NUI Galway refocuses its research to fight Covid-19

Pneumonia and immune response among priorities

NUI Galway has announced it is reviewing 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 the university’s top academics in the fields of haematology, immunology, and infectious diseases.

Repiratory failure

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 are 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 front line saving lives in our hospitals, nationally and internationally," he added.

"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 at NUI Galway, 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 very young and needs further examination to determine their effectiveness before we can see results.

"Our research focuses on what we already know about viruses and how we can quickly adapt it to make early and effective interventions to save the lives of thousands of people.” Prof Laffey is also a consultant in anaesthesia and intensive care medicine at Galway University Hospitals.

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.

Medical devices

The Inspire project, led by Professors John Laffey and Martin O’Halloran, 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 more than 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.

Infection risk

A second project seeks to reduce the infection risk associated with high-flow oxygen delivery, supported by Tympany, Venari Medical, and Endowave, among 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 to healthcare facilities.

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 (eg, personal protective 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.

 

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