RCSI partners in new €11.6 million ELEVATE cerebral palsy research programme

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Jennifer Ryan

The Tánaiste, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence, Micheál Martin TD, today launched a new €11.6 million research programme focused on cerebral palsy at University College Cork (UCC).

The programme will be led by the Irish Centre for Maternal and Child Health Research (INFANT) at UCC, partnering with RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, Trinity College Dublin, and all the tertiary-level maternity hospitals in Ireland. 

ELEVATE, a ground-breaking five-year initiative, has been funded under the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Strategic Partnership Programme (€5 million), with co-funding partner the Cerebral Palsy Foundation (CPF) providing support of over €6 million. Dr Jennifer Ryan, Senior Lecturer at the RCSI School of Physiotherapy and Director of the CP-Life Research Centre, will lead RCSI’s involvement in the programme. 

ELEVATE brings together a team of researchers and experts in early brain injury to create cutting-edge AI screening algorithms, devise novel detection methods, explore potential new treatments, and, most importantly, actively involve cerebral palsy-affected families in ongoing trials, education, and information platforms. The programme will also see the establishment of a cerebral palsy registry in Ireland, to track the rate of the condition for the first time and enable access to the best research and clinical trials. 

Launching the ELEVATE Programme, Tánaiste Micheál Martin TD said: “I'm delighted to launch this ambitious new programme, which has the potential to transform lives and reshape the landscape of cerebral palsy research and care in Ireland. The ELEVATE strategic partnership programme marks a landmark investment and milestone in the collective efforts to address what is one of the most pressing challenges in healthcare. We stand on the cusp of a new era in cerebral palsy research.” 

Significant challenges

Cerebral palsy (CP) is the most common childhood-acquired, lifelong physical disability, affecting about 17 million people worldwide. There is no known cure. 

It is caused by abnormal development or damage to the brain before, during, or shortly after birth. Many individuals with CP face significant and unnecessary challenges in their daily lives, including problems with movement, speech, and other body systems. An estimated 150 babies receive a CP diagnosis in Ireland each year and an estimated 3,000 children and young people and 9,500 adults are living with cerebral palsy in Ireland. 

But these diagnoses are often delayed, with devastating consequences for children and their families. Early intervention and the right care pathways make a significant difference in the long-term outcomes and quality of life for people living with Cerebral Palsy. 

Rachel Byrne, Executive Director of the CPF, said: “The ELEVATE team shares a vision of creating meaningful change in the lives of individuals living with cerebral palsy as well as their families. This partnership will be a game changer for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cerebral palsy in Ireland. At the Cerebral Palsy Foundation we are committed to accelerating innovation and pave the way for personalised, evidence-based interventions at the most crucial time in a child’s life.” 

The Cerebral Palsy Lifespan Health and Well-being (CP-Life) Research Centre was established in 2023 within the School of Physiotherapy at RCSI. It has a strong focus on research translation through the development and evaluation of evidence-based practices and supports for people with cerebral palsy and other disabilities.

Read more about the Centre here.