Personalised & Translational Medicine
At UCD Conway Institute, personalised & translational medicine research relates to the use of information about a person’s genes, proteins, or environment to prevent, diagnose, or treat disease.
We have developed critical masses of researchers across several therapeutic areas, notably in cancer, diabetes, arthritis and infectious disease, with cross-cutting mechanistic viewpoints including inflammation and metabolism. Crucially, this provides a unique opportunity for Institute researchers working across the interface of multiple disease focused research areas. Indeed, there is increasing interest in identifying the common molecular determinants of co-morbidities and developing associated diagnostic and therapeutic interventions.
There is increasing awareness that a greater level of interaction with researchers from the humanities, as well as economics and social sciences, is required for effective translation of biomedical research and implementation in the clinical setting. We are creating opportunities for this interaction.
UCD Conway Institute has also developed a strong public and patient involvement (PPI) aspect across a variety of focal therapeutic areas through The Patient Voice in Health Research initiative.
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BREAST-PREDICT is a country-wide collaboration between experts in the area of breast cancer research, funded by the Irish Cancer Society. This ‘virtual Centre’, the first of its kind in Ireland, was launched in October 2013 and will run for a period of six years.
The vision of BREAST-PREDICT is that each breast cancer patient in Ireland should have their treatment plan tailored for their individual cancer. Most women diagnosed with breast cancer now survive, due to earlier diagnosis and improved treatments. Through a multidisciplinary approach, the envisaged endpoint is to predict as accurately as possible the most suitable therapies for each patient, thus giving breast cancer patients the best chance at a long and healthy life.
Led by Prof. William Gallagher, Director of the UCD Conway Institute, BREAST-PREDICT brings together over 50 researchers from six academic institutions across Ireland: University College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Dublin City University, National University of Ireland Galway and University College Cork, and a nationwide clinical trials group, Cancer Trials Ireland.
The centre’s expertise comprises a wide range of breast cancer areas including laboratory and computer science, medical oncology, pathology, biostatistics, biobanking, population science and clinical trials.
By collecting information and tumour samples from nearly every breast cancer patient in Ireland, with their consent, and using these valuable resources, BREAST-PREDICT scientists aim to better understand how this disease spreads and becomes resistant to treatment and work towards developing new and better therapies.
Systems Biology Ireland (SBI) is a Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) funded Centre for Science, Engineering and Technology research. SBI designs new therapeutic approaches to cancer, its research enabling the development of technologies that can be used for early identification of responsive patient groups and accelerated discovery of new combination therapies.
SBI specialises in cellular signal transduction investigation with a particular focus on development of new treatment strategies in cancer. The experimental approach of the group combines traditional biological experimentation with computational modelling and simulation. This combined approach allows important nodes in signalling networks to be identified quickly and at a lower cost than might otherwise be possible.
SBI Principal Investigators
Walter Kolch, SBI Director; Boris Kholodenko, SBI Deputy Director; Guenther Eissner, Professor of Translational Systems Biology; Desmond Higgins, Professor of Bioinformatics; Christina Kiel, Principal Investigator
Cormac Taylor, Associate Professor; Owen Smith, Professor of Haemato-oncology; Jonathan Bond, Professor of Paediatric Molecular Haemato-Oncology.
Expertise Profile: Professor Jonathan Bond
Professor Jonathan Bond has recently started at SBI as the UCD Brendan Mc Gonnell Professor of Paediatric Molecular Haemato-Oncology. This new position is the result of a collaboration between UCD and the National Children’s Research Centre (NCRC) and is supported through the NCRC Research Leadership Award Scheme by a significant legacy donation from the late businessman and philanthropist Brendan Mc Gonnell to the Children’s Medical and Research Foundation (CMRF Crumlin). In addition to teaching roles at UCD School of Medicine and Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin (OLCHC), Prof. Bond will carry out research into childhood and adolescent leukaemias at SBI. His work is very well suited to the research environment in SBI, with the common themes of systems biology and cancer research.
The huge complexity of altered gene and protein expression in acute leukaemia make it a logical target for systems biology-based investigations, where patterns of multiple changes in cancer cells are identified using computer models. However, to date, these approaches are not widely used in leukaemia research. Jonathan’s work will aim to identify the molecular mechanisms of ‘developmental block’ that drives leukemia (where immature immune cells are produced in excessive numbers but are impeded from developing fully) as well as the molecular mechanisms of treatment resistance particularly in high-risk leukaemia subgroups. His research will centre on real clinical problems encountered by patients at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin (OLCHC), with the ultimate aim of improving outcomes for all children and adolescents with leukaemia.
