Seven new NUI Galway projects to respond to COVID-19 crisis

'It’s important that as a society, we firstly address the current crisis and then look to the future' says NUIG president

Seven new NUI Galway projects to respond to the COVID-19 emergency were announced by Minister for Business, Enterprise, and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, TD yesterday (Wednesday ) evening.

The rapid response research projects are part of the national, coordinated research and innovation funding response to the COVID-19 pandemic involving leading funding and innovation agencies.

The seven NUI Galway projects to be awarded funding are:

— Equipment to make it easier and safer for patients with COVID-19 to breathe.

— Expediting the diagnosis of COVID-19 in a clinical setting using AI enabled analysis of CT scans.

— Improving long-term patient recovery and reducing disability after COVID-19 critical illness using microRNA-based approaches

— Identifying mental health needs and best practice for psychological support in frontline healthcare workers during and after the COVID-19 outbreak and in future pandemics

— Modelling real-time population-wide impacts of COVID-19·

— Optimising Covid-19 social distancing communications: Identifying and addressing psychosocial determinants of social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic·

— Rapid response and learning for later: establishing high quality information networks and evaluation frameworks for the National Ambulance Service response to COVID-19.

Speaking last evening, NUI Galway President, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh said that as a "region renowned for creativity and as a global medtech hub, our university has been to the fore in looking at innovations" that can support the response to the COVID-19 crisis.

“Our main aim is to serve the public good and the range of activities announced today highlight how we are working not only to address the health challenges created by this pandemic, but also our understanding of the economic and social implications.

“It’s important that as a society, we firstly address the current crisis and then look to the future. We find ourselves having to re-imagine our humanity as we face new times and new realities. Our community is at the centre of innovations to respond to the crisis and the solutions to restore our society after this pandemic,” he said.

Vice President of Research at NUI Galway, Professor Lokesh Joshi said that there has been a tremendous response to the COVID-19 pandemic from our research and innovation community here in Galway.

“Our people have mobilised across all the disciplines and are collaborating to find innovative approaches and new insights for this globally-shared challenge. Ireland’s COVID-19 Rapid Response research and innovation funding initiative is a welcome support to these efforts, and I congratulate the many NUI Galway awardees whose projects seek to benefit patients, frontline healthcare workers, and wider society.

About the projects

Dr Aaron Golden, School of Mathematics, Statistics and Applied Mathematics, aims to build an AI imaging system to support radiology teams in expedited diagnosis of early stage COVID-19 disease using CT scans. The project will build on published open source data from China and, working with clinical radiologists in Ireland, differentiate using a desktop tool a COVID-19 patient’s CT scan as opposed to that of a patient with community acquired pneumonia or other more common lung disorders. The project team includes Dr. Christoph Kleefeld (Medical Physics & Clinical Engineering, University Hospital Galway ) and Dr. Declan Sheppard (Clinical Director of Radiology, University Hospital Galway ).

Siobhan Masterson, Discipline of General Practice, will provide information networks and evaluation tools that will help the National Ambulance Service (NAS ). With the NAS at the forefront of the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in a climate of innovation and adaptation, the project will include learnings from ambulance services abroad and share the Irish experience.

Professor Brian McGuire, School of Psychology, will identify best-practice guidance for mental health specialists and managers tasked with supporting front-line workers struggling with psychological distress due to the COVID-19 crisis. The project will include includes psychologists, a psychiatrist and ICU doctors based both in Ireland and in Italy.

Dr Gerry Molloy, School of Psychology, seeks to better understand what will help people understand and achieve the required level of physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. The project will help inform public health officials as to how best to communicate about the need for current and any future relaxed distancing measures.

Professor Cathal O’Donoghue, Dean of Arts and Social Sciences, will develop a mechanism to deliver real-time analysis of the economic, social and health implications of COVID-19 related interventions. By modelling household incomes, taxes and benefits, the project will help identify who is most likely to suffer from loss of income, leading to more effective targeting and budgeting of income support measures.

Professor Martin O’Halloran and Professor John Laffey will further develop their CPAP/BiPAP Hood for safe oxygen delivery to COVID-19 patients. Supported by local med-tech companies, the multidisciplinary Inspire team are developing oxygen equipment that is easy to manufacture and safe to use, and will reduce risk of infection to front-line healthcare staff and help reduce the demand on more invasive, mechanical ventilators for patients. The INSPIRE team is composed NUI Galway and GMIT researchers, UHG clinicians, medical physics and nursing staff, and is supported by groups and individuals from across Galway, including local medtech, ICT, manufacturing, and quality and regulatory advisors.

Dr Kasia Whysall, Discipline of Physiology, aims to help improve long-term patient recovery by reducing muscle wasting and frailty, especially among older patients. Her approach will investigate whether microRNAs, small molecules which regulate the function of our cells, can predict or improve muscle health and strength following critical illness such as COVID-19. The project is a collaboration with NUI Galway’s Dr Brian McDonagh and Professor John Laffey, Dr Bairbre McNicholas of University Hospital Galway, Professor Ken O’Halloran from UCC and Dr Rónán O’Caoimh from Mercy University Hospital Cork.

For details of other COVID-19 projects from NUI Galway - https://www.nuigalway.ie/our-research/covid19/

 

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