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HRB announces €6 million investment for Clinical Trial Networks on the eve of International Clinical Trials Day 2021

People with dementia, diabetes and infectious diseases, as well as patients of paediatrics, primary care and intensive care, will all benefit from the new investment, which will create opportunities for Irish people to participate in the latest research in these areas to improve outcomes and/or transform treatments and care.

Image of test tube and vitals monitor

Dr Mairead O’Driscoll, Chief Executive at the HRB says:

“As we celebrate International Clinical Trials Day, we should remember the transformation in care and many benefits that high-quality clinical trials deliver, both for individuals and for society. 

"The impact that HRB investments in clinical trial capacity have had in Ireland was acutely demonstrated when we were able to pivot quickly to deliver clinical trials as part of a global rapid response to COVID-19. We are proud of the leadership role we have actively taken in Ireland in this area and we look forward to seeing the benefits that these new Networks deliver for people’s health, patient care and the economy.”

Following a rigorous application process, an international panel of experts selected the six Clinical Trial Networks (CTNs) based on assessment criteria that included each Network’s relevance to Ireland’s health and social care needs, the strength of its collaborative framework, the quality of the proposed Network and trial activities, and the expertise and skill mix of its team. 

The six CTNs are:
  • HRB Primary Care Clinical Trials Network Ireland led by Professor Andrew Murphy National University of Ireland, Galway: Primary care plays a crucial role in healthcare delivery. Building on the success of a previous HRB funding award, this CTN will advance its role by supporting national, international, and industry trials, developing early career researchers in the area, addressing chronic disease and involving patients in the development of research programmes.
  • HRB Dementia Trials Ireland led by Professor Iracema Leroi, Trinity College Dublin: Clinical trials for dementia are low compared to other health conditions, which is one of the main reasons why our ability to manage/slow the condition is lacking. This CTN aims to tackle this problem and triple the number of clinical trials available for people living with dementia in Ireland by 2026.
  • HRB Diabetes Collaborative Clinical Trial-Network-Ireland led by Professor Fidelma Dunne, National University of Ireland, Galway: Diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases in Ireland, and numbers affected are increasing alongside the increase in obesity rates. This CTN will focus initially on clinical trials for diabetes in pregnancy, technologies in diabetes, diabetes and foot disease, diabetes and advanced therapies, and diabetes and behavioural change, with the aims of improving the control and treatment of diabetes, and delivering a better quality of life to people living with it. 
  • HRB Irish Network for Children’s Clinical Trials (In4kids) led by Professor Geraldine Boylan, University College Cork: Clinical trials of new therapies in children have been extremely limited in Ireland. In4kids will allow more children in Ireland to access leading therapies and medicines through well governed trials, to improve their health and wellbeing. This CTN will also develop educational and training resources for healthcare staff involved in paediatric trials and harness a young persons’ advisory group to ensure they have a voice in determining research priorities.
  • HRB Irish Critical Care Clinical Trials Network – Improving Outcomes After Critical Illness led by Professor Alistair Nichol, University College Dublin: Following a successful five years of a previous HRB funding award, this CTN will continue improving the outcomes (survival and recovery) for patients requiring Intensive Care Unit (ICU) treatment in Ireland and building capacity for the conduct of clinical trials in ICU. Having already established itself as an Irish hub for clinical trials in ICU, this Network is now setting its sights on becoming a world-leading coordination centre for the same. 
  • HRB Infectious Diseases Clinical Trials Network Ireland, led by Professor Patrick Mallon, University College Dublin: This CTN unites leading clinicians and researchers with extensive, collective expertise in specific areas of infectious diseases, and aims to enhance the quality of clinical trial design in the area nationally, solve common health problems for people in Ireland, and lead any future national pandemic response.

Our new investment in CTNs is welcomed by our colleagues in the National Office for Research Ethics Committees, who recently established two new National Research Ethics Committees for Clinical Trials, following their appointment by the Minister for Health.

