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Opening of UCD CRC Wexford General Hospital

Opening of UCD CRC Wexford General Hospital

Monday 15 April

I am delighted to be here in Wexford this morning to launch this unique partnership between UCD and Wexford General Hospital. This builds on our current partnership in medical education and brings Ireland’s leading clinical research programme to the south east through the Ireland East Hospital Group structure.

UCD is a research-intensive university, committed to excellence in research and innovation and to delivering impact locally, nationally and globally. Excellence in research underpins all the activities of UCD - from influencing our teaching to impacting society.

Right across the university community, investigators are actively engaged in cutting-edge research that enhances all our futures. Of the six research themes in UCD, Health Research is by far the biggest area of focus, and accounts for 40% of our research portfolio, spanning personalised and translational medicine, health systems research, public health and health promotion underpinned by biomedical science and engineering.

Under the leadership of Professor Cecily Kelleher, the UCD College of Health & Agricultural Sciences partners with industry, government and the voluntary sector and together we tackle major human health challenges, including cancer, skin disease, infectious diseases, metabolic and cardiovascular disease, and healthcare in the elderly.

Crucially, UCD has active public and patient involvement in health research, ensuring that the real-life experiences of patients are considered in decision-making processes, allowing us to better shape the research agenda together, improve the quality of our research, its relevance to society and ultimately, positively impact on patient outcomes.

The UCD Clinical Research Centre is an important element of our research vision.  Since we opened our first Clinical Research Centre in 2006, UCD has developed dedicated state-of-the-art infrastructure for translational medicine research at St Vincent’s University Hospital, the National Maternity Hospital and the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, and has emerged as a leading centre for patient-focused research in Ireland.

Through its dynamic links to the other UCD research institutes and centres, the UCD CRC contributes to improvements in healthcare and patient outcomes, by driving and facilitating bench-to-bedside research.

By providing leadership in patient-focused research, the UCD CRC is enabling investigators to complete impactful studies, is a focus for the training of new research professionals and is enhancing our partnership with the Ireland East Hospital Group. The centre’s work continues to enable us to address some of most serious and difficult challenges facing our healthcare system.

It is against this background of a closely aligned University and Hospital Group partnership, that we are here today to launch the UCD Clinical Research Centre programme at Wexford General Hospital. Our experience and expertise in clinical research will bring benefits to the hospital, to your staff and to your patients.

The opportunity to promote our understanding of human diseases has never been greater. Buoyed by recent advances in digital technology, analytical biochemistry and sample acquisition - together with the sequencing of the human genome - differences between biological specimens that are normal or diseased can potentially be elucidated using new advanced technologies such as microarray analysis and proteomics.

I’d like to give you a couple of examples from our extensive range of clinical trial projects in action:

  1. In respiratory medicine, the UCD CRC supports significant funded research through our links to the National Lung transplant programme and the national pulmonary hypertension unit at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital and the National Pulmonary Fibrosis Centre at St. Vincent's University Hospital.

    Up to now, no systematic assessment had been made of the molecular mechanisms and heritability of lung disease in the general patient population or the risk to relatives of affected individuals. It is now technologically feasible to apply the recent advances in the human genome to the identification of fibrosis susceptibility genes in humans.

    Preliminary studies using informatics tools designed to evaluate the information content of expression data for each gene on the array suggest that this technology could identify unexpected molecular participants in IPF, and it may allow molecular fingerprinting that could improve the ability to identify sub-classifications of pulmonary fibrosis that might be more informative than the current classification.

    In time, clinicians could use these genetic findings to develop new strategies for screening and diagnosis, to identify novel therapeutic targets for lung disease.

  2. And as many of you know, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Ireland and accounts for over 25% of new cancer cases.  At St Vincent’s University Hospital, our group performs over 200 lung cancer resections annually. The establishment of a lung cancer biobank through the UCD CRC at St Vincent’s enables us to lead the way for translational lung cancer research in Ireland and to tackle clinically relevant questions such as: 

Can we obtain a better understanding of the molecular evolution of the disease? 

Can we predict which patients will respond positively to therapy? 

And can we develop robust biomarkers of lung cancer?

We support clinicians by providing state-of-the-art facilities within major acute hospitals for high quality clinical research as well as a cohort of professional and experienced research scientists, data managers and clinical research nurses who ensure studies are conducted and managed to the highest levels of quality.

We keep your patients centremost by providing excellent clinical care and access to the latest clinical interventions alongside the motivation to encourage participation in a trial process that – even if it cannot guarantee to cure them – may lead to better therapies for future patients.

We are recognised by regulators, pharmaceutical companies and clinical research organisations as being professional, of the highest quality and suitable for the conduct of clinical trials.

In a complex regulatory environment, the expertise and track record of the UCD CRC brings confidence to hospital leadership and supports to investigators, while ensuring patients are the priority. The expert team of CRC leaders, Nurses, Statisticians, Scientists and others have a proven track record in supporting the delivery of high quality clinical research.

It is against this background of excellence that today’s launch is set. By expanding the UCD CRC to Wexford general hospital we are ensuring that this hospital and its staff are supported to complete high quality research programmes, and that your patients reap the benefits of being cared for in a research intensive environment.

Wexford General Hospital will be the first Level 3 hospital in the Ireland East Hospital Group to be able to avail of expert research support, educational programmes, and oversight of clinical research within the hospital. I know Peter Doran and his team are also working with colleagues at Regional Hospital Mullingar and St Luke’s General Hospital Carlow/Kilkenny to further expand the programme.

A central component of the strategic ambition of the Ireland East Hospital Group and UCD is to evolve into an Academic Health Sciences Centre (AHSC), integrating the best of clinical medicine with cutting edge research to ensure novel healthcare interventions are developed and diffused into Irish practice to the benefit of our patients. Such an approach is critical to ensuring Irish patients have access to cutting edge care at the earliest opportunity. To enable this we have worked with our partners in Wexford General Hospital to develop a comprehensive plan for the development and support of research activity locally.

County Wexford is very important to UCD.  Currently we have 830 students from the county studying across our full range of disciplines from agriculture to architecture to actuarial finance.  And UCD remains the university-of-first-choice for Wexford students applying to Irish universities through the CAO.

Each year, across our healthcare professions – medicine, radiography, physiotherapy and nursing, we place students into clinical training locations throughout the eleven Ireland East Hospitals and, as the major adult hospital in the South East, Wexford Hospital provides a crucial setting for our students in acute and emergency, paediatric and maternity care training in addition to specialist referral services for the region.

Although we are clearly Ireland’s most global university, we aim to impact locally too.  Once the Enniscorthy bypass is opened, Wexford Hospital will be around 1 hour 15 minute journey time from Belfield. 

We are very excited to extend our clinical research centre network to Wexford and will support this really great hospital in every way that we can.

UCD President's Office

University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
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