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Launch of PET CT scanner – research imaging centre

Launch of PET CT scanner – research imaging centre

St Vincent’s University Hospital

Chair, Chief Executive, Members of the Board of St Vincent’s, colleagues and friends 

I am delighted to be here this afternoon, with Jimmy Menton and members of the board of St Vincent’s, to open the UCD St Vincent’s Research Imaging Centre.

I would like to congratulate CEO of St Vincent’s University Hospital, Kay Connolly, and your colleagues here at the hospital, as well as Professor Michael Keane, UCD Dean of Medicine, Professor Orla Feely, UCD Vice-President for Research and their teams, who have worked hard together to develop this facility.  I would also like to acknowledge and thank Dr Ronan Killeen and Dr Julie Lucy and their teams who have led the roll-out programme.

The origin of this project stretches back a number of years when the then UCD Vice-President for Research, Professor Des Fitzgerald, identified the lack of advanced molecular imaging as a gap in our ability to excel in translational medicine. Along with Professor Liam Gallagher from the UCD Conway Institute and Professor Risteard O Laoide, here at St Vincent’s, the team in UCD Research put together a submission to the Higher Education Authority to provide €2.5m in funding for this PET CT scanner under the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions Round 5, which will be used for both clinical research and patient therapy.

The investment by the HEA, supported by the Health Services Executive, in this disease research facility in the hospital setting is most welcome and is an endorsement of the strong reputation in clinical research built up by UCD through the Ireland East Hospital Group.   We believe that this combination of patient therapy and clinical research leads to better outcomes for patients and improved impact in terms of our contribution to global research.   

Already, we have identified the first three research studies to be conducted using this technology: 

Professor Jonathan Dodd is undertaking a study to help identify psoriatic arthritis earlier so that its progression can be slowed or prevented.  He will use the PET CT to detect vascular and joint inflammation in patients with psoriatic disease who are asymptomatic or have no signs of arthritis on clinical examination.  Using this approach, patients with subclinical psoriatic arthritis will be identified earlier and treatment can be initiated to improve their overall health outcomes.

Professor Doug Veale’s research on patients with Achilles Tendon enthesitis will investigate the effectiveness of biologic treatment, which uses genetically engineered proteins made from human genes that zero in on specific targets that control the inflammation process.  Benefitting from the better imaging of tissue and bone provided by the new scanner, Professor Veale will assess the overall disease activity, patient function and quality of life over the study period to measure the effectiveness of the treatment.

Professor Paddy Mallon is conducting a study using PET CT to investigate the impact of long-term medication for conditions such as HIV on the heart.   As new anti-retroviral medicines for HIV have emerged, patients are living longer with the condition, but these drugs can cause cardiovascular side effects.  Professor Mallon will use the scanner to identify early changes in inflammation in the major blood vessels, which may be a predictor of heart disease or damage.

The availability of this advanced technology opens a path for further interdisciplinary research involving medical scientists, physicists and nano-scientists, molecular biologists and chemists, and biomedical engineers.   And the development of this centre provides our investigators with a vital new tool in our efforts to understand health and disease as together we seek new ways to improve outcomes for patients. 

UCD and St Vincent’s have a long history of partnership. Generations of medical students have moved between Elm Park and Belfield, and many are among the leaders in this room today.  

Our partnership is founded on a commitment to excellence in education and research, a guiding principle to seek “what is best for the patient” and a shared vision to have a positive impact on our community and on the wider society.  We are very proud of this partnership, and it is very encouraging to see the progress being made through the Ireland East Hospital Group, under the stewardship of Chief Executive, Mary Day.  

This facility, and indeed the Clinical Research Centre network – under the direction of Professor Peter Doran, is an example of this progress.  The Clinical Research Centre is an academic-led, multi-site, patient-focused facility for clinical and translational research integrated under a single governance structure within the UCD School of Medicine.  It has developed comprehensive research facilities and investigator supports to enable investigators within UCD and our partner hospitals to deliver important clinical research programmes that are contributing to our research reputation.

Peter has been building up a network of clinical research centres across the Ireland East Hospital Group – starting here at St Vincent’s and at the Mater – and expanding to the National Maternity Hospital and more recently to Wexford – with further centres due to open in Mullingar and Kilkenny.  Alongside consulting physicians, Peter has created a momentum of interest among patients who are willing to take part in research that – even if it cannot guarantee to cure them – may lead to better therapies for future patients.

I have no doubt that the development of this research imaging centre will further enhance our capabilities in translational medicine and this partnership will deliver research that “makes a difference”. 

I would like to conclude by once again offering my congratulations to all involved in organising today’s launch and my best wishes for the future.

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