The hugely successful €8m BREATH project, a cross-border partnership between UWS, Dundalk Institute of Technology and Queen’s University Belfast is now reaching the conclusion of its first phase, and the successes to date across BREATH were celebrated by an all-partner Dissemination Event in Ireland.
BREATH (Border and Regions Airways Training Hub) established a world-class cluster of scientists and clinicians to address the causes, treatment and prevention of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). COPD has an annual EU economic burden of €141.4 billion and is particularly prevalent within the Interreg VA Eligible Region.
BREATH was funded via the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme, which is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body. Match-funding was provided by the Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Ireland.
Throughout the duration of this work, BREATH successfully trained 28 young scientists to PhD level, or beyond, in both project‐specific scientific skills through industrial interactions, in transferable and complementary industry-relevant skills. Many of these progressed into high level jobs in industry and academia within the region and beyond.
To date, this venture has active partnerships with three industrial partners and has engaged with another 16 local and international companies over the course of the venture.
The project has produced nearly 80 conference presentations and research papers, most of which have cross-border authorship.
The initiative also had an extensive public outreach programme consisting of multiple school visits and media events, through which they have actively engaged over 5,000 pupils across the Region.
The team at UWS consists of Professor John Lockhart, Dr Gary Litherland and Dr Anne Crilly.
Forming the BREATH Consortium in close partnership with DkIT and QUB has been an extraordinary opportunity to launch a new programme of integrated respiratory research combating COPD. This chronic lung disease is not only the third leading cause of death globally but has high prevalence in, and is thus a shared common health burden across, Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Professor John Lockhart
“Through major SEUPB funding we have now established a new respiratory clinical network in the west of Scotland, enabling us to address topical questions informed by direct clinical expertise, and to then translate this to high quality research on patient samples through patient participation.
“Given the absence of a cure, preventative approaches remain currently the best approach. To this end we have established a major schools engagement programme across the three regions, including effective patient involvement with excellent feedback from pupils, teachers and parents. To date this highly successful programme has engaged with more than 5,000 children, featured in national and regional press and been highlighted on the floor of both Scottish Parliament and showcased in European Parliament (Brussels).”
Recognising the importance of the project Gina McIntyre, CEO of the Special EU Programmes Body stated: “The economy of the region is characterised with low levels of Research & Innovation capacity, specifically in the Health and Life Sciences sector. It is for that reason that the EU INTERREG VA Programme contained a core objective designed to build new and effective collaborations that will boost R&I, on a cross-border basis.
“The BREATH project is a marvellous and extremely important example of this type of work, as it has harnessed the expertise of three cross-border partners, each with different skills to better understand and help alleviate the impact of COPD. It has also bolstered R&I across Northern Ireland, the border counties of Ireland and Western Scotland by providing world-class training to the next generation of researchers, leading to the creation of high value-added jobs,” she continued.
At the dissemination event the team highlighted the success of BREATH across all fronts by presenting the achievements of the project over the last five years which comprised of presentations from our academic leads, political leaders, industrial partners and trainees.
For more details on the project visit here: Home - The BREATH Project (breath-copd.org)