Towards the end of last year, a number of Irish higher education institutions announced they had signed collaborative deals with Chinese universities, leading to new joint degrees and facility sharing.

Now, NUI Galway has announced the establishment of a stem cell research centre that will be shared between itself and Hebei Medical University in Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province, China. The centre was initially launched back in 2017, but only held its opening international conference and scientific advisory board meeting towards the end of 2018.

The centre is co-directed by Prof Timothy O’Brien, dean of NUI Galway’s College of Medicine and a CĂșram investigator, and Huixan Cui, president of Hebei Medical University. Its goal is to collaborate on and to develop translational research programmes using stem cells to treat serious conditions of unmet medical need which require a global approach to finding solutions.

Common link between two regions

The centre will have three main clinical themes such as cardio-renal-metabolic disease including diabetes mellitus, musculoskeletal disorders and neurological disorders. This will include a focus on the manufacturing of stem cells under strict regulatory compliance.

“Hebei Province has a population of almost 80m people and many conditions which are common in Ireland are also causing much suffering to our population,” said Huixan.

“We are excited about this joint venture which we believe will be mutually beneficial and ultimately will serve the needs of patients. We have just opened a new state-of-the-art research facility which will be the home to the joint stem cell research centre and we are excited that we will be joined in this venture by colleagues from NUI Galway.”

While principal investigators at the Irish university have seven active clinical trial programmes with significant EU funding, it is hoped they will now be able to apply the same trials in China.

Colm Gorey

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