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HRB invests €22 million to further enhance patient-focused clinical research infrastructure in Ireland

The funding will keep Ireland at the forefront of clinical research and trials and increase opportunities for patients to participate in them and benefit from them. It also increases the supports available to investigators to drive more investigator-led clinical trials, with HRB support expanding from three Clinical Research Facilities/Centres (CRF/Cs) to five.

Picture of nurse and patient

Located at hospital sites and supported by universities, CRF/Cs are the foundation of the national trials infrastructure and are critical for researchers, clinicians and industry partners wishing to undertake clinical trials. They provide the space, facilities, governance, services and supports, and, most importantly, the skills and expertise necessary to enable high-quality, safe, and compliant trials.

This new funding will build on significant achievements made through previous HRB investment in this area and focus firmly on supporting regulated and non-regulated clinical trials. The €22 million aims to:

  • Increase accessibility to trials for patients and healthy volunteers
  • Improve the supports available to investigators to drive an increase in investigator-led clinical trials
  • Further integrate clinical trials infrastructure and capability within the health system so they are delivered as part of usual care
  • Upgrade national CRF/Cs to international standing

Speaking about the investment, Dr Teresa Maguire, Director of Research Strategy & Funding at the HRB, said:

“Since 2010, the Health Research Board (HRB) has strategically invested in the development of clinical trials and their enabling infrastructure. The need for, and benefit of this investment was never more evident than in Ireland’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It enabled us to react quickly and robustly to the crisis and participate in major international clinical trials to find effective treatments for COVID-19, such as the WHO’s Solidarity trial and the REMAP-CAP trial.

“This new round of HRB investment in CRF/Cs will build on these achievements. It will further prepare us for any future healthcare emergencies, and more generally drive a step change in the quality, capacity and accessibility of clinical trial infrastructure across Ireland, which will lead to improved patient care and outcomes.”

This open and competitive call involved an extensive application and international peer review process, and the five CRF/C’s approved for funding are:

  1. UCD Clinical Research Centre, located at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital and St Vincent’s University Hospital, led by Professor Peter Doran, and hosted by University College Dublin
  2. Clinical Research Facility UCC, located at the Mercy Hospital and Cork University Hospital, led by Professor Joe Eustace, and hosted by University College Cork
  3. Wellcome-HRB Clinical Research Facility, located at St James’ Hospital, led by Professor Martina Hennessy, and hosted by Trinity College Dublin
  4. Clinical Research Facility Galway, located at University College Hospital Galway, led by Professor Andrew Smyth, and hosted by National University of Ireland Galway
  5. Children’s Health Ireland Clinical Research Facility, located across all CHI hospital sites, led by Professor Paul McNally, and hosted by RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Principles for this call were developed with the Department of Health, the Health Service Executive and a range of other stakeholders. These principles required applicants to move towards a co-investment model by confirming significant co-funding from the associated hospital and academic partners, and to ensure their proposed activities aligned with those of related national HRB investments, such as the Clinical Trial Networks, the HRB-Trial Methodology Research Network, the National Clinical Trials Office (NCTO) and the National PPI Network.