FutureNeuro launches next phase with €17.9m investment to transform brain disease research and treatment

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L-R: Professor David Henshall, Director of FutureNeuro and Professor of Molecular Physiology and Neuroscience at RCSI; Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, TD; and Dr Siobhan Roche, Director of Science for Economy, SFI.

FutureNeuro, the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Research Centre for Neurological Diseases, has announced an ambitious expansion of its research programme dedicated to accelerating the fight against brain diseases. The expansion of the Centre, which is hosted by RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, will be supported with a €17.9m Government investment through SFI.

The next phase of investment in FutureNeuro was announced by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Patrick O'Donovan, TD; and Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, TD as part of a formal announcement of new Government investment in four world-leading SFI Research Centres. Colette Daly, a parent and member of the FutureNeuro Public and Patient Involvement Panel, was among those who contributed to a panel discussion at the event.

Brain disease represents one of the most pressing public health and economic challenges of our time, impacting approximately one in three individuals throughout their lives and imposing a profound burden on patients, families and healthcare systems.

FutureNeuro focuses on epilepsy, motor neuron disease (MND), neurodevelopmental disorders, multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injury (TBI), psychosis and the intricate co-morbid aspects of these conditions, such as mental health. 

FutureNeuro embraces a collaborative and patient-centric approach to advancing the understanding and treatment of neurological, psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disease. Connecting the patient voice with the combined expertise and technologies of Ireland’s leading scientists, clinicians, engineers and data experts from eight universities and five specialist hospitals, alongside international industry partners, the centre ensures that research is shaped and guided by the invaluable perspectives of people with lived experience of brain disease.

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Research powerhouse

Since the initial SFI investment of €7.98m in 2017, in its first phase FutureNeuro grew into a €44 million national research powerhouse, comparable to other world-leading research centres and generating significant economic, health and societal impact. The centre secured major EU funding awards, partnered with four of the top ten pharma companies and has undertaken pioneering breakthroughs in the areas of precision medicine, genomics, drug development and digital health. This remarkable growth has also helped to expand Ireland's attractiveness as a location for clinical trials. 

In the next phase of the centre, FutureNeuro is adding multiple new research teams across eight higher education institutes to deliver its ambitious roadmap and research challenges as part of its mission to change the patient journey. The centre’s core areas of focus are diagnostics, therapeutics, and digital health:

  • In diagnostics research, FutureNeuro aims to develop the next generation of precision diagnostics that combine genetic insights with high-resolution measurement of brain structure and function. 
  • In therapeutics, the focus is on future treatments, including gene therapies and discovering novel drug targets, with an ultimate goal of intercepting disease before it progresses. 
  • And in digital health, FutureNeuro researchers are developing systems that use real-time health data to assist doctors in making informed decisions for improved diagnosis, disease management, clinical trials and health outcomes. 

Collective mission

Embarking on their next phase, FutureNeuro remains committed to reducing stigma, shaping policy, and driving positive change across the healthcare landscape.  Professor David Henshall, Director of FutureNeuro and Professor of Molecular Physiology and Neuroscience at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, said:  “This significant funding for a second phase of our work at FutureNeuro is testament to our collective mission to change the patient journey for those impacted by neurological, neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders. Recognising the scale of the challenge ahead, we have brought together the very best scientists, clinicians, and academic and industry partners, to realise our ambition of being a world-leading research centre with national and global impact that directly connects with what patients and clinicians need.” 

Professor Cathal Kelly, Vice-Chancellor of RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences said: “RCSI takes immense pride in supporting the next phase for FutureNeuro and eagerly anticipates the advancements that will positively impact the lives of millions of people living with brain diseases worldwide. As a specialised health science institution with a profound expertise in top-tier neurological research, RCSI plays a distinctive role in fostering collaboration among scientists, clinicians, and industry, working in tandem with patients to enhance health outcomes for those impacted by neurological, neurodevelopmental and psychiatric conditions.”

Magdalen Rogers, Executive Director of the Neurological Alliance of Ireland and member of FutureNeuro’s Governance Committee said: “The patient and the dedicated clinicians who care for them are placed at the core of FutureNeuro. From governance to shaping the research agenda, right through to public education and advocacy, the centre is committed to reducing stigma, informing policy, and ultimately improving outcomes for those affected by neurological and neuropsychiatric conditions.”

Dr Tony Holohan, Chair of the FutureNeuro Governance Committee said: “I am delighted to be part of FutureNeuro’s second phase, a pivotal moment in the centre’s mission to revolutionise brain disease research and treatment. Since 2017, FutureNeuro has led the way, raising the bar for Ireland's research and healthcare standards. The centre’s pioneering work promises to further enhance care, solidifying Ireland's position as a leader in innovative healthcare solutions.”

Real-world impacts

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Patrick O'Donovan, TD said: “The bioeconomy, agrifood, neurological disease and manufacturing are each critically important to how we function as individuals and how we develop our economy. While significant scientific advances have been made in these areas by Ireland’s research ecosystem, we need to remain vigilant in addressing challenges old and new, and turning these opportunities into real-world impacts that people can see and feel. Today’s investment is as a result of close collaboration between individual researchers, research teams, research institutions, industry and government departments. I warmly welcome this multilayered partnership approach, and wish, in particular, to thank industry for their integral role.”

Welcoming the announcement, Deputy Director General of SFI Dr Ciarán Seoighe said: “The continued investment for these four SFI research centres follows a rigorous and extensive expert international peer-review process of scientific excellence and strategic impact of each centre. The four centres represent a national research network of 17 host and partner institutions that, to date, has collaborated with over 130 industry partners ranging from SMEs to multinationals, across all regions and in a variety of sectors. Research centres play a vital role in developing and nurturing the next generation of research leaders and innovators, and today’s funding awards will support over 600 researchers at senior researcher (PI), post-doctoral, PhD and MSc levels.”