Success in Research Funding
Updated on 23.09.13
Health Research Board (HRB) Award success
Assoc. Prof. Lorraine O’Driscoll has recent secured a Health Research Board (HRB) Award of €320,000 to advance her teams’ breast cancer research.
A new range of anti-cancer drugs have become available that are used in the treatment of some breast cancer patients. The best known one is Herceptin (trastuzumab), but there are other new drugs in this family. These drugs were designed to interact with HER2, a molecule found at greater amounts on cancer cells compared to normal cells for ~25% of breast cancer patients. These drugs are more cancer-specific than older chemotherapy and can offer advantages of greatly helping many patients without causing serious side-effects.
Unfortunately, some patients who seem suitable candidates based on the HER2 test, don’t benefit from these treatments. Some others respond at first, but then become unresponsive (resistant) to the treatment. Added to the problem of some patients not benefiting, these drugs are an extraordinarily expensive cost to healthcare.
Ways of predicting which patients with “HER2 tumours” are likely to benefit are urgently needed, as are mechanisms to overcome the resistance problem.
Studying cells from breast tumours, Lorraine and her team have recently found two molecules, NmU and miR-X, at substantially different amounts both inside and outside cells that are resistant to these drugs compared to those that are sensitive. By “tweaking” their amounts in the cells, they can make cells more resistant or more sensitive to these drugs; suggesting that this approach might help overcome the serious resistance problem in tumours.
The Health Research Board Award will enable progression of this research through translational clinical trials.
EU Framework 7 funding success
Assoc. Prof. Lorraine O’Driscoll has recently established that –in cancer– many adverse events can be communicated from cells to cell by tiny, often nano-sized, packages known as exosomes and microvesicles. These small particles, which can be detected in the blood, seem to carry information that contributes to cancer cells spreading to secondary sites and the development of resistance to the benefits of anti-cancer drugs; to name but a few of the problems with which they are associated. Recent results indicate that targeting these bundles of messages may offer new opportunities to add benefit to both classical chemotherapy and newer targeted drugs such as Herceptin.
Lorraine now leads an International Network focusing on Microvesicles and Exosomes in Health and Disease (ME-HaD). This Consortium, funded by EU FP7 (2013-2017), brings together researchers from Universities and hospitals in 22 European countries, the US, Australia, as well as 7 industry partners.
This award is for €536,000.
Irish Cancer Society funding success
As TCD’s Principal Investigator on SFI-supported Molecular Therapeutics for Cancer Ireland (MTCI) and the National Cancer Research Centre of Ireland, Assoc. Prof. Lorraine O’Driscoll and her research group are also working with Prof. John Crown (lead Principal Investigator, St. Vincent’s University Hospital (SVUH)) to translate their bench-based observations to patients suffering from breast and prostate cancer. The clinical trials, co-lead by Lorraine and Prof. Crown, arising from this research are currently progressing through human trials facilitated by the Irish Cooperative Oncology Research Group (ICORG). As a truly national extension of collaborations established as part of MTCI (with SVUH, St. James’s Hospital, DCU, UCD, RCSI + 6 big Pharma companies), and including new links with NUIG and UCC, the Irish Cancer Society has recently granted €7,500,000 funding for a National Virtual Cancer Centre named Breast-Predict. An objective of Breast-Predict is to further progress the reality of precision medicine for breast cancer patients. Lorraine, together with Prof. Jochen Prehn (RCSI), will lead Breast-Predict’s Strand dedicated to Pathophysiological Validation of Signature-Based Prognostic and Predictive Biomarkers.
Dr. Carsten Ehrhardt together with Dr. Daniela Traini and Prof. Paul Young from the Respiratory Technology Team at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research (Sydney, Australia) have been successful in securing funding for the establishment of a project to study the implications of drug transporters in the lung on pulmonary drug disposition.
As part of a multi-institutional collaboration, Carsten will spend a sabbatical period at the Woolcock studying transporter expression in different lung cell types and their affect on drug absorption after inhalation of current lung therapeutics. This primer grant will support an initial study of healthy and diseased lung tissue from clinical patients and will result in a greater understanding of the mechanisms that underpin disease and the effectiveness of current inhalation medicines. The grant is worth 12,000 Australian Dollars under the International Research Collaboration Award scheme at the University of Sydney.
Two researchers from the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences have been successful in being awarded funding from Science Foundation Ireland under its Investigators Programme.
Asst. Prof. David Finlay and Prof. Anne Marie Healy were recently awarded funding for the following projects:
- Asst. Prof. Finlay: Characterising the role of mammalian target of rapamcyin complex 1 (mTORC1)/Srebp1c signaling in directing the differentiation and function of T cell subsets.
- Prof. Healy: Co-processing of active pharmaceutical ingredients with functional excipients to prevent unintentional generation of amorphous phase
Prof. Anne Marie Healy and Asst. Prof. Lidia Tajber are investigators in the Synthesis and Solid state Pharmaceutical Centre (SSPC), one of seven new, large-scale, world-class research centres which will receive a total of 200 million euro of Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) funding, coupled with over 100 million euro in cash and in-kind contributions from industry partners, over the next six years.
The SSPC is a unique collaboration between 17 companies and 8 academic institutions and will position Ireland as a global hub for pharmaceutical process innovation and advanced manufacturing. Building a core capability in the area of process R&D, it will serve to cement the pharmaceutical industry in Ireland. Researchers in TCD's School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences will be involved in two of the three research strands of the SSPC: Crystal Growth and Design and Drug Product Formulation and Manufacture, with Prof. Healy acting as Strand Leader of the latter alongside Prof. Gavin Walker from the University of Limerick.
Prof. Healy is also a funded investigator in another of the research centres recently announced by SFI - AMBER: Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research Centre, led by TCD. AMBER will deliver world-leading research into engineered materials and interfaces for applications in a number of priority sectors in Ireland such as ICT, medical devices, and industrial technology.