The project aims to bridge the gap between science and people living with dry eye disease.
Our aim is to change how we develop treatment options, to ensure that the patient's perspective and needs are at the forefront of this research.Dr Laurence Fitzhenry Lecturer and researcher in the Ocular Therapeutics Research Group in the Department of Science at SETU
Dry eye disease, affecting over 350 million people worldwide, has long been a challenging condition for patients, clinicians, and scientists. Despite its significant impact on individuals' lives, finding effective treatments for this chronic condition has faced many obstacles.
Researchers at South East Technological University (SETU) hope to better understand the patient experience and to change how potential new treatments are developed, through NO TEARS (New Opportunities in Teaching, Engaging, and Advocacy Research Seminars for dry eye disease). This project is funded by SETU’s interdisciplinary research seed funding project.
Led by a team of experts in both ocular science, health, and person-centred research, including Ms Tess Ames, Dr Laurence Fitzhenry, Professor Martina Gooney, Dr Sharon Kinsella, and Dr Evan Matthews, this initiative aims to make a profound impact on how patients engage with pre-clinical research.
“Our aim is to change how we develop treatment options, to ensure that the patient's perspective and needs are at the forefront of this research. Ultimately, any technologies developed should meet the needs of patients with the real and varied lived experiences of those living with dry eye,” says Dr Fitzhenry, lecturer and researcher in the Ocular Therapeutics Research Group in the Department of Science at SETU.
Key partners include the Science Department and Health Sciences researchers at SETU campuses in Waterford and Carlow, as well as PPI Ignite, a catalyst for patient and public involvement in research. The Dry Eye Foundation in the US and Fighting Blindness are also involved, bringing patients directly to the forefront of the conversation.
The group is enthusiastic about the potential impact of NO TEARS in strengthening SETU's commitment to patient and public involvement across all areas of research.
“We see this as an opportunity to start with one area of lab-based research, but to ultimately expand upon the project and create a more flexible framework that all pre-clinical lab-based scientists can use, that emphasises end-user or patient involvement,” says Tess Ames, lead on this project and project manager in the Ocular Therapeutics Research Group at SETU.
The NO TEARS aims to strengthen SETU's connections with international stakeholders and support future patient and public involvement in lab-based research.
The project begins this autumn and will host a series of events in Waterford. These events are designed to bring people with experience of dry eye disease, researchers, and clinicians together to connect, inform, and find solutions to treatment research challenges.
The project is set to host three events, 16 October, a PPI workshop for researchers, 20 November, a Dry Eye Information evening for patients, the public, and clinicians, and 9 December, a round-table discussion on dry eye disease. To learn more about these events, contact Tess Ames at [email protected].