Dublin City University (DCU) has established the Covid-19 Research and Innovation (R&I) Hub, which will support 16 multi-disciplinary projects focused exclusively on challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

These projects cover five key areas: rapid diagnostics, protecting healthcare workers, speeding up national testing, mitigating the impact on the economy and tackling societal issues.

A focus has been placed on tests and turnaround times for the testing process, including the search for independently validated, commercial antibody tests. To that end, Dr Paul Leonard of DCU’s science and health faculty is working with the HSE’s Covid-19 laboratory R&D product solutions group to find an antibody test solution that could form part of a national testing strategy.

Meanwhile, Prof Stephen Daniels is leading a collaboration to develop a low-cost, portable device that can detect the coronavirus on surfaces, particularly in healthcare settings.

Solutions deployed within six months

The R&I Hub is also working on a project led by Dr SinĂ©ad Smyth of DCU’s School of Psychology, funded by the Health Research Board. This project is developing a resource package to support children and young people with an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis, as well as their families and educators. It’s hoped the package could help them resume regular daily routines once Covid-19 restrictions are relaxed.

Prof Christine Loscher, assistant dean of research at DCU, will lead the Covid-19 R&I Hub. Speaking of its potential, Loscher said: “The hub is a living example of a rapid response research initiative … to make a strong and positive contribution by providing solutions to the many challenges we are now facing.”

DCU’s president, Prof Brian MacCraith, added: “The hub brings our research strengths together in a coordinated approach to tackle a number of key challenges associated with the Covid-19 crisis.
“Our aim is to make an immediate and significant impact by developing solutions that can be implemented or deployed within a short period, in six months or less.”

Colm Gorey
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