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Career Development and Mobility Fellowships in Medical Device Research and Development: A CÚRAM Industry-Academia Training Initiative.

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - MedTrain (Career Development and Mobility Fellowships in Medical Device Research and Development: A CÚRAM Industry-Academia Training Initiative.)

Reporting period: 2018-05-01 to 2021-06-30

Ireland has developed into one of the World's leading MedTech hubs, with nine of the top ten global medical technology companies operating in Ireland. Over 40,000 employees now work in the MedTech sector in Ireland, the highest per capita of population in Europe. One of the key drivers for Ireland being at the forefront of medical technologies is the highly educated workforce, with most graduates taking up post-graduate studies. Significant resources have been put in place, supported by Government funding to enhance further this capability, including the development of large-scale research centres.
However, given the pace of medical technology development, it has been recognised that there is a potentially significant skills gap becoming evident. To address this, there is a need to offer advanced training to experienced researchers in the MedTech space in areas such as industry engagement, understanding the entrepreneurial process, and the development of translational activities for the development of next-generation technologies. By undertaking these activities whilst allowing researchers to pursue their cutting-edge research in the state of the art facilities coupled with understanding individual career development requirements, a new generation of highly skilled and industry-employable researchers will be created.
Experienced Researchers with a research and transferable skills training experience of the highest international standards will help them advance their scientific careers within a chosen sector, across academia, industry or public sector, in the broad area of Medical Device Research and Development. The prevalence of chronic diseases and their impacts on health ensure that the programme will interest the general public. Meaningful interaction of all Fellows' with the general public to promote the success and impact of the research outputs of the programme will increase public awareness for current clinical needs in the field of medical devices. Successful implementation of a programme that will develop a set of skilled researchers will directly contribute to a robust and sustainable European knowledge-based society. Furthermore, the programme will enhance the excellence and impact of Ireland's and Europe's medical device research ecosystem, ensuring continued leadership in this field.
The MedTrain programme, in line with the European Charter and Code, aims to deliver graduates that are immediately employable across sectors. The principal objective of the MedTrain programme is to develop experienced researchers with a full complement of the necessary research and transferable skills to produce excellent scientific results benefiting human health and contributing to innovation, economic growth, and European competitiveness. The primary output arising from MedTrain is the generation of industry-relevant, publicly engaged researchers that will impact European society and economy in regards to a knowledge-based society.
In 2016, CÚRAM secured its MedTrain H2020 COFUND fellowship proposal, which led to funding. Thirty-three Fellows were recruited into the programme. To date, MedTrain innovation metrics have been outstanding. The significant achievements coming from the MedTrain programme are the formation of a spinout company, three Key Innovator project awards by the European Commission's Innovation Radar, 11 invention disclosures, and three Commercialisation Fund awards from Enterprise Ireland.
MedTrain made a significant mark on the international scientific landscape relatively quickly as measured through standard academic performance metrics. Progress has also been made to research projects where successful functionalisation of biomaterials for various applications has been delivered. For example, a prototype nanoparticle incorporating cyclodextrin and loaded with siRNA was functionalised with a targeting ligand to treat neurodegenerative disease. This therapeutic technology will provide a platform to design a scalable nanoparticle-based approach to treat a wide range of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's, depression, brain tumours with a strong clinical translation potential.
In another project, fusion proteins were being generated to obtain novel molecules containing the functional properties of both parent proteins. This technology combines expertise in recombinant protein expression and engineering with diatom culturing and modification to develop a protein display platform for drug delivery and medical device development. Functionalisation with recombinant human antibody fragments has the potential to improve the targeting of prostate cancer.
In the neural space, a brush-like neural interface, which will be used as a coating for neural electrodes, enabling them to act as therapeutic devices, is being developed. The fabrication of a brush-like coating has been optimised, and coated electrodes' physicochemical properties have been determined. This technology improves stimulation potentials, and it safer than conventionally used materials in the implantable electrodes.
The solution being developed in the cardiovascular theme project is a patient-focused wearable point-of-care (PoC) device for home-based care, which can reduce or mitigate myocardial injury/necrosis in high-risk patients and the general population. This technology has the potential to save health care costs by reducing the event to diagnosis time delay and by promoting home-based monitoring.
MedTrain has positively impacted Fellow's careers, making them more employable cross-border and ely impacted Fellow's careers, making them more employable cross-border and ensuring future collaborations with academia. Through scientific, complementary, and transferable skills training, the MedTrain programme addresses skills shortage by ensuring that its researchers are equipped with the skills demanded by the rapidly evolving MedTech sector. As a result, MedTrain strengthened its intellectual property portfolio with commercial and clinical relevance. One spinout company came directly from the MedTrain project leading to job creation in Ireland.
The novel technologies developed under the MedTrain programme offer a unique opportunity for drug discovery and medical devices companies wishing to enter the therapeutic area to licence the technology or collaborate on clinical trials. Furthermore, training in the industry reinforced the existing collaborations with MedTech companies and forged new partnerships. This process ensured that the knowledge and research carried out by Fellows is exploited and used at a national and international level. This will also impact CÚRAM's national and international academic and industry partners and collaborators, building our reputation as a world-class centre for research in medical devices.
MedTrain's mobility fellowship programme was opened to experienced researchers of any nationality. This has contributed to Ireland's international profile and reputation as an ideal location for international researchers.
Further, the MedTrain's outreach activities raise awareness around careers in the MedTech industry and their importance to Ireland's economy. Additionally, MedTrain's engagement with the general public, especially with secondary school students, encourages the next generation of scientists and engineers to consider the opportunities that exist with a STEM career in the MedTech sector.
Figure 2. (MT-8) Delivery of siRNA into glioblastoma cells. Blue – cell nuclei, red – cell cytoskele
Figure 4. MedTrain logo
Figure 3. (MT-9) The scheme of the nanoparticle and the BBB in the brain.
Figure 1. (MT-4) (A) Fibrin distribution in PCG scaffolds. (B) PRP gel, demonstrating fibrin format