Dr Jennifer Ralph James, Head of the National Office for Research Ethics Committees, says: 

“These new Networks create an opportunity for clinical trials that have the potential to transform people’s lives. Through the work of the newly established national committees and supported by local ethics committees across Ireland, our Office will help ensure that the highest standards of research ethics increase Irish patients’ ability to participate in trials conducted in Ireland.  

“Our team looks forward to supporting researchers to deliver these trials by providing practical support in applying for ethics review.”

Dr Mairead O Driscoll concludes:

“The HRB will continue to build capacity in clinical research and trials in Ireland to support better research and better care.  Additional awards will be made later this year for both clinical research facilities and cancer trials.”

[ENDS]

The HRB is Ireland’s lead agency for health research. We deliver research and evidence that overcomes healthcare challenges; shapes healthcare policy and practice; brings value for society and the economy; and, most importantly, puts people and their wellbeing first. 

For more information contact:

Martha Connolly, Communications Officer, HRB
e mconnolly@hrb.ie
m 085 859 0250

Additional notes:

Full lay summaries of each CTN with press contacts follow:

HRB Primary Care Clinical Trials Network Ireland led by Professor Andrew Murphy, National University of Ireland, Galway:

There is universal agreement in national and international healthcare policy that primary care plays a crucial role in health care delivery. Primary care is the first port of call for most patients when they are sick. It is vital that healthcare professionals have firm evidence on which to make informed decisions about medications and treatments that are right for each patient. Over the last five years, the Primary Care Clinical Trials Network Ireland (CTNI) has successfully provided almost 4,000 patients who attend primary care practices, the opportunity to take part in clinical trials and related primary care research. The Primary Care CTNI has also supported 29 research studies. Our vision is to support the creation of high-quality clinical evidence that will improve patient outcomes in Irish primary care. To do this, we will expand our reach to include trials conducted in community settings by public health, nursing and other allied health professionals. 

Our objectives for the next five years are: 

Objective 1: To maximise the successful delivery of primary care trials in Ireland. We will support national, international, and industry trials. 

Objective 2: To continue to build capacity for world-class clinical trials in Irish primary care. We will provide training and funding to early career primary care researchers. 

Objective 3: To develop an agenda for Irish primary care clinical trials research. We will bring together patients, carers, health professionals, and researchers to develop the ‘Top 10’ research priorities in chronic disease management. We will also develop a list of what trials in this area should measure so that their outcomes are comparable. 

Objective 4: To enhance PPI in primary care research in Ireland. We will continue to grow the capacity of the Primary Care CTNI PPI group by increasing membership, and including the patient voice in all activities.

For more information, or to organise interviews, please contact:
Niamh Connolly, Marketing and Communications Manager, College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, NUI Galway
Email: niamh.connolly@nuigalway.ie
Mobile: +353 86 0110526
Landline: +353 91 495438

HRB Dementia Trials Ireland (DTI) led by Professor Iracema Leroi, Trinity College Dublin:

What are we trying to achieve? 
We intend to develop a network of clinicians, researchers and the public to increase the opportunity for people at risk of developing dementia, or already living with dementia, to participate in clinical trials. Clinical trials are a type of research in which different types of treatments (medication or non-medication-related) are tested to see whether they are helpful and do no harm. By participating in trials, people with a health condition such as dementia can access treatments that may not otherwise be available to them. Participation also allows them to contribute towards the wider goal of helping to find the best way to manage or slow down dementia. Many people find this very empowering. 

Why? 
Clinical trials for other health conditions (e.g. cancer) are much more widely available than for trials for dementia, which is one of the reasons why our ability to manage/slow down dementia is lacking. We need to change this. Ireland has an ageing population and the number of people at risk of dementia or living with dementia is rapidly increasing. Thus, we urgently need to find the right treatments. Clinical trials will help us do that. 

How will we do this? 
We will develop a nation-wide network of professionals and the public who share the common goal of increasing the number and quality of dementia trials in Ireland. We will do this by linking individuals and teams together to develop and carry out new dementia trials. We will train young professionals and educate our health workforce to safely perform trials. We will actively seek out private companies and international partners to test out new treatments (medications and devices) in Ireland. By doing this, by 2026, we hope to have tripled the number of dementia trials available for people in Ireland.

For more information, or to organise interviews, please contact:
Ciara O’Shea, Media Relations Officer, Trinity Communications, Trinity College Dublin
Email: coshea9@tcd.ie
Mobile: 087 787 0746

HRB Diabetes Collaborative Clinical Trial-Network-Ireland led by Professor Fidelma Dunne, National University of Ireland, Galway:

Diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases in Ireland and the number affected by diabetes is increasing at an alarming rate alongside the increase in obesity rates. Good diabetes control and treatment avoids diabetes complications, and quality of life is sustained. Improvements in diabetes diagnosis/management/treatment is research dependent. 

Diabetes research may be initiated by clinicians or by the pharmaceutical industry, both working cooperatively. This network will cover the Island of Ireland, and will include clinicians, scientists, patients, charities and industry working together for the greater good. The network will be supported by already funded HRB Clinical Research Facilities in Galway, Cork and Dublin. Collaboration with researchers in other established networks (e.g. Primary Care) will provide excellent mentorship. 

The individual diabetes network applicants have considerable experience in clinical trials. They can demonstrate individual success with national and international funding to support their clinical trials and their work has already influenced health policy and guidelines. This network has developed a broad international collaboration team with distinguished world experts in their fields. This CTN thus has a very sound footing and will facilitate fund leveraging, capacity building, multidisciplinary research and national and international knowledge exchange. 

60% of our research activity will be generated by clinicians and 40% will focus on questions that industry needs to answer in developing new products. We will focus our clinical trials initially in areas where we have already demonstrated success, including diabetes in pregnancy, technologies in diabetes, diabetes and foot disease, diabetes and advanced therapies and diabetes and behavioural change, but we will expand this portfolio as we grow and build capacity. 

Alongside our research we will also have work streams covering the following important complementary areas: (a) Education Training and Building Human Capacity (b) Communication (c) Industry Liaison (d) Network Sustainability (e) PPI Collaboration.

For more information, or to organise interviews, please contact:
Niamh Connolly, Marketing and Communications Manager, College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, NUI Galway
Email: niamh.connolly@nuigalway.ie 
Mobile: +353 86 0110526
Landline: +353 91 495438

HRB Irish Network for Children’s Clinical Trials (In4kids) led by Professor Geraldine Boylan, University College Cork:

Ireland has one of the highest proportion of children in the EU. Despite this, for decades, clinical trials of new therapies in children have been extremely limited. Most medicines prescribed for children and new-borns have never been tested in these populations, as the focus of pharmaceutical companies has been on obtaining marketing approval in adults. Medicines take years to reach the bedside in paediatric care. Therefore, to improve the health and well-being of future children, this needs to change. 

This is an exciting time for paediatric care in Ireland, with the amalgamation of the three largest children’s hospitals in Ireland to form Children’s Health Ireland (CHI). At the same time, many well-established paediatric researchers working in centres throughout Ireland have recently been brought together to form the In4kids network. In4kids is the national hub for the European conect4children (c4c) network for research collaboration and clinical trials (https://conect4children.org/). In the first three years, the network will implement three, already funded, clinical studies due to begin recruitment in 2021. 

In4kids will allow healthcare staff throughout Ireland to work together to develop a multidisciplinary network, with access and support for participation in national and international clinical trials. The network will develop educational and training resources for all healthcare staff involved in paediatric trials to ensure best practice. Our national young person’s advisory group will allow well-informed children to provide input into the research priorities of the State.

