UCD-led projects aimed at 'reopening Ireland' receive SFI COVID-19 funding

Posted 10 June, 2020

  • Project to analysis raw sewage may prevent COVID-19 resurgence
  • Focus on 3D printing of key PPE parts for wearable equipment and ventilator parts

Two projects led by UCD researchers have received funding under the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) coordinated research and innovation response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The projects focused on 3D printing of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for frontline medical staff, and measurement of SARS-CoV-2 levels at wastewater treatment plants.

The UCD ventures are among 11 projects sharing in a €1.4 million investment aimed at reopening the country said Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD.

“These projects will address immediate priorities to assist us with the challenges we face as we seek to reopen our society and economy, and get the country running again.”

“Research and innovation from our higher education institutions, in collaboration with our health services and industry, can support us in delivering solutions to the many challenges the pandemic has thrown at us. Working together we can find solutions and move forward towards recovery,” she added.

Professor Wim Meijer, UCD School of UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science is leading a project entitled 'SARS-CoV-2 surveillance of sewage and water bodies' which has secured €48,666 in funding.

Co-applicants in this project are; Dr Nicola Fletcher, UCD School of Veterinary Medicine; Professor John O’Sullivan, UCD School of Civil Engineering; and Dr Liam Reynolds, Dr Laura Sala Comorera, Niamh Martin MSc, UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science. Professor Meijer and Dr Fletcher are Fellows at the UCD Conway Institute.

This funding will enable the project team to measure levels of SARS-CoV-2 at wastewater treatment plants.

The project also aims to work out what happens to the SARS-CoV-2 virus in nearby bodies of water such as rivers, streams and sea, including the waters where we swim.

This SFI-funded research will benefit from the expertise of an existing EU Interreg-funded project at UCD called Acclimatize, which determines the levels and origins of faecal contamination in Dublin Bay.

Professor Wim Meijer said: “This SFI funded project for surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 in sewage and bodies of water will provide critical information on the prevalence of the virus in the population, and on the fate of the virus in the environment.”

He added: “This project is a great example of collaboration between UCD Schools, which is one of the great strengths of the university, and it is combining expertise in microbiology, molecular biology, environmental biology, civil engineering and virology.”

Dublin City Council, Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council and Irish Water are collaborating on this project.

I-Form, the SFI Research Centre for Advanced Manufacturing headquartered at UCD, has secured €126,071 in funding for a project entitled '3D printing PPE for healthcare settings'.

Professor Denis Dowling, UCD School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering and Professor Dermot Brabazon, School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, DCU, are co-applicants of the project.

Their work will primarily focus on 3D printing of key PPE parts for wearable equipment, such as face protectors, and parts for environmental protectors, such as door openers and ventilator parts.

The project will provide much-needed PPE for hospitals and other healthcare settings, which will help to protect front-line workers and patients, which will in turn provide greater protection in healthcare settings for workers, patients and their families.

Dr Heather O'Connor, a postdoctoral researcher in UCD within the I-Form Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, producing Face Shields for use by medicial staff on the front-line against Covid-19

Professor Denis Dowling, I-Form Director, said: “Since the start of the pandemic we have been working to support frontline staff, including the 3D printing of over 4,000 protective visors.

“This funding from SFI will be of enormous assistance in helping us to develop our use of 3D printing technology for PPE, including addressing improved part design, material and performance issues.”

Professor Orla Feely, UCD Vice-President for Research, Innovation and Impact said: “A significant number of UCD researchers are continuing to deliver key research as part of our national effort to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. The investment provided by SFI through this Rapid Response call is a critical mechanism for supporting them to carry out this vital research at this time.”

Minister for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan added: “Ireland’s investment in research allows us to move rapidly and coherently in a crucial area such as Covid-19 research. This will have benefits for Ireland but also for the wider world.

“This could not be done without our ongoing long-term investment in our higher education and research and shows the need for continuing investment in these areas at all times.”

By: David Kearns, Digital Journalist / Media Officer, UCD University Relations (with materials from Micéal Whelan, UCD Research and Innovation)