ICAT Fellow activities (June 2020)

ICAT publications (June 2020)
June 3, 2020
ICAT Countdown 2019
June 3, 2020

COVID research and clinical service

During this time, many of the ICAT Fellows have volunteered to return to clinical service, others are developing medical devices and providing public health support; some of their experiences are shared here.

  • Peter Barrett (Cohort 1, UCC, Public Health Medicine trainee) has been working clinically in the Department of Public Health HSE-South (Cork & Kerry) since early March. Initially he dealt directly with new notifications of COVID-19, informing patients of their diagnosis, communicating with family members and contact tracing. He was involved in training new and redeployed staff in contact tracing, responding to helplines for GPs and the general public and undertaking active surveillance of close contacts. In recent weeks he has been tracking the epidemiology of the outbreak in Cork and Kerry, identifying new clusters of cases in healthcare and workplace settings and leading outbreak control teams in residential care facilities, acute hospitals, and complex workplaces.
  • Conor Judge (Cohort 1, NUIG, Nephrology trainee) has been collaborating with Prof John Laffey (ICAT Associate Director, NUIG) and Prof Martin O’Halloran (NUIG) on the SFI-funded INSPIRE Project: Facilitating Non-Invasive Ventilation (NIV) during the COVID-19 Crisis (for more information about the award visit https://bit.ly/2X3jUO2). The interdisciplinary team of academic researchers, MedTech engineers, frontline healthcare professionals and industry are developing a CPAP/BiPAP Hood (picture E) that can help patients to breathe, that will be easy to manufacture and reuse and comfortable for patients to use for long periods. For patients receiving high-flow oxygen therapy, the team has also developed a vacuum-assisted face guard (picture C) that will collect infectious droplets coming from the patient’s nose or mouth during treatment, reducing the infection risk for healthcare workers. The guard is subject to a patent application and entered clinical use in Galway University Hospitals in May 2020. https://adobe.ly/2Wy1ENJ .
  • Anita Lavery and Gerard Walls (Cohort 2) are PhD students in QUB and trainees in Medical Oncology and Clinical Oncology, respectively. Anita (front right in picture H) and Gerard (back left) have returned to clinical service in the Belfast trust to support their colleagues in the Oncology service. Also pictured is Dr Richard Turkington (back right), the QUB ICAT Associate Director and Anita’s PhD Supervisor.
  • Liam Townsend (Cohort 1, TCD, Infectious Diseases trainee, picture B) is involved in research into the immunophenotype of patients with severe COVID; the team has described the immune and inflammatory profile of the sickest COVID patients, and demonstrated that they are  an immunologically distinct group to those with mild/moderate disease. The work was featured in the Independent on 07 April and will be published in the coming months. Liam was pictured in St James’s Hospital laboratories with (l-r) Dr Jean Dunne, Ann O’Flaherty and Prof. Niall Conlon. The full article can be read here: https://t.co/syR8AvZvVH.
  • Helen Fogarty (Cohort 2, RCSI, Haematology trainee) and Liam Townsend (Cohort 1, TCD, Infectious Diseases trainee) published data suggesting that pulmonary vasculopathy may contribute to the unexplained differences in racial susceptibility to COVID-19 mortality (doi:10.1111/bjh.16749). This research generated considerable international attention and has been reported by over 120 media outlets.
  • Jennifer Scott (Cohort 2, TCD, Nephrology trainee) has moved back into clinical service during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst working clinically she has been involved in a collaboration with UKIVAS (UK and Ireland Vasculitis Rare Disease Group) to investigate how COVID19 affects immunosuppressed patients, including those with ANCA-associated vasculitis, which is the focus of her PhD research. Jennifer is developing an interoperable online COVID-19 instrument for the existing Rare Kidney Disease registry to collect relevant data. Jennifer’s PhD Supervisor, Professor Mark Little, has been awarded a HRB grant to carry out immunophenotyping of these patients in St James’s Hospital (DeCOmPRESS study); Jennifer is assisting with the collection of samples and data for the project.

Other activities

  • A multidisciplinary team that includes an ICAT Fellow has been awarded the SFI Future Innovator Prize of €1 million for their research project Hydrobloc. Hydrobloc is a novel hydrogel solution providing long-term pain relief for patients with neuropathic pain, which is drug free without the severe side effects of prescription medications. The multidisciplinary team composed of members of expert groups within NUI Galway is led by Dr Alison Liddy (second from right in picture D; Biomedical Engineering and Chemistry) and includes Dr Leo Quinlan (left; Principal Investigator in Human Physiology), Dr Conor Judge (middle; ICAT Fellow, Engineer and Nephrology Specialist Registrar), Dr Martin O’Halloran (second from left; Electronic Engineering and Clinical Research, NUIG) and Dr Barry McDermott (far right; Pharmacist, Veterinarian and Medical Device Engineer).
  • Cathal O’Connor (Cohort 3) was awarded the President’s Prize at the Irish Paediatric Association meeting in December 2019 for his presentation: “Novel STAT5B mutation causing atopic dermatitis, food allergies, drug allergy, hymenoptra allergy, and complex autoimmune disease”.
  • Sarah Cormican (Cohort 1) gave a poster presentation entitled “The Expansion and Phenotype of HLA-DRhi Intermediate Monocytes in Chronic Kidney Disease” at the American Society of Nephrology Annual Meeting (Kidney Week) in Washington D.C., November 2019 (picture F).
  • Cathal O’Connor (Cohort 3) was awarded a bursary to present a poster at the Epidermolysis Bullosa World Congress in January 2020.
  • Dr Conor Judge was awarded the Dobbin Atlantic Scholarship 2019/20; these awards aim to develop a new generation of academic, artistic, cultural and economic links between Atlantic Canada and Ireland. http://www.icuf.ie/scholarships/dobbin-atlantic-scholarship-program/
  • Cathal O’Connor (Cohort 3) presented a case of PSTPIP1-associated myeloid-related proteinemia inflammatory (PAMI) syndrome at the ERN-SKIN meeting in December 2019.
  • Peter Barrett (Cohort 1) was awarded Top Clinical Abstract by International Society of Nephrology, Young Nephrologist Section – World Congress of Nephrology, 2020.
  • Sarah Cormican (Cohort 1) gave a presentation on “The Irish Experience of Autosomal Dominant Tubulointerstitial Kidney Disease” at the Irish Kidney Gene Project Research Symposium in November 2019.
  • Peter Barrett attended the European Public Health Association Meeting in Marseille, November 2019 and presented his research in a talk: “Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes and Long-term Maternal Kidney Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis” and a poster “Risk of Long-Term Renal Disease in Women With a History of Preterm Delivery: A Population-Based Cohort Study”.
  • Cathal O’Connor (Cohort 3, picture A) presented the findings from his research into the positive environmental impact of providing rural outreach clinics at the RCPI Green Health Day in November 2019 (BMJ 2020;369:m1410 and featured in the Irish Times https://bit.ly/2X3kD1K).
  • Kapil Sharma (Cohort 1, picture G) gave a talk entitled ‘Effects of antipsychotics on glial cell dysfunction’ at the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland and Royal College of Psychiatrists joint conference in Belfast in November 2019.