The Network will work closely with CHI, established Clinical Research Facilities and the newly established Paediatric Academic Health Science Network. In4kids will build a sustainable CTN of established paediatric researchers, fostering new research collaborations whilst cementing existing relationships. The Network will allow Irish children to access cutting edge therapies and medicines, through well governed trials, conducted to the highest international standards

For more information, or to organise interviews, please contact:
Joe Leogue, Media and PR Officer, University College Cork
Email: joe.leogue@ucc.ie 
Mobile: +353 (0)87 754 6678
Landline: +353 (0)21 490 2371

HRB Irish Critical care Clinical Trials Network – Improving Outcomes After Critical Illness led by Professor Alistair Nichol, University College Dublin (UCD):

The HRB-funded Irish Critical Care-Clinical Trials Network (ICC-CTN) is a group of researchers and project managers based at UCD that is a coordinating centre for research in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). The mission statement of the ICC-CTN is to improve outcomes (survival and recovery) for patients requiring ICU treatment. The ICC-CTN aims to achieve this through supporting the conduct of high- quality clinical trials (i.e. comparing treatments) on the Island of Ireland and developing as a network nationally and internationally. 

We have and continue to deliver on these aims by achieving our key objectives: 

•    Conducting world-leading studies which benefit patient treatment: The ICC-CTN has led high quality clinical trials in Ireland and worldwide, the results of which have been used to guide patient treatment and improve outcomes in the critically ill. 

•    Developing the ICC-CTN as a world leading trial co-ordination centre: The ICC-CTN has established itself as an Irish hub for clinical trials and has a growing international reputation as a leading clinical trials centre. The ICC-CTN’s established areas of expertise are available to all researchers in Ireland.

•    Expanding our network and our studies: The ICC-CTN has enhanced its sustainability through the receipt of national and international research grants, as well as expanded its collaborations in Ireland and internationally, its geographical scope and areas and types of research and network team. 

•    Building the next generation of clinicians/scientists: We provide training and educational opportunities to clinicians and researchers throughout Ireland. 

•    Learning about how we conduct our research: We carry out research on how clinical trials are conducted with an aim to improve their quality and methods. 

•    Listening to the patient’s voice: We involve patients and their families in our research to ensure our research is relevant to them, reflects their experience and is easily accessible to all.

For more information, or to organise interviews, please contact:
Jane Curtin, Marketing and Communication Manager, UCD School of Medicine
Email: jane.curtain@ucd.ie
Mobile: +353 (0)87 938 0779

HRB Infectious Diseases Clinical Trials Network Ireland led by Professor Patrick Mallon, University College Dublin:

The Infectious Diseases Clinical Trials Network Ireland (ID-CTNI) brings together leading clinicians and researchers in infectious diseases with extensive collective expertise. Each of the applicants and collaborators are internationally recognised as experts in specific areas of Infectious Diseases. This streamlined Network will foster a supportive environment that will help researchers to exchange knowledge and share resources in order to conduct high quality, meaningful and impactful clinical trials into infectious diseases. 

The objectives of the ID-CTNI are to establish a well-structured network of researchers, facilities and infrastructure to improve the quality of clinical trial design in infectious diseases nationally. The Network will extend existing clinical trials to other hospitals across the Network in Ireland as well as completing, from start to finish, three new collaborative clinical trials over a five-year period of this award. The Network will involve patients at every part of this research journey, from designing trials through to reporting results back to the public. This will ensure that the patient’s perspective is at the forefront of all our research activities and keep patients constantly informed of developments in the field of infectious diseases. The Network will also provide opportunity for new researchers in infectious diseases to get valuable training experience. 

The ID-CTNI will network with researchers across the world by integrating our research with international networks in Europe and the US that are working in the field of infectious diseases. This will help the Centre have more impact globally; enable the Centre to access funding to ensure that its activities are sustainable over the long term; and ensure that the Centre retains a leadership role into the future in infectious diseases and pandemic response. The ID-CTNI will focus on research that provides solutions for common health problems for people in Ireland.

For more information, or to organise interviews, please contact:
Jane Curtin, Marketing and Communication Manager, UCD School of Medicine
Email: jane.curtain@ucd.ie
Mobile: +353 (0)87 938 0779