Pregnancy studies lead €7.6m worth of new Irish healthcare projects

28 Apr 2017

Image: Dmytro Zinkevych/Shutterstock

Several pregnancy studies are included in a swathe of newly funded projects thanks to the Health Research Board’s latest allocations.

Three new clinical trials into the improvement of health outcomes for women during pregnancy garnered €2m in funding this week.

On the back of the Health Research Board’s (HRB) full allocation of projects and training funding, the projects (out of 15 in total) secured around 30pc of the total funding.

Studies that aim to improve the health outcomes of pregnant women with diabetes, prevent life-threatening blood clots and reduce rates of unnecessary caesarean section are those in question.

The lucky 15

With €7.6m in total allocated to the 15 projects, other studies include investigations into dementia care, cancer, strokes and cardiac arrest recovery.

“Findings from these projects have the potential to make a big impact on patient care and patient outcomes, in a relatively short space of time,” said Dr Mairead O’Driscoll, interim chief executive at the HRB.

“Through these awards, the HRB is delivering on two key goals in our strategy. Firstly, to boost clinical trial activity in Ireland and secondly, to encourage partner-driven research that addresses research questions, which are directly relevant to the needs of our health service.”

Of the trio of studies that lead this article, the IRELAnD trial will study the role of aspirin in improving the health of women who have diabetes before they become pregnant.

Such women have a very significant risk of developing a high blood pressure complication of pregnancy known as pre-eclampsia.

“There exists a growing population of women entering into pregnancy with diabetes,” said Prof Fionnuala Breathnach, consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology at RCSI and Rotunda Hospital, and the lead investigator for IRELAnD.


According to Breathnach, a disproportionate degree of poor pregnancy outcome is shouldered by this “high-risk” group of women.

“The capacity of aspirin to reduce the incidence of pregnancy-related high blood pressure and its complications would confer lifelong health benefits to the children of women with diabetes.”

Elsewhere, the HIGHLOW trial will see an international group of doctors collaborate to compare different doses of medication to prevent recurrence of life-threatening blood clots in pregnant women.

The REDUCE study, led by Prof Cecily Begley of Trinity College Dublin, aims to develop and pilot an intervention designed to reduce overall caesarean section rates and to test the feasibility of a larger, pan-European trial.

Earlier this month, the HRB set aside €4.5m for a new research training programme.

Called the Collaborative Doctoral Award scheme, it targets healthcare professionals among others, and will bring a structured approach to research training in the clinical space.

“This is a long-term strategic investment in PhD training,” said O’Driscoll.

“As the name implies, the scheme places a premium on collaboration.

“Patients, charities, policymakers; primary, secondary or tertiary care health professionals – they can all play a part in this initiative.”

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic