NEPHSTROM PI Appointed to Head of Discipline of Medicine at NUI Galway

         Prof Matt Griffin, NUI Galway

Matt Griffin has been Professor of Transplant Biology in NUI Galway’s School of Medicine and a Consultant Nephrologist at Galway University Hospitals since July 2008. He qualified in Medicine from University College Cork in 1988 and trained in General Medicine and Nephrology in Cork, Dublin and Mayo Clinic Rochester, USA between 1989 and 1997. He pursued a research fellowship in basic immunology at The University of Chicago before returning to join the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension and the William J von Liebig Transplant Center at Mayo Clinic in 1999 where he was a Consultant Nephrologist specialising in Kidney and Pancreas Transplantation and Associate Professor of Medicine at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine before returning to Ireland.

His research programme has been funded by the NIH, SFI, HRB and the European Commission and is affiliated with the Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI) and CÚRAM Centre for Research in Medical Devices. His interests include basic and transplant immunology, clinical transplantation and immunosuppression, the pathophysiology of renal injury, diabetic kidney disease and stem cell and therapies. He has authored over 130 peer-reviewed manuscripts.

His educational and professional roles have included Director of Education for the Mayo Clinic Transplant Center, standing member of two NIH study sections, Deputy Editor and Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, Chair of the NUI Galway Animal Care Research Ethics Committee and Academic Lead for Final Medical Year Renal/Urology teaching modules. He has been a primary supervisor to over 50 postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers, many of whom are now academic clinicians and scientists.

NUI Galway Head of School of Medicine, Carmel Malone, MD officially welcomed Matt to the new role on 23 August 2017.

Stephanie Rocks presents her NEPHSTROM-guided research project

Stephanie Rocks, a student at the Regenerative Medicine Institute at NUI Galway presented her work entitled, ‘The Influence of MSC Products on High Glucose-Induced Pro-Inflammatory Signalling Pathways in Human Kidney Epithelial Cells’ at the Regenerative Medicine Research Symposium held in the Biosciences Building at NUI Galway on 18 August 2017. Stephanie’s project was supervised by NEPHSTROM PI Prof. Matthew Griffin and Dr Nahidul Islam. This summer research project was part of the MSc. Regenerative Medicine, a 12-month taught course coordinated by Dr Linda Howard.

Prof. Griffin commented: “It has been a pleasure to have Stephanie as part of our NEPHSTROM team for the last 5 months. The Regenerative Medicine Masters programme at NUI Galway brings another dimension to our basic and translational research efforts at REMEDI. Each year we are fortunate to have outstanding students with diverse undergraduate backgrounds in science, medicine and engineering gain their first extensive research experiences with mentoring from REMEDI PhD students and post-doctoral researchers. For multi-disciplinary projects such as NEPHSTROM, the participation of skilled and highly motivated Master’s students such as Stephanie allows us to extend the overall scope of laboratory research related to key questions such as MSC mechanism of action.

Dr Howard thanked Prof Griffin and his research group for hosting and training Stephanie during this project. The experience of working in an active research environment is invaluable for early stage researchers as they make decisions about their future career goals. Training the next generation of scientists is a important role for researchers and one that NEPHSTROM scientists have clearly taken to heart. For more information on the course, click here.


NEPHSTROM will present at EU-MSC2 meeting in Leiden in September

Hosted by Leiden University Medical Center, the EU MSC2 2017 meeting in Leiden, NL on September 12th and 13th will assemble twelve EU-funded, mesenchymal stromal cell-focussed consortia. Projects to be presented include: REDDSTARREACHRETHRIM, Stellar, MERLINNephstromSCIENCEVISICORT and Adipoa-2AUTOSTEMBOOSTB4, SEPCELL, RESSTORE, and RESPINE. This two day, interactive meeting will be held at the Stadsgehoorzaal Leiden. Three overarching aspects of the EU-MSC2 meeting include: mechanisms of action and potency assays; an interactive panel discussion on product development, and product development and market authorisation in a changing regulatory landscape.

The objectives of the meeting are to:

  • Enhance knowledge-sharing between EU research groups working in the mesenchymal stromal cell biology domain
  • Engage with European Commission Project Officers and other stakeholders from International Society of Cellular Therapy, stem cell ethicists and the European Medicines Agency (EMA)
  • Assemble trans-disciplinary research groups working across the global health spectrum but with a common focus of mesenchymal stromal cell biology
  • Bring up-and-coming researchers together for networking purposes, and to explore future consortium building and international funding application opportunities

Expected impacts and outcomes:

  • Provide opportunities to develop new mesenchymal stromal cell networks
  • Disseminate the findings and challenges between MSC-focussed consortia
  • Improve the communication potential of research, outcomes and the value of the research
  • Explore potential for new commercial technologies
  • Collectively enhance the quality and impact of planned clinical trials

These EU-funded projects are:

  • Improving the quality of life for European citizens
  • Progressing the clinical translation of MSC research and developments

For more information, please visit EU MSC2 2017.
Register via Eventbrite by August 14 2017.
Read the EU-MSC2 2015 meeting report here.

