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DkIT to lead €7.7 million EU research project in the fight against lung disease

26 January 2017

DkIT’s Smooth Muscle Research Centre (SMRC) to play a leading role in pioneering cross-border research project, designed to better understand and alleviate the impact of lung disease on the border regions of Ireland and Scotland.

The Smooth Muscle Research Centre (SMRC) at Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT), together with partners at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) and University of the West of Scotland (UWS), has received combined funding of €7.7 million under the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme to deliver ‘BREATH’ (Border and Regions Airways Training Hub) project.

BREATH will establish a world-class cluster of researchers, involving collaborations between scientists and clinicians, that will help address the causes, treatment and potential prevention of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); an incurable lung disease which is highly prevalent in the border regions of Ireland and Western Scotland.

The EU investment will support the project for five years and will fund a total of 16 PhDs, 5 Post-doctoral Research Fellows (PDRF) and a Clinical Fellow, in addition to a Project Co-ordinator across the project. Dr Keith Thornbury, Dr Gerard Sergeant and Dr Mark Hollywood of the SMRC are lead collaborators in the project and will receive approximately €4 million in funding for their research centre, signalling a major boost for the economy of the North East. Other collaborators include the School of Pharmacy and School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences (QUB) and the Institute of Biomedical & Environmental Health Research (UWS). 


Speaking today, Dr Keith Thornbury, Principal Investigator at the SMRC and BREATH Project Lead, said:

“COPD is a growing healthcare concern, and is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Its prevalence in the border regions of Ireland poses major social and economic implications for the North-East region. We look forward to leading this project with QUB and UWS to help alleviate the detrimental impact of this disease.”

Since its inception in 2005, the SMRC at DkIT has attracted more than €11 million in research funding from national bodies such as Science Foundation Ireland, the Health Research Board and Enterprise Ireland as well as the National Institutes of Health in the USA and the Wellcome Trust in the UK. The BREATH project marks the first time that the SMRC has secured funding from the EU via the INTERREG VA Programme and will significantly raise the profile of the research centre at an international level.

Also speaking today, Dr. Tim McCormac said: 

“BREATH is an immensely exciting and innovative research initiative and the SMRC’s lead role in the project is a testament to the outstanding research capability of the centre. In addition to producing invaluable health outcomes for COPD patients, the BREATH project promises to provide an innovative, industry-relevant training programme to stimulate research and innovation, attract inward investment and further enhance economic development in the North-East and border regions.”

Match-funding for the project has been provided by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in Ireland, the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland and the UWS.

 For more information please contact


Thomas Redmond, Marketing & Communications Manager at DkIT on Mob. 085177488 or via e-mail


John McCandless, Communications Manager at SEUPB on Mob. 07834 778018 or via e-mail