Eight UCD projects awarded €1.5m to help respond to COVID-19 pandemic

Posted 24 September, 2020

Professor Fionnuala Ni Ainle, Professor Patricia Maguire and Dr Barry Kevane
  • The funding from the COVID-19 Rapid Response Research and Innovation Programme focuses on supporting projects addressing the immediate and pressing needs of society arising from the virus

Eight projects at University College Dublin been awarded just under €1.5 million in funding by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) under the COVID-19 Rapid Response Research and Innovation Programme.

The projects will each share in the funding windfall, and are among 41 that received a total of €5.5 million in new investment announced by Simon Harris TD, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science.

“It is clear this virus is with us for a significant period of time and yet we still have a lot to learn about it. Research, development and innovation will play a significant role in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

“[These 41 projects] are part of a national drive to find solutions to the challenges we face now, and to help us prepare to live in a changing environment that requires new thinking and innovative approaches. I would like to congratulate all of the researchers receiving funding today and thank them for their efforts in Ireland’s collective response to COVID-19.”

Welcoming the annouced funding, Professor Orla Feely, UCD Vice-President for Research, Innovation and Impact said: "We are very proud of the response by UCD academics and clinicians to the Covid-19 crisis, having come to together rapidly and across numerous disciplines to produce effective, innovative solutions to the many challenges posed by the pandemic.

“The diversity and interdisciplinarity of the Covid Rapid Response projects demonstrates the breadth and depth of expertise across a range of fields from molecular biology to computer science, as well as the creative and collaborative spirit of UCD's academic community."

Among the eight UCD funded projects is one entitled ‘The COCOON study: COVID-19 coagulopathy and thrombosis: Novel prognostic and therapeutic opportunities’ led by Dr Barry Kevane, Consultant Haematologist at Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, UCD Conway Institute and UCD School of Medicine.

In this multi-disciplinary clinical and translational research study, which has been awarded just under €294,000 in funding, Dr Kevane will work with key collaborators, Professor Patricia MaguireUCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science, and Professor Fionnuala Ni Ainle, UCD School of Medicine and co-directors of the UCD Conway SPHERE research group.

The Cocoon Study is an international project which will examine blood coagulation in Covid-19 patients and its interplay with inflammation.

Using advanced artificial intelligence and genomics technologies, the project will deliver enhanced thrombotic prevention strategies and a rapid diagnostic platform for personalised risk assessment.

The study aims to address urgent clinical dilemmas and to develop novel solutions for existing diagnostic and therapeutic challenges.

Dr Kevane said: “Using technologies which have been developed by my colleagues Professor Fionnuala Ní Áinle and Professor Patricia Maguire in the UCD Conway SPHERE research group, we intend to characterise the molecular mechanisms underlying clotting derangements in COVID-19.  A deeper understanding of this problem would help inform clinical decisions relating to clot prevention and treatment in this disease and would be of major clinical benefit.”

For further information on this project and details on the project partners, visit here.

Details on the seven other UCD funded research projects are as follows:

Professor Madeleine Lowery and Dr Emer DohenyUCD School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering and Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics, are the lead researchers on a project entitled ‘Home monitoring of respiration in Covid-19 patients using smartphone technology’.

Professor Paddy Mallon and Dr Virginie Gautier, UCD School of Medicine and the UCD Centre for Experimental Pathogen Host Research (CEPHR) are the lead researchers on ‘Detection and quantification of neutralising antibodies against Covid-19 infection’, which is looking at the detection and quantification of neutralising antibodies against COVID-19 infection. 

Professor Gregory O’HareUCD School of Computer Science is the lead researcher in a project entitled ‘COMBAT: COvid-19 Modelling through agent-BAsed Techniques’ that is developing models that offer guidance regarding, the transmission of SARS-CoV-2; vaccine roll-out; and controlled sectoral and/or geographic return to work and school. 

Professor Eilish McAuliffeUCD School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems and UCD Centre for Interdisciplinary Research Education and Innovation in Health Systems is the lead researcher in a project entitled ‘Expanding Care Capacity through Remote Monitoring of Covid-19 patients’.

Professor Michael Gilchrist and Dr Nan ZhangUCD School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering; Dr Jaythoon Hassan, UCD National Virus Reference Laboratory (NVRL) and Dr Nicola FletcherUCD School of Veterinary Medicine are the leads on a project entitled ‘Development of Plastic Packaging and Film Resistant to COVID-19’ which aims to develop a plastic film that will ensure coronavirus does not remain viable for more than 60 minutes.

Professor James FX Jones, UCD School of Medicine is the lead researcher on ‘Manufacture of Novel Covid-19 Laryngoscopes for Airway Intubation’, an interdisciplinary project exploring the manufacture of a cheap, disposable, 3D printed video-laryngoscope customised for COVID-19 patients.

Professor Dermot BroughamUCD School of Chemistry is the lead researcher in a project entitled ‘Next Generation Magnetic Beads for enhanced viral RNA detection and improved COVID-19 Testing, Securing Supply, Improving Performance’.

The COVID-19 Rapid Response Research, Development and Innovation programme was established by SFI, Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland, the Health Research Board and Irish Research Council. 

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government, said: “The COVID-19 Rapid Response Research and Innovation funding is critical to supporting Ireland’s National Action Plan in response to the pandemic. 

“This is the fourth announcement of COVID-19 funding from SFI to support research projects across a number of Higher Education Institutes. In the global response to COVID-19, collaboration and partnership are key.

“As a nation, we are stronger when we work together, and we will continue to generate solutions to the many challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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