Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

€13.6m SFI Research Centre for chronic and rare neurological diseases launched by Minister Heather Humphreys

19 November 2018

RCSI-based FutureNeuro centre will translate breakthroughs in diagnosis, treatment and connected health solutions.

FutureNeuro, a €13.6 million SFI Research Centre has been launched at RCSI, Dublin today. The Centre aims to translate breakthroughs in understanding of brain structure and function to transform the patient journey for people with neurological diseases.

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD, launched the new FutureNeuro SFI Research Centre for chronic and rare neurological diseases at RCSI (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland) this morning. The centre has been awarded €10.3 million in funding from Science Foundation Ireland with a further contribution of €3.3 million from industry partners.

RCSI FutureNeuro launch
Colette Delahunt, parent of a person with epilepsy; Prof Orla Hardiman, Consultant Neurologist and FutureNeuro Principal Investigator; Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland;  Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD; Prof David Henshall, Professor of Molecular Physiology and Neuroscience at RCSI and Centre Director for FutureNeuro; Professor Cathal Kelly, CEO of RCSI; and Bridget Doyle, Business Development Manager at the FutureNeuro Centre.  

FutureNeuro, which joins a network of world-leading SFI Research Centres across Ireland, will undertake research with the potential to help transform the lives of approximately 800,000 people in Ireland currently affected by neurological disorders(1), with an associated health and societal cost greater than €3 billion each year(2). Initially focusing on epilepsy and Motor Neurone disease, FutureNeuro plans to rapidly expand to other neurological disease areas.

At least one in five emergency department admissions are because of a neurological problem. Epilepsy alone is responsible for about 6,000 hospital admissions per year with more than 95% of these coming through the emergency department.

Led by RCSI, the FutureNeuro SFI Research Centre focuses on the diagnostic challenges, therapeutic needs and clinical care of people with neurological disease. The centre brings together world-leading multidisciplinary scientific teams from Ireland’s top universities with a research-active network of neurological clinicians in Irish hospitals. This collaborative approach with hospital teams and patient groups ensures highly relevant and engaged research. The centre will see neuroscientists, clinical neurologists, geneticists, cell biologists, materials chemists and computer scientists work together to address challenges such as genetics-based diagnostics, developing multi-targeting therapies to tackle currently untreatable diseases, using eHealth to improve clinical outcomes and the appropriate use of health informatics to provide population-based insights into suitable treatments.

Outcomes anticipated from the centre include:

  • Improved understanding of the basic mechanisms of diseases such as epilepsy and Motor Neurone disease
  • Acceleration of precision medicine into clinical practice whereby a patients genetic code informs a doctor’s choice of treatment
  • Point-of-care diagnostic technology in hospitals and clinics
  • Use of eHealth technology specifically designed for neurological conditions, coupled with the introduction of genomic information into health records to support better clinical care
  • New models to screen for disease-modifying treatments
  • The development of new medicines that work by targeting previously unreachable genes and companion nanotechnology solutions to deliver them to the affected brain region

Speaking at the launch, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD, said: "I am very pleased to welcome FutureNeuro to the network of world-leading SFI Research Centres, which are agents of positive impact and growth in Ireland’s economy and society. Excellence in healthcare is a priority for the Irish Government, demonstrated in the €10.3 million we have allocated to the project. The top-quality research that will be undertaken in this centre will improve the standard of care and support available to those living in Ireland, and will ensure that we remain at the forefront of developing cutting-edge healthcare solutions."

FutureNeuro Launch
Olga Brych, Clinical Data Scientist at RCSI an EEG trace of the electrical activity in the brain

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said: “Through the SFI Research Centres, Science Foundation Ireland supports excellent research with impact that underpins economic development and assists international and indigenous industry to grow and flourish in Ireland. These world-leading SFI Research Centres also deliver positive impact to Irish society, an example of which is FutureNeuro’s focus on research underpinning neurological conditions like epilepsy and Motor Neurone disease. The outputs of research conducted in FutureNeuro will improve both the diagnosis and treatment for patients in Ireland and overseas who are living with these and other neurological conditions, and will further enhance Ireland’s leading international standing in research excellence with impact."

