UWS Playing Key Role in €7.7 Million EU Project to Combat Lung Disease

University of the West of Scotland (UWS) is a key academic partner in a €7.7 million EU INTERREG V supported cross-border research project, designed to better understand and alleviate the impact of lung disease.

The ‘BREATH’ (Border and Regions Airways Training Hub) project, will involve a strong cross-border partnership including the Dundalk Institute of Technology in the Republic of Ireland, Queen’s University Belfast and UWS.

This EU funded project will establish a world-class cluster of researchers who will help address the causes, treatment and potential prevention of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

COPD is an incurable respiratory condition characterised by progressive airflow reduction, breathing difficulties and irreversible lung damage (emphysema). It significantly impairs quality of life and has a high cost to health services and the wider economy. In 2011 the annual economic burden of COPD across the EU was estimated at approximately €141.4 billion.

COPD-related hospital admission is particularly prevalent across Scotland and Ireland. In Ayrshire and Dumfries & Galloway COPD-related hospital admission is amongst the highest in the UK.

Professor John Lockhart, Director of University of the West of Scotland’s Institute of Biomedical and Environmental Health Research (IBEHR), said: “This exciting new collaborative programme will provide major insights into lung disease in south west Scotland, help identify better treatments and possible preventions, and also enhance regional public awareness.”

Dr Gary Litherland of UWS added: “By combining efforts of academic, clinical and industry partners, this award will transform COPD research in regions of great need.”

Recognising the importance of the project Gina McIntyre, CEO of the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), responsible for managing the EU’s INTERREG VA Programme, said: “This EU-funded project will establish a world-class cluster of researchers who, by working in partnership, will make a positive difference to the fight against a debilitating health issue which effects many people living across the UK and Ireland.

“Working on a cross-border basis the project partners will be able to share information and produce data that can help improve the quality of life for people living on both sides of the border. It will also provide excellent development opportunities for a number of PhD students and has strong potential to create spin off benefits for all those involved.”

Welcoming the funding award Northern Ireland’s Minister for the Economy Simon Hamilton MLA, said: “This innovative research initiative is an excellent example of how clinicians, academia and industry can harness their collective multi-disciplinary expertise to produce positive outcomes for patients and their families living with this disease. This combination of research, education and innovation will seek to reverse the detrimental impact of this disease upon quality of life for individuals, leading to reduced demands on valuable Health Service resources and increased productivity within the local economy.”

Commenting on the project, Ireland’s Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Mary Mitchell O'Connor, said: "I am delighted that my Department is co-funding this valuable initiative, which will hopefully bring lasting benefits to sufferers of COPD and will build on the research capability of the colleges involved. INTERREG is a very valuable initiative for developing cross-border cooperation in research and thereby share and enhance expertise in both jurisdictions, by combining different specialties for a shared goal. Enhanced health outcomes, high level scientific skills in the colleges and opportunities for Life Sciences companies will represent positive long-term results from this project."

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