Nutrition Research Centre Ireland Launch

New €15m national nutrition research centre established at WIT

The importance of nutrition to a wide range of human health issues ranging from eyesight, cancer treatment and brain function to mental health, substance misuse and sports performance is to be examined in a new research centre at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT).

The School of Health Sciences at WIT today (Mon, April 11) announce the establishment of Nutrition Research Centre Ireland which has 26 members and a projected research budget of €15m over four years. Bringing together established and respected researchers from several academic disciplines, the new centre of excellence will conduct ground-breaking research with a national and international impact.

The centre’s founding researchers have an excellent track record that includes over 200 peer-reviewed scientific papers reporting the findings of previous research and the establishment of an international conference dedicated to the role of nutrition in human wellbeing. Collectively, they have secured €15m of competitive research funding to date.

The application for the centre to be designated was led at WIT by Prof John Nolan, an internationally-recognised leader in the area of nutrition and macular health; Prof John Wells, Head of the School of Health Sciences and Dr Marie Claire Van Hout, an international expert in the field of substance use and human enhancement.

Speaking about the new centre, Prof Nolan said: “The role of nutrition for human health and wellbeing has never been more important given our ageing population, where the prevalence of diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and Alzheimer’s disease continue to grow. My view, now supported by research studies, is that lifestyle and nutrition are the key if we are to combat these diseases and enjoy healthy and happy ageing.

“The creation of Nutrition Research Centre Ireland (NRCI) is the culmination of years of work by all involved and an acknowledgment of the combined achievements of our members as well as our potential to do even more by working closely together across disciplines. This is a very timely and important development for our research community. It creates a unique platform for us to compete for major international funds to support the continued growth of nutrition-related research at WIT.”

Prof Stephen Beatty, director of the centre, added: “It is a privilege to have contributed to, and to continue to contribute to, nutrition-related research at WIT. The importance of setting up NRCI cannot be overstated and gives the researchers an administrative and academic infrastructure that matches their collective energy, ambition and drive. The research done at this centre will make a positive and lasting contribution to society in Ireland and beyond.”

Speaking about the establishment of the centre, Prof Willie Donnelly, President, WIT, said: “As average life expectancy increases, there’s growing emphasis in health research on overcoming the health issues traditionally associated with ageing. The establishment of NRCI under the leadership of Prof John Nolan, a world leader in macular pigment research, will position WIT and Ireland at the forefront of this research challenge.”

Prof John Wells, Head of the School of Health Sciences, added: “The establishment of this centre of research excellence is not only a significant consolidation of cross-disciplinary expertise in nutrition within the School of Health Sciences in WIT but also a significant development for Waterford and the southeast region as a whole. It foregrounds within the region the significant contribution that WIT research expertise can make to two significant established industries – food and health. The research support that the NRCI will provide to these key growth sectors will not only support existing businesses and enterprise but also make the southeast a more attractive location for new indigenous and multinational investors.”

Dr Marie Claire Van Hout, principal investigator at the new centre, stated: “The establishment of this unique centre supports and enhances the recent success of WIT in achieving the European Network of Centres for Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacovigilance (ENCePP) recognition from the European Medicines Agency (EMA). I am delighted to be part of this exciting development which will further build on WIT’s international reputation in the field of substance misuse and public health, and particularly in ground-breaking public health research and policy directives in enhancement and novel psychoactive drugs.”

Areas of expertise and research within the NRCI which will be based on the West Campus (Carriganore) at WIT include nutrition for eye health and brain function (led by Prof John Nolan and Prof Stephen Beatty); nutrition for human health (led by Prof John Wells); human enhancement and substance use and misuse (led by Dr Marie Claire Van Hout); the role of nutrition for cancer patients (led by Dr Suzanne Denieffe, Dr Claire O’Gorman and Dr Martina Gooney); the role of clinical nutrition and exercise for sports performance (led by Dr Lorna Doyle) and nutrition for mental health (led by Dr Michael Bergin).