research areas that need further work. It also helps to prepare us to be responsive to new and unexpected forms of exclusion.” According to Professor Walsh, the COVID 19 outbreak has the potential to become a new source of social exclusion and disadvantage for older adults. “Older people may not only encounter significant risks to their health, but may struggle to access appropriate information on the virus due to digital exclusion. They may also experience disruption to their support and social networks because of the need for restricted face-to-face contact with others.” However, Professor Walsh also stresses: “More critically, in crises such as these where there is a strain on health systems and resources, it is very important that resource allocation does not become solely focused on those who are perceived to be healthier or, even, more ‘productive’. We need to ensure that health care access continues to be based on need, and not on arbitrary age thresholds. Otherwise, we run the risk of problematising ageing and older people, and devaluing their status as equal citizens in our communities.” Social exclusion of older people is a critical issue for public policy, today and into the future. With 101 million older people in Europe, and a projected increase in this population to 149 million by 2050 (Eurostat 2017), demographic ageing will fundamentally determine the capacity to achieve the stated goal of a ‘Strong Social Europe for Just Transitions’. The conference also stressed the importance of how an ageing-related policy must be evidence based, and rooted in the everyday lives of older people. Otherwise concerns over system effectiveness and system sustainability will very much become a reality. Funded by the COST Association, ROSEnet (Reducing Old-Age Social Exclusion) aims to overcome fragmentation and critical gaps in research and policy to tackle social exclusion amongst older people in Europe. The Roadmap, along with six briefing papers on different forms of exclusion, can be accessed at http://rosenetcost.com/rosenet-briefing-paper-series/  -Ends-

Thursday, 12 March 2020

Aquila Bioscience, a pioneering Irish company, based at NUI Galway and the Irish Defence Forces have announced a collaboration with to provide Irish Defence Forces soldiers with its groundbreaking Anti-Bioagent Wipe (ABwipeTM). Aquila Bioscience and the Irish Defence Forces have been collaborating on this technology for over four years, with the Ordnance Corps actively engaged in the concept & product trials. Working with the Irish Defence Forces, the Department of Defence and the European Defence Agency Aquila Bioscience has developed a novel, safe, effective and environmentally friendly technology to decontaminate surfaces from bacterial, viral and biotoxin threats. ABwipeTM technology serves as a decontamination wipe for first-responders, healthcare workers and for civilians to significantly reduce and prevent pathogen transmission from person-to-person and therefore reducing the spread, panic and impact of the pathogen, as is the case with coronavirus COVID-19. Aquila Bioscience’s ABwipeTM contains components that bind to and decontaminate the surface, taking advantage of the virus’s own attack mechanism (in this case, carbohydrates and proteins). Because ABwipeTM contains no harmful ingredients, it can also be used on skin and sensitive mucosal areas such as eyes, nose and mouth (main portal for virus infection). Most existing decontamination solutions contain chemicals that are harmful to the skin, health of the user and to the environment. ABwipeTM technology was developed to safely and effectively decontaminate multiple bio-threat agents (including viruses), and its use will significantly reduce the spread of COVID19 and will help ensure that first responders and emergency workers are kept safe to allow them to react when called upon. Speaking today, Professor Lokesh Joshi, co-founder and director of Aquila Bioscience, and Vice-President for Research and Innovation at NUI Galway said: “The concept for this technology was driven by the Irish Defence Forces and an identified capability need in the Chemical, Biological, Radiological & Nuclear (CBRN) protection measures. The innovative concept resulted in European Defence Agency supported research & development by Aquila Bioscience at NUI Galway and is just now ready for mass manufacture and could be a valuable technology in the fight against the Coronavirus. This unprecedented situation requires unprecedented measures and the DF have committed to the purchase of a consignment of the AB wipes for troop force protection measures.” At this time of global urgency and unknown impact on human lives and economy because of the COVID- 19 pandemic, ABwipeTM will serve as an essential tool in the arsenal against coronavirus to stem its spread and to save lives. For more details see www.aquilabioscience.com or contact info@aquilabioscience.com -Ends-