Professor David Henshall, Director of FutureNeuro and Professor of Molecular Physiology and Neuroscience at RCSI, said: “Brain diseases such as epilepsy and Motor Neurone disease have a profound impact on people’s lives and until we understand the underlying causes, we are not going to be able to find cures or improve treatments. By bringing together scientists, neurological clinicians, patient groups and industry partners we hope to transform the patient journey for people with epilepsy and Motor Neurone disease to result in faster, more precise diagnosis and fewer hospital and emergency department admissions. Ultimately we hope that the research at FutureNeuro will someday lead to a cure for certain brain diseases.”

Professor Cathal Kelly, CEO of RCSI said: “Clinical and patient-centred research is at the core of RCSI’s mission to lead impactful research that addresses Irish and international health challenges such as epilepsy and Motor Neurone disease. As a focused health science institution with a strong expertise in high quality neurological research, RCSI is uniquely positioned to bring together scientists, clinicians and industry to work with patients and improve health outcomes for those with neurological diseases. RCSI is proud to be the host institution for FutureNeuro and we look forward to driving advances that will improve the lives for people with life-changing conditions such as epilepsy and Motor Neurone disease.”

FutureNeuro has already achieved strong industry engagement working on projects with global pharmaceutical companies, Roche and Janssen, niche experts, Congenica (a spinout from Sanger Institute for genomic research) and Irish SME in cloud solutions, Ergo. The FutureNeuro academic partners are Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, Dublin City University and NUI Galway.

FutureNeuro team
The FutureNeuro team 

Sources:

(1) Cost of disorders of the brain in Europe 2010

(2) HSE Strategic Review of Neurology and Clinical Neurophysiology Services

About FutureNeuro

FutureNeuro is a new Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre dedicated to developing new technologies and solutions for the treatment, diagnosis, and monitoring of chronic and rare neurological diseases.

Initially focusing on Epilepsy and ALS (Motor Neurone disease), FutureNeuro will build rapidly to help transform the lives of the approximately 800,000 people affected by neurological disorders in Ireland. It connects national and multinational industry with key academics and clinicians based in our leading hospitals to provide diagnostic, therapeutic and eHealth solutions. FutureNeuro’s projects with industry partners will bring diagnostic supports to market, a pipeline of new drugs, and connected health solutions that enable patients to monitor and report their health better than ever before.

Hosted by RCSI, FutureNeuro brings together a network of internationally recognised neuroscientists, clinical neurologists, geneticists, cell biologists, computer scientists and material chemists from RCSI, Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, Dublin City University and NUI Galway.

About Science Foundation Ireland

Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) is the national foundation for investment in scientific and engineering research. SFI funds oriented basic and applied research in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) which promotes and assists the development and competitiveness of industry, enterprise and employment in Ireland. The Foundation also promotes and supports the study of and engagement with STEM and promotes an awareness and understanding of the value of STEM to society and, in particular, to the growth of the economy.? See www.sfi.ie.

The Science Foundation Ireland #BelieveInScience campaign promotes the potential that science and discovery offer Ireland, today and in tomorrow’s world. The #BelieveInScience campaign sees Science Foundation Ireland work in partnership with the Irish research community to share a mutual passion for science with the public; to promote an understanding of the ability of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) to create positive change in the world and to drive a sustainable economy in Ireland.

About SFI Research Centres

Science Foundation Ireland has established a network of 17 world-leading SFI Research Centres in strategic areas of basic and applied combined research. SFI Research Centres are unique in that they link scientists and engineers in partnerships across academia and industry to address crucial research questions. They comprise a strong network targeting key fields of Irish research, including smart manufacturing, the bio-economy, digital content, future networks, photonics, pharmaceuticals, materials, marine renewable energy and more.

About RCSI

RCSI is ranked among the top 250 (top 2%) of universities worldwide in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings (2019) and its research is ranked first in Ireland for citations. It is an international not-for-profit health sciences institution, with its headquarters in Dublin, focused on education and research to drive improvements in human health worldwide. RCSI has been awarded Athena SWAN Bronze accreditation for positive gender practice in higher education.