The UCD Centre for Arthritis Research is a research group investigating common rheumatic diseases. This interdisciplinary team of rheumatologists, clinical fellows, research nurses, biomedical scientists and computational biologists work with hospitals across Ireland and are based in the UCD Conway Institute. Leading research themes include rheumatoid arthritis, gout, vasculitis, & psoriatic arthritis with a focus on personalised medicine.
The research group focus on the discovery and characterisation of new disease mechanisms in arthritis. With a focus on rheumatoid arthritis, the centre uses molecular and cellular biology to characterise pathogenic mechanisms regulating inflammation and tissue damage. The group also focusing on identification of genetic variants linked with the development of autoinflammatory conditions.
Professor Gerry Wilson is the head of the UCD Centre for Arthritis Research. A graduate in Medicine from Queen's University Belfast, Prof. Wilson was appointed to the Arthritis Ireland/UCD Chair of Rheumatology in 2013. He was previously head of the Sheffield EULAR Centre of Excellence for Rheumatology.
Project summary: Is there a genetic cause for chronic recurrent multifocal osteomyelitis?
Chronic recurrent multifocal osteomyelitis (CRMO) is a rare disease of childhood. The child’s bones become inflamed inappropriately; this is called auto-inflammation. This causes pain, swelling and difficulty using the affected parts of the body. Poor growth or fractures in the affected bone can lead to unequal limb length or abnormal curvature of the spine (scoliosis) which are serious long-term problems. CRMO affects one or many bones and symptoms usually recur over many years. The cause of CRMO is not known but there may be a genetic basis because it sometimes affects more than one member of a family.
This study will look at an Irish CRMO population using state-of-the-art technology to study patients’ genes. Using a specific genetic test called whole exome sequencing, we will look at all the parts of the gene that make proteins. This may lead to the identification of differences in one or more genes that could cause CRMO. This information may allow us to personalise treatment to suit individual patients and control the disease more effectively. This will improve the quality of life of patients with CRMO with less disturbance to schooling, physical activities and social interactions.
The UCD Diabetes Complications Research Centre (DCRC) focuses on the macro and microvascular complications of diabetes and obesity. This multidisciplinary research group has expertise in molecular cell biology, genetics, bioinformatics, pharmacology, systems biology, chemical pathology and clinical medicine.
Investigators are based in the UCD Conway Institute, the Mater Misericordiae University and St Vincent’s University Hospitals and work closely with international collaborators in academia and industry. The DCRC is associated with the UCD School of Medicine and colleagues in the UCD Schools of Biomolecular and Biomedical Sciences, Veterinary Medicine and Public Health Physiotherapy and Sport Science. Research programmes are funded by national and international sources including Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), The European Union, Wellcome Trust, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), European Renal Association (ERA), European Foundation for the Study of Diabetes (EFSD) and biopharma industry.
Prof. Orina Belton; Prof. Donal Brennan; Dr Eoin Brennan; Dr Daniel Crean; Dr John Crean; Dr Neil Docherty; Prof. Catherine Godson (Centre Director); Ms Helen Heneghan; Prof. Carel Le Roux; Dr Fiona McGillicuddy; Prof. Donal O'Shea; Prof. Helen Roche.
Expertise Profile: Dr Fiona McGillicuddy
Dr Fiona McGillicuddy is Assistant Professor in UCD School of Medicine and a Fellow of UCD Conway Institute. Dr McGillicuddy is an emerging independent investigator and leads the Cardiometabolic Research Group within the DCRC. Her interests are in the impact of obesity and diabetes on lipid metabolism pathways with a focus on the effects of metabolic disease on high-density lipoprotein (HDL) particle biology. Fiona’s research group are currently focused on understanding how low-grade inflammation, that is evident in obesity, may enhance cardiovascular risk and in turn deciphering nutraceutical and pharmaceutical strategies that may attenuate this inflammation and reduce disease risk. She is committed to increasing patient participation within diabetes research and has acted as lead of The Patient Voice in Diabetes events. In addition to funding from The Wellcome Trust, she is supported by The European Foundation for the Study of Diabetes, The Meath Foundation and the Irish Endocrine Society.