Thursday, 12 March 2020

The “What Works to Prevent Violence” funded by UK’s Department for International Development demonstrates the high cost of Violence against Women  An economic cost of over €115,000 for domestic abuse survivors in Ireland NUI Galway today held an event on ‘Violence Against Women and Girls: Accelerating Efforts to Achieve Sustainable Development Goals 5 on Gender Equality’. The event marks International Women’s Day and the close of the What Works to Prevent Violence project undertaken by NUI Galway researchers. The event was a collaboration between NUI Galway and Safe Ireland. The What Works research project which focused on Ghana, Pakistan and South Sudan was funded by the UK’s Department for International Development as part of its global programme to prevent violence against women. The research found that violence against women has serious opportunity and productivity costs. Opportunity costs for women including resigning from leadership roles due to stigma relating to intimate partner violence and changing their work patterns in an attempt to reduce violence they experienced at home. The economic costs of violence are particularly high. In South Sudan, the impact of violence on productivity meant that, in effect, employed women in businesses lost 10 working days per year in addition to their usual annual leave. In Ghana, the productivity cost due to absenteeism alone translated into a loss of 1% of Ghana’s GDP due to violence against women, an extraordinarily high figure. The study’s lead researcher, Dr Nata Duvvury from Centre for Global Women’s Studies at NUI Galway, concluded: “The cost of inaction - doing nothing or not doing enough to prevent violence- is a huge economic burden on not only women but also the wider economy, impacting potential for growth. Governments must be cognizant of the invisible costs violence imposes on countries, a cost that can be wiped out through effective action.” These impacts are also seen in Ireland. Further research conducted by Safe Ireland and NUI Galway found that the total average economic cost of domestic abuse in Ireland to a survivor was €115,790, from the onset of the abuse to their initial recovery. Today’s event emphasised that all governments, including the Irish government, should take a number of new steps to meet the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in relation to gender equality. These steps should include collecting data on a regular basis on the prevalence of violence against women and girls and its costs; to integrate these costs into social and economic policy-making and budgetary planning to ensure Government scale-up prevention efforts; and a comprehensive package of measures to respond to and prevent the levels of violence against women in Ireland.  Sharon O’Halloran, CEO, Safe Ireland reiterated the social change agency’s call for violence against women to be a top priority in the new Programme for Government in order to begin to meet the SDG targets of 2030.  “Through prioritising a comprehensive programme which includes a focus on prevention to tackle the root causes of violence, as well as investing in appropriate infrastructure to respond effectively to survivors, we can begin to systematically erase the structural barriers which keep women, and their children trapped in controlling and abusive relationships. This joined-up approach would also address the social and economic cost to Irish society caused by violence. We know this is achievable, but it needs leadership with the combined effort of all sectors in order to realise the SDGs and make Ireland a more just and equal society.”  The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations’ Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries - developed and developing - in a global partnership.  Goal 5 is to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, with combatting violence being a core component.  ENDS

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

A lecture series at the College of Arts, Social Sciences, and Celtic Studies at NUI Galway featuring new Professors in the College will continue with Personal Professor in the School of Psychology, Professor AnnMarie Groarke, on Thursday, 26 March at 5pm, in the Moore Institute NUI Galway (GO10). In her talk titled ‘What Enhances or Hinders Psychological Adjustment to Chronic Illness for women and men? A programme of research’ Professor Groarke will share findings from her programme of research on psychological adjustment in patients with cancer and arthritis. Given individual variability in response to diagnosis and treatment of illness the focus of this research has been to identify factors that enhance or disrupt adaptation.  Specifically, it highlights the importance of stress appraisal and stress management on quality of life. Coping strategies, illness beliefs and psychological protective attributes that are useful and adaptive are also identified. While diagnosis of serious illness is associated with emotional distress, positive psychological change can also occur in the aftermath of highly stressful events. Some findings on when and why this post-traumatic growth might occur for women with breast cancer will be discussed. The potential impact of prostate cancer and its treatment on men’s sense of manhood and identity is also a focus of interest. Implications for patient care and self-management will be considered. Dr Seán Crosson, Vice-Dean for Research in the College of Arts, Social Sciences and Celtic Studies at NUI Galway, said: “We are delighted to continue this lecture series which provides a great opportunity for the University to make the general public more aware of the world-leading innovative research and practice being undertaken in the college. This is the tenth speaker in the series which has featured contributions to date in the areas of social policy, education, political thought, online therapies, language transmission, folk song traditions in Irish, historical research, behavioural psychology, and modern Irish literature. We are honoured to now feature Professor Groarke in the series, an academic whose research, particularly with regard to the psychological adjustment to illness, has brought significant advances for patients, including through the development of cognitive-behavioural stress management programmes.” -Ends-

