DCU to open €16.5m health research centre

7 Sep 2005

The Government is to provide €16.5m to fund a new health research facility at Dublin City University (DCU). The Centre for Future Diagnostics and Health (CFDH) will receive the funding through Science Foundation Ireland under its Centres for Science, Engineering and Technology programme.

CFDH will carry out cutting-edge research to develop a range of new biomedical diagnostic devices. In addition to tests for use in doctors’ surgeries, the centre will focus on developing accurate and reliable diagnostic devices suitable for self-test, home use, which will enable people to take control over the management of their own health.

Announcing the investment, Enterprise Minister Micheál Martin TD commented: “These devices will detect life-threatening events long before a critical stage is reached. They will allow chronic diseases to be controlled more effectively, thereby reducing hospital stays and saving lives.

“In many cases, the devices will exploit advanced communications technologies to enable expert monitoring to be provided remotely
The centre’s research programme includes projects on high-sensitivity biochips for cancer detection and cardiac health, as well as novel blood coagulation monitoring systems. It will also address some of the personal, social and ethical implications of early diagnosis and monitoring of these conditions.

“Ultimately, the combined scientific challenge lies primarily in creating reliable, miniaturised systems in which the presence of very low concentrations of disease-related molecules in a sample of blood, urine, sweat, saliva or breath can be detected with exquisite sensitivity,” said Professor Brian MacCraith of DCU, who will lead the centre.

The centre will also house top research scientists from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, National University of Ireland Galway and the Tyndall National Institute, Cork. In addition, the centre has teamed with six leading global organisations in the diagnostic, biotechnology and ICT sectors: Becton Dickinson, Analog Devices, Hospira, Inverness Medical Innovations, Amic and Enfer. Each of the partners will place researchers in the centre and it is anticipated the centre will eventually employ 60 full-time researchers.

The medical device and diagnostics sector represents a growth area within the Irish economy, with more than 40 companies in the field, including 13 of the top 25 medical device and diagnostics companies in the world. The sector now employs 22,000 and has been highlighted as of the areas in which Ireland can grow significantly.

Dr William Harris, director general of SFI, said the initiative would have far-reaching implications for the Irish economy. “The medical device and diagnostics sector represents a vibrant growth area within the Irish economy and has been highlighted as one of the areas in which Ireland can develop a position of competitive strength, differentiation and critical mass.”

By Brian Skelly