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HRB investment boosts number, variety and quality of clinical trials in Ireland

The €1.7 million investment in a new National Clinical Trials Office (NCTO) will enable everyone involved in promoting or conducting clinical trials in Ireland take a collective and ambitious step to enhance our reputation as a location for clinical trials.

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For over a decade, and with the support of the Department of Health (DoH), the Health Research Board (HRB) has invested significantly to realise the strategic ambition* of having an Irish healthcare system where patient access to clinical trials is a routine part of standard care.

The National Clinical Trials Office (NCTO) will seek to consolidate and grow the reach, the activities and the impact of investments made by the HRB and others in clinical trials across Ireland.

Hosted and cofounded by University College Cork, it will convene and connect key sites and those involved in the design, conduct, and support of investigator-led and industry-sponsored trials in Ireland, including Clinical Research Facilities/Centres across the country**.

The NCTO will:

  1. Serve as a national focal point to signpost and promote Ireland’s clinical trials infrastructures, supports and competencies. Ireland has an ambition to enhance its reputation as a place to conduct high quality clinical trials, and the NCTO will liaise and manage relations with international sponsors of multicentre trials to help them navigate our clinical trials ecosystem and support them in study site selection and efficient trial set-up.
  2. Act as Ireland’s national scientific partner to connect the trials community in Ireland with the European Clinical Research Infrastructure Network (ECRIN)*** to enhance participation in multinational trials.
  3. Convene investigators, sites, networks, funders, patient groups and regulators to discuss opportunities, strategies and solutions to grow and improve the conduct of trials in Ireland.

Commenting on the award, Dr Mairéad O’Driscoll, CEO of the HRB, said:

“Clinical trials are essential in contemporary evidence-based medicine. They help us to evaluate new treatments and interventions and are key drivers of safer care and better outcomes for patients. In addition, clinical trials contribute to economic growth. The NCTO is an important part of Ireland’s clinical research ecosystem as it connects otherwise fragmented facilities, networks and stakeholders to work together to enhance our reputation as a country that delivers high quality, efficient and well-regulated trials.”

Welcoming the award, Professor Joe Eustace, Principal Investigator and Director of the NCTO, said:

“The NCTO is a critical component of the Irish Clinical Trial Ecosystem providing a single point of contact for both commercial and academic organizations seeking to establish trials in Ireland. It will serve as a central resource for identifying and helping to address issues limiting Ireland’s ability to efficiently conduct clinical trials. It will also help to promote interactions between the Clinical Research Facilities and Centres.”  

Enterprise Ireland has partnered with the HRB to provide funding to enable the NCTO to host a clinical industry liaison officer. Deirdre Glenn, Director, Life Sciences, Enterprise Ireland, said:

“Enterprise Ireland is particularly delighted to support the advancement of NCTO supports for medical technologies, which will facilitate many Irish MedTech companies seeking to engage with the local clinical trials infrastructure for product development and validation. The NCTO is an excellent addition to the dynamic Life Sciences ecosystem here in Ireland and will play an important role in supporting Ireland’s status as a global leader in healthcare.”

The NCTO will launch a website soon to help signpost and promote Ireland’s clinical trial activities. Once live the HRB will provide an updated link.


The Health Research Board (HRB) is Ireland’s lead funding agency supporting innovative health research and delivering data and evidence that improves people’s health and patient care. We are committed to putting people first, and ensuring data and evidence are used in policy and practice to overcome health challenges, advance health systems, and benefit society and economy.


From a low base in the early 2000s, the HRB has supported training and careers for those involved in the design, conduct and monitoring of clinical trials; provided funding to enable the conduct of important clinical trials; supported clinical trial networks to bring stakeholders together to enhance trial activity in particular thematic areas; and invested in facilities and centres on the campuses of our hospitals to enable the delivery of trials.


The NCTO is a collaboration of seven university-based Clinical Research Facilities/Centres across Ireland as follows:

  1. UCD Clinical Research Centre led by Professor Peter Doran at University College Dublin
  2. Clinical Research Facility UCC led by Professor Joe Eustace and hosted by University College Cork
  3. Wellcome-HRB Clinical Research Facility at St James’ Hospital led by Professor Martina Hennessy and hosted by Trinity College Dublin
  4. Clinical Research Facility Galway led by Professor Andrew Smyth and hosted by National University of Ireland Galway
  5. Children’s Health Ireland Clinical Research Centre led by Professor Paul McNally and hosted by RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences
  6. RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences Clinical Research Centre led by Professor Gerard Curley and hosted by RCSI
  7. The Clinical Research Support Unit at Limerick University Hospital led by Professor Paul Burke and hosted by the University of Limerick.

The HRB leads Ireland’s participation in the European Clinical Research Infrastructure Network (ECRIN), a public, non-profit organisation that links scientific partners and networks across Europe to facilitate multinational clinical research.