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Public can now have early alert on toxicity level of national and European air pollution episodes Tuesday, 10 March, 2020: NUI Galway’s Centre for Climate and Air Pollution Studies (C-CAPS) has launched a new app to provide real-time forecasting data on atmospheric composition which will shine a light on the key drivers of climate change and air pollution and build on its internationally-recognised Mace Head Atmospheric Research station.  The C-CAPS’s Mace Head research centre in Connemara is one of the most important facilities for atmospheric composition observations globally and has been operating as far back as 1958. Executive Dean of Science and Engineering at NUI Galway, Professor Walter Gear, said: “We are very proud of the work we do here and its contribution to European health and to informing measures to protect our planet.  We are now adding this new app, StreamAIR, that will help to raise further awareness about air pollution and climate issues and their implications.” “Ireland and the world’s future can only be safeguarded by an immediate reduction in harmful emissions.  Cleaner air can yield co-benefits for human health and for the planet by reducing the concentration of greenhouse gases responsible for climate change.  Meeting our requirements under the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals is a major challenge for Ireland but by using our technologies here in Galway, Ireland can accurately measure and report the progress it is making.” Mace Head is a member of a number of regional to global networks, contributing data and analysis to a wide range of atmospheric problems.  In particular, it is a World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) atmospheric composition and climate research station, and a European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme (EMEP) supersite with the aim of solving transboundary air pollution problems under the United Nations Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP). The Centre’s Director, Professor Colin O'Dowd said “The StreamAIR app is an extension of the Mace Head real-time data system, designed to fuse together real-time observation and forecast data on multiple platforms including mobile devices.” Through StreamAIR, NUI Galway and Mace Head not only provide current real-time data to a range of agencies and networks, the Facility has generated some of the most important long-term observation datasets of greenhouse gases (GHGs), such has carbon dioxide, methane, and ozone, and ozone depleting substances such as CFCs, along with Particulate Matter (PM), such as sulphate haze producing acid rain.   Professor Colin O'Dowd added, “These long-term trends have underpinned successful policy development and intervention in acid rain and ozone depletion issues, but a lot of work still remains for GHG warming agents, driving global warming.  In fact, ozone is a double agent  - while it is critical to have (stratospheric) ozone high in the sky to protect us from the sun’s harmful UV rays, at the surface, (tropospheric) ozone is a harmful air pollutant, causing premature deaths and mortality, and also a short-term warming agent (i.e. its lifetime is much shorter that CO2) in terms of global warming. The StreamAIR app brings the polluting agents and global warming agents together into the palm of everybody’s hand, emphasising that both types of agents must be reduced through co-benefit observations, research, and policy development.” Dr Liz Coleman, the Principal Researcher on the project, funded by the SFI MaREI Energy, Climate and Marine research centre, said that the app has the potential to identify the sources of air pollution, as well as the toxicity level of air pollution episodes. This information can be combined with exposure data to better inform the public of the potential risks from a national level to a European scale. This enables users to protect their health by taking necessary precautions when a pollution event is forecasted on the app.    The app can be downloaded from the App Store. For more information visit http://www.nuigalway.ie/science/research/macehead/ or watch a video on the Centre for Climate and Air Pollution Studies at https://vimeo.com/bbcswcp/download/371385129/d8dbcd983d. ENDS

Thursday, 5 March 2020

A new exhibition, A Sisyphean Task, will showcase the work of four practice-based PhD students at the Burren College of Art. The exhibition will open on Thursday, 12 March from 5-7pm and run until 9 April, Monday to Saturday, 11am to 4pm. Artistic Research is a core part of the academic programme at Burren College of Art. In its PhD programme, which is accredited by NUI Galway, students focus on a research topic which they explore through artistic practice in order to generate new knowledge. Research at the College represents a plurality of approaches to the artistic process, is interdisciplinary and often informed by collaboration across multiple fields.   Conor McGrady, Burren College of Art Dean of Academic Affairs and curator of the exhibition, said: “Work in this exhibition highlights the interdisciplinary approach that PhD Students at Burren College of Art bring to investigating the world around them, and to contributing to how we understand and engage with it through the lens of contemporary art.” The exhibition will feature the work of students Qi Chen, Tanya de Paor, Kelly Klaasmeyer and Robbie Lawrence and will investigate a range of chosen research topics.   Qi Chen’s research focuses on the combination of portrait, text and documentary film to question or collapse subjective distance between people, with a view to enhancing mutual understanding. Qi has worked as a full-time artist in Hunan Painting Academy and Hunan Province Artists Association, and was the Director of the Young Artists Association of Hunan Province and had the honour of being part of the Great Wall Chinese Painting Distinguished Painters. Tanya de Paor presents research from a series of intergenerational workshops that aim to co- create speculative, fabulated and playful stories about the Anthropocene. Tanya is an artist, researcher and lecturer based in Cork, and her work is concerned with exploring human/nature connections in the neo natural world of the Anthropocene. Her work is multidisciplinary including sculpture, drawing, installation, text and lens based media. Tanya recently presented at the TransCultural Exchange 2018, International Conference for Opportunities in the Arts, in Québec City.  Kelly Klaasmeyer’s research enquires into the relationship between painting and story, exploring as to whether an expanded idea of the portrait can enhance our understanding of subjectivity. Her work is in public and private collections in the United States and private collections in Austria, Germany and The Netherlands. She worked as Arts Writer and Art Critic in St. Petersburg, Russia for the St. Petersburg Times and then in Houston, Texas for the Houston Press and various publications.  The editor of the online art magazine Glasstire from 2007 to 2013, Kelly was awarded a USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Fellowship as well as a Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant for Short-Form Writing. Robbie E. Lawrence’s research examines painting as a vehicle for understanding and ameliorating Thanatophobia (Existential Death Anxiety). Her practice revolves around observational painting and drawing techniques, using representation to investigate the psychology of the objects and people around her. These careful techniques are used to capture moments of storied depth and sensitivity to create quiet, contemplative spaces.    -Ends-