BREATH (Border and REgions Airways Training Hub) is an ambitious, collaborative research Partnership that will harness complementary resources & expertise of 10 Principal Investigators from DkIT, QUB & UWS with a mission to tackle Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), an incurable lung disease, highly prevalent in the border regions of Ireland & Western Scotland. COPD will be responsible for 1/3 of deaths by 2020 and imposes a huge economic burden on the Region. BREATH will provide an innovative, industry-relevant training programme to stimulate R&I, attract inward investment and enhance economic development in the Region.
Results & outputs: BREATH will initially engage with 5 enterprises (ProAxsis Ltd, Raptor Photonics, Norbrook Laboratories, Axis Bioservices & Prior PLM Medical) and train 22 new dynamic researchers: 16 PhDs, 5 Post-Doctoral Research Fellows and 1 Clinical Fellow (providing a total of 89.5 full time researcher yrs). BREATH will lead to 48 peer-reviewed publications with cross-border or interregional authorship.
Proposed Design: BREATH objectives (O1-4):
O1: Identify novel diagnostics and therapeutic targets to treat COPD. We will establish a sustainable Regional hub that combines clinical, academic & industrial expertise to transform research in COPD.
O2: Increase R&I across the Region by providing world class training to the next generation of researchers.We will train 22 world-class scientists in an array of scientific, interpersonal & innovation skills in demand by pharma & technology companies, healthcare, education and wider business community.
O3: Develop an innovative cross-border, inter-regional research hub focused on the unmet need of COPD. BREATH will significantly increase the capacity for R&I in the Region by forming: 16 new collaborations, sharing expertise in training & research and maximising use of existing facilities. BREATH PhD projects will be supervised jointly on a cross-border or interregional basis.
O4: Achieve critical mass that will impact upon the Region by combining our complementary clinical, scientific, innovative & industrial skills. Individually, we have significant research capacity, demonstrated by excellent track records in training, publication, funding, commercialisation (>80 industry contracts, 6 patent applications, spin-out of the biotech company ProAxsis Ltd). Combining our complementary skills & facilities will create a unique interregional R&I hub not otherwise achievable by the single institutions or separate countries.
Strategic Policy & Context: BREATH aligns with the strategic objectives of Northern Ireland Economic Strategy that sets out the NI Executive’s plan to grow a prosperous local economy by stimulating innovation and R&D; Innovation2020 which describes how R&D will position Ireland as a Global Innovation Leader to build a sustainable economy and Scotland’s Economic Strategy 2015 to foster a culture of innovation by supporting high-impact, world-class research in Scotland’s Universities and improve levels of commercialisation of academic research.
Need & Demand: BREATH has identified 4 needs (N1-4) via consultation with medical experts, patient groups, government depts/policy makers, politicians & industry (section 5):
N1. Within the region there is high COPD incidence and great attendant social and economic cost.
N2. The economies of the Region have a low proportion of high value sectors and have low levels of R&I.
N3. There is no effective cross-border partnership that significantly impacts on the overall regional capacity for R&I in Health & Life Sciences.
N4. Although research capacity exists within the region, a lack of collaboration across the 3 jurisdictions has prevented the creation of critical mass necessary to achieve stronger market performance and a stronger innovation pipeline.Read more
During the duration of this work, BREATH successfully trained 28 young scientists to PhD level, or beyond, in both project‐specific scientific skills through industrial interactions, in transferable and complementary industry-relevant skills. Many of these progressed into high level jobs in industry and academia within the region and beyond. To date, this venture has active partnerships with three industrial partners and has engaged with another 16 local and international companies over the course of the venture. The project has produced nearly 80 conference presentations and research papers, most of which have cross-border authorship.
The initiative also had an extensive public outreach programme consisting of multiple school visits and media events, through which they have actively engaged over 5,000 pupils across the Region.Read more