A €7 million clinical research facility has opened at St James' Hospital in Dublin, Ireland, to carry out early- and late-phase clinical trials across a range of therapeutic categories.

The unit is a joint initiative between St James' and Trinity College Dublin, with funding from the Wellcome Trust and Health Research Board of Ireland, and launches with 25 research projects underway or at the planning stage.

These include an EU-funded project to develop a vaccine against hepatitis C in HIV-positive patients, as well as new therapies for oesophageal cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer's disease.

The Wellcome Trust-HRB Clinical Research Facility (CRF) was officially opened by Ireland's Taoiseach Enda Kenny late last week, who said: "this new facility is good news for patients as it will allow the testing of new and innovative therapies, technologies and products and should increase the speed at which these innovations and discoveries enter health care services."

The unit houses a research pharmacy capable of safely compounding cancer drugs and handling novel gene therapies and vaccines, in-patient isolation rooms to nurse patients with infections or compromised immune systems, and a neuropsychology suite that will enable high-quality studies of brain activity and cognition.

The Wellcome Trust provided €7.3 million in funding to construct the CRF, while the HRB has earmarked €5 million to cover operating costs and €8.2 million to fund projects carried out under the banner of the Dublin Centre for Clinical Research (DCCR).

The DCCR provides the facilities and trained staff needed to support collaborative clinical research studies across Dublin involving the Trinity College, University College Dublin and Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) medical schools and their associated teaching hospitals.

"The facility, placed at the interface between university and hospital, is an early model for the newly announced hospital groupings and academic medical centres," said Professor Michael Gill, clinical director of the CRF.

The unit will provide "greater integration between the healthcare agenda and the teaching, training, research and innovation agenda," he added.