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Written Answers - Research and Development

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 760 No. 3

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 657.  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan  asked the Minister for Health Information on James Reilly Zoom on James Reilly  the extent to which State sponsored and private research co-operate or interacts in respect of research on major health issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16980/12]

Minister for Health (Deputy James Reilly): Information on James Reilly Zoom on James Reilly Health research covers a diverse range of activities and applications. It is also funded from a number of State Departments and Agencies including the Department of Health (through the Health Research Board), Science Foundation Ireland, the Department of Agriculture, Food, and Marine, etc.

The Health Research Board (HRB) is a statutory body under the aegis of the Department of Health. It is the lead agency in Ireland supporting and funding health research. In 2011 the HRB received €38.01m from the Department of Health.

Most of the HRB awards are not specifically oriented towards industry collaboration; the focus of its research is in the area of patient-oriented research (clinical and clinical/biomedical research and better understanding of disease mechanisms etc.), population health sciences, and health services research. While HRB awards do not make industry cooperation or funding mandatory, the HRB’s End of Grant reports indicate that collaboration does take place (usually in the form of non-financial support). Many projects subsequently go on to seek funding from Enterprise Ireland or industry to further develop ideas etc.

In some areas of research collaboration may not be possible given the sometimes different stances of commercial enterprise and the health system; in others cooperation is desirable and supported. For example, the HRB-supported ICORG network is an example of coordinated clinical research across the private and public sectors. Over the last six years, 20-30% of ICORG studies were sponsored by industry, and an increasing share of the total number of IRCORG studies was sourced by industry. €1.2million was invested by industry in ICORG over the last three years. Indirect/in-kind support has also been provided by industry.

Grants awarded by the HRB including Clinician Scientist Awards, Translational Research Awards, Research Project Grants, and Clinical Research Facilities are often used to leverage additional funding from other sources.

The Action Plan for Health Research 2009-2013 aims to deliver a high performing health research system including an enhanced infrastructure for health research including fully functional and networked clinical research facilities. Facilities exist in the Mater, St. Vincent’s, Beaumount, and St. James Hospitals (in collaboration with the Wellcome Trust), with a new CRF recently opened in Cork University Hospital. A further CRF is planned for University Hospital Galway. These facilities will support collaborations between the health system and industry.

Lastly I would like to refer the Deputy to this Government’s intention to progress a number of actions that will address some of the challenges faced by the health/life sciences sector:—

The Health Information Bill, which is expected to be ready for publication later this year, will help to support a conducive environment for health research in Ireland by facilitating the streamlining of the ethics approval process for health research not governed by statutory regulation and EU law. The Bill will also provide a legal framework for the introduction of a national system of individual health identifiers that will assist clinical research and population health studies and support coverage for important health registers which can be an invaluable source of statistical and related data for health research.

[972] My Department, together with the Department of Enterprise, Jobs, and Innovation, will work together to deliver a Health Innovation Hub to drive collaboration between the health system and commercial enterprise for the mutual benefit of both sectors.

I believe in the value of health research leading to informed action be that for the individual patient or the health service more generally. Knowledge derived from research is paramount in providing the evidence-base for better health policies and systems; systems that underpin effective and efficient health service provision. It is possible to achieve benefits for the health system and also address the needs of industry and ultimately deliver jobs for the Irish economy.

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