2023 - IPHA

How science is transforming the lives of HIV patients

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a major public health threat. The virus can lead to AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). Some 38 million people are living with HIV/AIDS globally. About 680,000 people die from the disease every year. Africa is the most severely hit region, with almost one in every 25 adults living with the disease. Affected people there account for more than two-thirds of global HIV cases. The most recent figures for Ireland show 523 cases in one year. Since the early 1980s, there have been over 9,300 diagnoses in Ireland. Over the past 40 years, advances in medicines, especially in antiretroviral treatments, have allowed many people living with the disease to suppress it to undetectable levels and avoid transmission. While new and more effective treatments emerge, work is under way to find a cure for the disease. There is no vaccine for HIV. Since 1985, MSD has been engaged in research and development for the prevention and treatment of HIV. Over the years, breakthroughs by the company’s scientists have changed the way HIV is treated. Better HIV/AIDS treatments, and the evolution of social equality in Ireland, are combining to improve the health prospects and the experience of people living with the disease.

Who’s In Our Film?


Aisling works out of MSD’s Ballydine facility which has a long-standing history of involvement in the development of new treatments for HIV. She’s already worked on two HIV medicines – one existing one and another new one that is in clinical trials.


Anita works directly with supporting the manufacture of the products that are administered to patients living with and affected by HIV. Her aim is to ensure the patient receives the best quality product. She’s encouraged by the support MSD continues to provide to help improve the lives of people affected by HIV around the world.


Thanks to innovations in medicine, Shay has seen a HIV diagnosis go from being a death sentence to becoming something that, when managed properly, allows people to live full and healthy lives. For him, the journey has always been as much about fighting societal stigma as it has been about the disease.


Stephen works directly with the communities of people living with and affected by HIV. He’s always aware of the positive clinical impact of innovation. Stephen wants to ensure that there are no barriers in accessing medicines for people who need them.

Navigating precision oncology

Precision oncology is about bringing more accurate diagnoses and treatments to cancer patients. Roche is a pioneer in personalised medicine. It wants to change the way cancer patients are treated in Ireland. By creating an ecosystem of partners in the Molecular Tumour Board (MTB), Roche is advancing personalised healthcare and the development of breakthrough oncology medicines. Although genomic biomarkers help to personalise oncology treatments, precision oncology is largely unused by doctors. The healthcare system should be moved closer to personalised healthcare. In December 2021, Roche and Cancer Trials Ireland, an independent cancer research organisation, signed a collaboration that will evolve the MTB by collecting data based on the patients discussed during the MTB sessions. That is helping to build a cancer database. Internationally, evidence suggests that more patients who take part in MTBs are assigned to clinical trials. MTB-directed therapies clinically benefit patients in many cases. Our film explores the science behind new precision oncology treatments and brings to life the human impact of medicines innovation.

Who’s In Our Film?


Deirdre believes that personalised healthcare which looks at things like data, therapeutics, and genomics, is the future of cancer treatment. She’s also passionate about partnering with Cancer Trials Ireland in the creation of the Molecular Tumour Board an endeavour that could hopefully allow cancer patients access to all the medical expertise in the world.


Larry is the National Clinical Lead on CAR T cell immunotherapy in Ireland. A ground-breaking form of treatment that trains the body’s immune system to fight cancer for itself. Until recently, this treatment was only available overseas, Larry and his team at St James’ were a pivotal part of bringing it to Ireland.


Pat was diagnosed with Stage 4 non- Hodgkin Lymphoma in 2021. He unsuccessfully underwent different types of chemotherapy before being offered CAR T cell therapy in 2022. A recent scan officially determined Pat was cancer free and in remission. After a long and difficult stretch, he feels like he’s got control of his life again.


Verena and Cancer Trials Ireland are excited to take over the management of the Molecular Tumour Board, and to make this valuable, innovative resource available to the entire Cancer Trials Ireland network. The plan is to collect shared insights and build a national knowledge platform for personalised treatment for the benefit of cancer patients everywhere.


Tanya, also a registered nurse, is the founder and director of the SJK Foundation, a charity that promotes awareness, education, and research into cancer of unknown primary (CUP). Tanya started the foundation after her sister died of cancer of unknown primary at 31 and realised that very little was known about this type. She plans to change that.


