Taoiseach opens clinical research facility in Ireland

A €7 million clinical research facility (CRF) has been opened in Dublin by the Irish Premier, Taoiseach Enda Kenny. The new centre is a joint initiative between Trinity College Dublin and St James' Hospital with funding from the Wellcome Trust and Health Research Board of Ireland.

The Wellcome Trust-HRB Clinical Research Facility, located at the heart of St James' Hospital, will conduct high-quality clinical research, bringing clinicians and researchers together with the common goal of addressing major challenges in health and disease in Ireland. The facility is jointly governed by Trinity College Dublin and St James' Hospital and will enable patient and volunteer research in medicine, nursing, pharmacy, physiotherapy and psychology at the institutions and their collaborating partners.

Commenting on the opening, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said: "I believe that today's health research is tomorrow's health care. In that regard, this new facility is good news for patients as it will allow the testing of new and innovative therapies, technologies and products and should increase the speed at which these innovations and discoveries enter health care services.

"This facility shows the real benefits of collaboration as it will allow greater consolidation of activities between Trinity College and St James's Hospital and provide first-class patient-focused research almost at the patient's bedside, while supporting excellence in medical education and research."

The new centre hosts high technology facilities that are unique in Ireland to enable cutting-edge studies in experimental medicine and early- and late-phase clinical trials at the forefront of biomedical research. These include a research pharmacy capable of safely compounding cancer drugs and handling novel gene therapies and vaccines, inpatient isolation rooms to nurse patients with infections or compromised immune systems, and a neuropsychology suite that will enable high-quality studies of brain activity and cognition.

The facility has a rapidly developing study pipeline with 25 translational research projects already planned or underway. Examples include the PEACHI project (an EU-funded project to develop a simple, affordable and effective vaccine against hepatitis C in HIV-positive patients), a clinical trial of radiotherapy versus chemotherapy for patients with oesophageal cancer, and a trial of an antidiabetic medication in the protection of elderly patients against memory loss and Alzheimer's disease.

"Teaching and research drives excellence in clinical care. The facility, placed at the interface between university and hospital, is an early model for the newly announced hospital groupings and Academic Medical Centres with greater integration between the healthcare agenda and the teaching, training, research and innovation agenda," continued Professor Michael Gill, Clinical Director of the new facility.

The clinical research facility is part of the Dublin Centre for Clinical Research (DCCR) a joint initiative between Trinity College, UCD, RCSI and Molecular Medicine Ireland funded as a result of a competitive process by the Wellcome Trust and the Health Research Board. The Trust allocated €7.3 million funding for the construction and equipment costs of the facility, and the HRB allocated €5m core operating costs for the facility and €8.2m in funding to the DCCR network operations.

"The Wellcome Trust has a strong track record of working in partnership with the Health Research Board (HRB) to build research capacity and infrastructure in Ireland. This latest venture will create an innovative research environment where world-class scientists and clinical researchers can investigate some of the most pressing challenges in human health and disease," said Ted Bianco, Acting Director of the Wellcome Trust.

"We believe our investment in the Wellcome Trust Health Research Board Clinical Research Facility creates the opportunity for researchers, patients and health professionals to work together. We know that this will increase the speed at which scientific discoveries can be turned into better health, improved patient care and advances in health service delivery," said Enda Connolly, Chief Executive at the Health Research Board.