Health project welcomed by UU director

Professor Tony Bjourson.
Professor Tony Bjourson.

The director of Biomedical Sciences Research at the University of Ulster has welcomed the launch of the North West Health Innovation Corridor.

Professor Tony Bjourson attended the launch of the initiative - a cross border project designed to promote health innovation and job creation from Coleraine to Sligo - in the city last week.

Professor Bjourson said the move could be the catalyst for exploiting opportunities created by new technologies in science, genetics, computing and communications, incorporating e-Health.

He also said the Univeristy of Ulster is playing a key role in addressing the challenges of an ageing population.

Professor Bjourson said new developments at the university’s Intelligent Systems Research Centre, the Biomedical Sciences Research Institute and C-TRIC could dramatically improve patient diagnosis and help identify the most appropriate treatments for patients.

“A new Stratified Medicine Centre and the new Brain Imaging Centre will focus on stratified medicine, leveraging the unique synergy between Computational Neuroscience at ISRC at Magee, Biomedical Sciences Research Institute (BMSRI) at Coleraine and C-TRIC, all working closely with clinicians and patients in the WHSCT and beyond,” he said.

The professor said developing new medications could help save money as well as improve health.

“It is now widely recognised that 30-50% of commonly prescribed medications have no clinical benefit and worse still, can cause harm in some patients.

“There is a potential colossal waste of £0.5-£0.9bn in Ireland, £3bn-£5bn in the UK and possibly $90bn-$140bn in the USA annually due to inappropriate drug prescription.

“This massive waste is disturbing in itself, but it is even more appalling, considering that hospitalisations and death due to adverse drug reactions and inappropriate prescribing cost an additional $5bn per year in the US and £2bn per year in in the UK,” he said.

Professor Bjourson also said the North West Health Corridor initiative could help improve diagnostics, leading to improved health outcomes for older people.

“Older people have greater risk of developing a chronic disease and that risk doubles or triples every decade of life. They are more prone to illness and thus take multiple concurrently prescribed medications compared to younger people.

“This can potentially give rise to a high potential for harm from adverse drug reactions from multiple medications taken at the same time prescribed for co-morbidities such as diabetes, arthritis, heart failure and mental illness.

“Smart diagnostics and drugs that can address this urgent need must move more rapidly from discovery to commercialization and clinical utility for patient, economic and societal benefit.

“That is the core focus of Stratified Medicine,” he said.