Sandra supports the allocation of clinical trials into Ireland, enabling Medical Consultants to support their patients through the provision of compassionate use and access to new innovative drugs that aren’t currently available. For Sandra the fight against cancer is closer to home than most, her family has personally felt the benefit of access to new clinical trials.


Elizabeth has been the CAR T service Co-Ordinator in St’ James’ Hospital for the last three year where she leads on service development in Ireland, Her team are delivering this innovative treatment to patients, where she’s responsible for co-ordinating treatment pathways and overseeing the continued development of the CAR T programme.

Innovation in the battle against CLL

Leukaemia is the general name given to a group of cancers that develop in the bone marrow. Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) is the most common form of leukaemia diagnosed in adults. In Ireland and in the EU, it accounts for one-third of all cases or new leukaemia diagnoses. In Ireland, some 300 people are diagnosed with CLL annually. The global burden of CLL is expected to increase over the coming decades as the population ages. Treatments for CLL have evolved significantly in recent years. Initially, patients would have received a single type of chemotherapy. Then researchers discovered that different combinations of chemotherapy medicines led to better outcomes for patients. But these treatments can be tough on patients. A new class of treatments has become available which tackles CLL in new ways. These treatments can be taken orally, often in the patient’s home. They can lead to disease remission. That means patients can come off treatment for periods of time.

Who’s In Our Film?


Sailing enthusiast Geoffrey is a survivor of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, or CLL. He has tried chemotherapy and it worked. But it was hard. Then, the cancer returned. Now, breakthrough treatments mean he can avoid hospitalisation. He is able to take a break from the disease. He is in remission.


Ruth is the Director of the Cancer Clinical Trial Unit in University Hospital Limerick. She is involved in bringing new cancer treatments to the region. She is the Academic Lead for Cancer Research for the UL Hospitals Group which works to develop our cancer research infrastructure.


Fidelma cares for patients with blood cancer. She gives patients safe, timely, evidenced-based care. She specialises in oral, targeted anti-cancer treatments, a complex multi-step process that aims to allow patients to self-medicate at home.


Through Ailín’s work in the haematology laboratory, she helps in the detection of disease. Her team’s focus now is the development of a digital morphology platform that will accelerate the detection of abnormalities in a patient’s blood.


Tomáš is a production operator at AbbVie in Cork. Making medicines that give hope to patients with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, or CLL, inspires him every day to do his job.


Sara works as a Drug Product Quality Control Supervisor at AbbVie’s Sligo site where she oversees the testing of oncology medicines. Ensuring the quality and safety of these medicines is vital for cancer patients.

Sizing the therapeutic potential of mRNA

mRNA vaccine technology has been in development for over two decades. Scientists’ ability to synthetically produce genetic material with instructions for making a protein and generating an immune response has exciting implications for the development of new vaccines and treatments. The ‘platform technology’ could hold the key to fixing some of the world’s health problems. The technology is safe, and it can be developed and scaled rapidly, with potentially transformative implications for human health. The technology could be used in immunotherapy to treat cancers and chronic infectious diseases – like HIV, hepatitis B and herpes – as well as autoimmune disorders and even for gene therapy. Its success in tackling a viral infection like Covid-19 means future pandemics could be prevented or managed faster by an mRNA response.

Who’s In Our Film?


Leanne’s grandad died from cancer. She knows that today’s breakthrough science could have given him a second chance at life. Her work in a GP’s office during Covid-19 gives her a professional insight into how innovation can change the world for the better.


Deirdre and her team at Pfizer’s Grange Castle site in Dublin are dedicated to realising the promise of mRNA. The “platform technology” could be used in immunotherapy to treat cancers and chronic infectious diseases – like HIV, hepatitis B and herpes – as well as autoimmune disorders and even for gene therapy.


With its effectiveness proven in the fight against Covid-19, Pfizer is exploring other potential clinical applications of mRNA. Grange Castle, Pfizer’s Dublin manufacturing operation where Orlaith is based, is among the few global sites to be part of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine production cycle.


Innovations in medicines meant that Sheila survived cancer. Without access to a clinical trial, she may not be here today. Sheila’s hope for the future is that innovation in medicines continue at the same rate so that she’s not the exception and that other cancer patients can have endings as happy as hers.


Richard is a registered nurse specialising in paediatric care. His experience in radiology gave him practical insight into the importance of innovation in the treatment of cancer. He sees every day the importance of vaccination in the fight against Covid-19.

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