Two Irish COVID-19 research projects receive major scientific funding

  • Two University College Dublin (UCD)-led projects are to receive funding under the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) coordinated research and innovation response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The projects are respectively focused on 3D printing of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for frontline medical staff and measurement of SARS-CoV-2 levels at wastewater treatment plants.

    The UCD projects are among 11 projects announced which between them are to receive a total investment of €1.4m.

    This investment builds on previous funding and complements the existing research work underway in higher education institutions across the country.

    I-Form, the SFI Research Centre for Advanced Manufacturing headquartered at UCD, has secured €126,071 in funding for a project entitled 3D printing PPE for healthcare settings.

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    Professor Denis Dowling from UCD’s School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering and Professor Dermot Brabazon from the School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering at Dublin City University (DCU), are co-applicants for this project.

    Within I-Form, the COVID-19 Rapid Response Digital Manufacturing and Innovation Hub will rapidly design, manufacture and deliver urgently needed PPE for frontline medical staff in hospitals and other healthcare settings.

    The Hub will primarily focus on 3D printing of key PPE parts for wearable equipment, such as face protectors, and parts for environmental protectors, such as door openers and ventilator parts.

    The project will provide much-needed PPE for hospitals and other healthcare settings, which will help to protect front-line workers and patients, which will in turn provide greater protection in healthcare settings for workers, patients and their families.

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    Prof Denis Dowling, Director said: “Since the start of the pandemic we have been working to support frontline staff, including the 3D printing of over 4,000 protective visors. This funding from SFI will be of enormous assistance in helping us to develop our use of 3D printing technology for PPE, including addressing improved part design, material and performance issues.”

    Prof Dermot Brabazon added: “The sudden escalation in the need for protective wearables from mid-March this year has led to many requests coming into us for support. This funding will enable not just the provision of these important supplies but will enable further improvement in the provision of more comfortable and protective PPE for frontline workers.”

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    Professor Wim Meijer, UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science, is leading a project entitled, SARS-CoV-2 surveillance of sewage and water bodies, which has secured €48,666 in funding.

    This funding will enable the project team to measure levels of SARS-CoV-2 at wastewater treatment plants. This will provide insight into the prevalence of the virus in the community and serve as an early warning system for a new wave of infection.

    The project also aims to work out what happens to the SARS-CoV-2 virus in nearby bodies of water such as rivers, streams and sea, including the waters where people swim.

    This SFI-funded research will benefit from the expertise of an existing EU Interreg-funded project at UCD called Acclimatize, which determines the levels and origins of faecal contamination in Dublin Bay.

    Prof Wim Meijer said: “This SFI funded project for surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 in sewage and bodies of water will provide critical information on the prevalence of the virus in the population, and on the fate of the virus in the environment.

    “This project is a great example of collaboration between UCD Schools, which is one of the great strengths of the university, and it is combining expertise in microbiology, molecular biology, environmental biology, civil engineering and virology.”

    Co-applicants in this project are Dr Nicola Fletcher, UCD School of Veterinary Medicine; Professor John O’Sullivan, UCD School of Civil Engineering; and Dr Liam Reynolds, Dr Laura Sala Comorera, Niamh Martin MSc, UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science. Professor Meijer and Dr Fletcher are Fellows at the UCD Conway Institute.

    Dublin City Council, Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council and Irish Water are collaborating on this project.

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    Further information on the other 9 funded projects is available via https://www.sfi.ie/research-news/news/covid19-research-ireland/.

    Source: Written from press release

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