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"Delivering socio-economic benefits from stem cell and gene therapy research"

The Centre for Innovation & Structural Change (CISC) at NUI Galway is a participant in REMEDI, the new Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) funded Regenerative Medicine Research Institute at NUI Galway. SFI will fund �15m of the overall REMEDI work programme, and industrial partners will contribute �5m. REMEDI will specialise in basic and applied research in regenerative medicine to develop new therapies for human diseases that are currently incurable.

CISC's particular role will be to support REMEDI in its outreach activities, particularly in respect of interactions with policy makers and the business community.

CISC also has a specific programme of research within REMEDI, focussing on the socio-economic aspects of stem cell and gene therapy research.

This work will draw from perspectives on new medical technologies from the economics of technological change and innovation, and also from health economics analyses, including cost of illness evaluations. The potentially enormous opportunities for improving quality of life arising from the therapies developed by REMEDI will be explored in this research, and this may in turn help to inform priority setting in health research and service provision policy. This health economics element of CISC's contribution will be led by Dr Eamon O'Shea, of the Department of Economics at NUI, Galway, who is a specialist in the fields of health economics and evaluation.

Other personnel currently at CISC have been engaged in work relating to the development of a medical devices cluster of industrial activity in the Border Midlands West Region, and in particular, along the Atlantic Technology Corridor, and these interests and experience will inform REMEDI's mission in developing the industrial base in the region and Ireland more generally.

Project Leader:



Dr Eamon O'Shea

Delivering socio-economic benefits from stem cell and gene therapy research
The section describes the specific package of research which will be undertaken as a collaboration between CISC and REMEDI.
It is likely that this specific project will be seeking to fund a PhD fellowship in early 2004. For initial information on this potential opportunity, contact at

The purpose of this workpackage is to critically explore socio-economic determinants and impacts in the fields of stem cell and gene therapy research, drawing in particular on the economic analysis of innovation and technological change, and the economics of health. A key motivation is to inform the substantive scientific research programme of the Centre, which is ultimately predicated on delivering demonstrable social benefits arising from the application and adoption of new technologies. This study will be of particular importance in feeding into the Centre's outreach programme, in providing applications of methodologies and analytical frameworks to enable dialogue with civil society, including policy makers responsible for resource allocation decisions.

Key research questions include; in aligning research resources to address specific disease burdens, how can or should such priority decisions be taken? To what extent are research strategies 'pushed' by the supply of science or 'pulled' by market/policy demands? To what extend does the capacity of therapies to address hereditary conditions require new evaluation methodologies in assessing costs and benefits? What are the factors contributing to, or inhibiting, clinical applications of emergent technologies? From a policy perspective, how can commercialisation strategies best serve broad policy goals, e.g. through intellectual property rights régimes?

Task 1 Technological trajectories
Drawing upon perspectives from the evolutionary economics of technological change, this task will situate the emergent biotechnology science base and industry in Ireland in the context of technnological trajectories, mapping the key disciplinary and industry-academic-government interactions, with a view to coherently explaining the socio-determinants of research agendas and priorities, with a particular focus on the development and application of medical therapies.

Task 2 Priority setting and public policy
Treatments arising from stem cell and gene therapy may be addressed to a range of specific diseases and conditions, and the purpose of this task will be to analyse, from an economics perspective, the interaction between scientific concerns and public policy goals in determining where the focus of public research can and should be directed, in both Irish and international contexts. This will centre on comparisons between the socio-economic burden of diseases and the resources implications of therapies. Issues of need, demand and want will be explored in a public policy context. A particular concern will be the extent to which such cost-benefit evaluations are necessarily qualitatively different from more traditional approaches given the distinctive capacity of genetic therapies to address hereditary conditions, insofar as this has potentially immense consequences for individuals' quality of life, arising for example in the context of family size decisions.

Task 3 Technology diffusion
Social and economic benefits flow from the widespread adoption of innovative technologies and not primarily from the initial process of knowledge generation per se, so that the purpose of this task will be to account for the economic, institutional and informational factors which determine the application of treatments arising from stem cell and gene therapy research, in the context of particular case studies of these emergent technologies.

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