By: 17 July 2020
University College Dublin researcher to co-lead a €4.5m collaborative project to develop new therapies to treat orthopaedic infection

A University College Dublin (UCD) researcher, Professor Paula Bourke, UCD School of Biosystems and Food Engineering, is principal investigator (PI) on a €4.5 million collaborative project to develop new therapies to treat orthopaedic infection with antibiotic resistant microorganisms using cold plasma.

Plasma is the fourth state of matter, along with solid, liquid and gas, and is generated by applying energy to a gas to generate a range of active components. Cold plasma can be used to inactivate microbes and bacteria that cause human infections and this project will use cold plasma to tackle the challenges of antimicrobial resistance for human health.
The funding for this project, announced recently by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), has been awarded through the US-Ireland Research and Development Partnership, a tripartite partnership between the United States of America (USA), Republic of Ireland (RoI) and Northern Ireland (NI).
A total of four projects were announced, which between them will receive a joint investment of €12 million and will support more than 40 research positions across 10 research institutions, for three to five years.
The US-Ireland Research and Development Partnership, launched in July 2006, is a unique initiative that aims to increase the level of collaborative R&D amongst researchers and industry professionals across the three jurisdictions.
Professor Bourke will co-lead a project entitled, ‘Cold Plasma Therapies for Orthopaedic Infection’ in collaboration with Professor Brendan Gilmore, Queen’s University Belfast and Professor Theresa Freeman and Professor Noreen Hickok, Jefferson University.
Infection following orthopaedic implant is a life threatening and devastating complication to the reconstructive surgeries that are routinely performed to restore mobility and functionality to a huge patient population. New therapies to combat antibiotic resistant microorganisms and stimulate the patient’s own immune response to combat their infection are required.
Professor Bourke, UCD School of Biosystems and Food Engineering said, “I am delighted that our project has secured this significant funding from the US-Ireland Research and Development Partnership to address the serious medical complications which can arise due to bone infection following orthopaedic surgery.
“I now look forward to working with this multi-PI team of researchers from UCD, QUB and Jefferson University, and our aim is to develop cold plasma treatments, tailored for high antimicrobial efficacy as well as stimulating immune responses, to eradicate such bone infections.”
Professor Orla Feely, UCD Vice-President for Research, Innovation and Impact said, “I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Professor Paula Bourke who has successfully secured funding through the prestigious US-Ireland Research and Development Partnership programme.
“The health project she is co-leading in collaboration with researchers in Queen’s University Belfast and Jefferson University has the potential to make a significant impact in the way bone infections are treated in patients following orthopaedic surgery.”
Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said, “The continued success of the US-Ireland R&D Partnership Programme demonstrates the strong open relationship between our countries and highlights Ireland’s scientific standing internationally. I would like to congratulate all of the award recipients and their collaborators, who are forging innovation and discovery across the Atlantic, with the potential to greatly benefit our collective societies and economies.”
The programme, which uses a ‘single-proposal, single-review’ approach, focuses on prioritised thematic areas, including sensors, telecommunications, energy and sustainability, health and agriculture.
The Irish components of research projects in the area of health, such as Professor Bourke’s project, are jointly co-funded by SFI with the Health Research Board (HRB).
Dr Darrin Morrissey, Chief Executive, HRB said, The HRB is committed to supporting highly innovative international research collaboration through the US-Ireland R&D Programme. These new awards have strong potential to create new knowledge and address major health challenges in society and demonstrate the high calibre of researchers we have in Ireland.”
Dr Roger Glass, Director, NIH’s Fogarty International Center and Associate Director for International Research, NIH said, “This partnership creates research consortia that leverage investments by the three participating countries. This not only advances cutting-edge science, but it also builds international collaboration in the best possible way.”
Professor Ian Young, Chief Scientific Advisor to the Department of Health in Northern Ireland and Director of Health and Social Care (HSC) Research and Development, said, “The US Ireland R&D Programme is important to HSC as it enables powerful international collaboration across Ireland and the US, producing world leading science and strengthening the global community to advance the health of our population.”
Trevor Cooper, Director of Higher Education, Department for the Economy (Northern Ireland) said, “I welcome the announcement of these new awards under the US-Ireland R&D Partnership. They represent ground-breaking trans-Atlantic research which will help to drive forward the Executive’s goal of transforming Northern Ireland into an innovation economy.”


Source: University College Dublin

Image: Cold plasma spark and glow discharge. (Source: Professor Paula Bourke, UCD).