The University of Limerick (UL) has announced the establishment of a dedicated institute for the study of infectious diseases, including COVID-19.
Supported by a philanthropic contribution of €3.5million of seed funding from JP McManus Pro-Am 2021, the Midwest Institute for Infectious Diseases is being developed to harness the core expertise – including medicine, health sciences, mathematics & statistics, and life sciences – that exists at the University of Limerick.
The new research institute will leverage these academic expert areas, together with the support of the UL Hospitals Group, and community health partners in the region.
Research at the institute will inform future planning for the response to COVID-19 and potential future outbreaks of other notifiable diseases.
“The COVID-19 pandemic presents many challenges societally, individually, economically, and politically. A sound scientific approach to better understand the extent of the virus is central to an informed, sustainable response to the management of the pandemic.
“It is hoped that the institute will act as a regional testing and research centre for this and potential future viral outbreaks.
“Having a dedicated research institute for infectious diseases at UL allows us to put state-of-the-art testing and research at the centre of a comprehensive understanding of viral disease in the Midwest region, and with this, an informed approach can be taken to detection, modelling and management of current and future viral outbreaks.”
“The collective expertise that UL has brought together will ensure the Midwest has the information to tackle COVID-19 based on the best science and research.
“It will, in the first instance, build a state-of-the-art laboratory at UL’s Park Point site to allow our researchers, clinicians, policymakers, and medical community to identify who has been infected and link these data with national programmes aimed at contact tracing and measuring immunity in the population.
“Epidemics threaten us at regular intervals and the clear lesson from COVID-19 is that we need to stay prepared to tackle them with public health measures that are informed by the best science available.
“The establishment of this institute at UL will lead to national health and economic benefits from real-time data capture and analysis to inform the wider societal and economic response to COVID-19, including for example informing the impact of a phased return to work.
“In parallel, it will shape our understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on people who have recovered from the disease,” Dr Fitzgerald said.
Drawing on existing expertise across a range of disciplines including psychology, dietetics, and physiotherapy, the institute will provide a focal point for the future development of an extended research programme at UL focusing on post-COVID recovery.