NEPHSTROM researchers from NUI Galway present research on Biomarkers in Diabetic Kidney Disease at the 54th ERA-EDTA Annual Congress

NEPHSTROM researchers, Dr Nahidul Islam and Dr Tomás Griffin from the National University of Ireland, Galway presented their work on Diabetic Kidney Disease at the 54th ERA-EDTA Congress in Madrid, Spain. ERA-EDTA is the largest Society for Kidney Specialists in Europe and the meeting brings together experts in kidney disease from around the world.

In an oral presentation entitled “Serum and urine soluble TNFR-1 and TNFR-2 differentially correlate with eGFR and albuminuria in diabetic kidney disease”, Drs Griffin and Islam described the results of a research study in which the levels of two disease-related proteins (“biomarkers”) – soluble TNFR-1 and soluble TNFR-2 – were measured in paired serum and urine samples collected from adults with different stages of Diabetic Kidney Disease attending Galway University Hospitals. They showed that the blood levels of these biomarkers are very closely associated with current kidney function but are less closely associated with the amount of protein (albumin) in the urine. When the biomarkers were measured in urine, however, the levels were more closely associated with the amount of urine albumin. The study suggests that measurements of sTNFR1 and sTNFR2 are promising biomarkers for tracking responses to novel therapies during the forthcoming NEPHSTROM Phase 1b/2a clinical trial of allogeneic MSCs (ORBCEL M®) in DKD.

In a poster presentation entitled “Factors released by human mesenchymal stem cells suppress glucose-induced inflammatory responses of stable renal proximal tubular epithelial cell monolayers”, Dr. Islam described the development of a culture system to investigate how bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stromal cells (BM-MSC) influence the effects of different glucose levels on cells from the kidney. This study showed that culturing BM-MSC in close proximity to human renal proximal tubular epithelial cells (RPTEC), reduces the effect of high glucose levels to stimulate an inflammatory response. Further investigation using this culture system will help NEPHSTROM researchers to identify the mechanisms involved in this “anti-inflammatory” effect of BM-MSC on kidney cells under diabetic conditions.

NEPHSTROM is presented at the START competition for International Clinical Trials Day, NUI Galway, 19 May 2017

Does it help your fitness to have an event as a goal when you are training? Can cartoons and comics help children to achieve better results in tests? How would you even find out?

NEPHSTROM’s Dr Cathal O’ Flatharta and Dr Nahidul Islam of NUI Galway were on hand at the awards ceremony for a schools’ competition called “START” whose aim was to encourage school students to come up with interesting questions and to design and run trials to answer them in a scientific way.

“It is one of the only initiatives out there that is teaching children about randomised trials,” says Dr Sandra Galvin, who co-ordinates the Health Research Board Trials Methodology Research Network, which runs the START initiative. “We need more people to participate in trials to improve healthcare, so there is that big important picture here, and it comes down to kids having fun and they take the message home.” For more information about the event, see

Cathal and Nahidul created and managed a presentation area for NEPHSTROM, spoke to the school groups and visitors who were interested in the planned clinical trial for NEPHSTROM taking place at NUI Galway’s Clinical Research Facility. A sister project, AUTOSTEM was also represented. This project is looking ahead of the clinical trials in order to meet the needs of the clinics in the future by developing automated cell factories to produce the vast quantities of cells which will be required should the clinical trials prove successful.

Excellent Plenary meeting in Galway, 12 April 2017

The NEPHSTROM consortium travelled to Galway for our most recent plenary, on April 12th. Hosted by NUI Galway at the Galway Bay Hotel, the meeting took place between 0900 and 1800. Partners travelled down on the evening before, and returned (mostly via Dublin Airport) on the 13th. A lucky few remained for a couple of days, exploring the beautiful west of Ireland. Astonishingly, there was little rain.

The project is making excellent progress on several fronts. A major highlight is the successful approval of our Voluntary Harmonisation Procedure, the process required to secure regulatory approval for our clinical trial across all the clinical trial sites (in the UK, Ireland and Italy). This success followed Herculean labours by Nadia Rubis, Norberto Perico, and the regulatory team at IRFMN in Bergamo.

Moving forward, there is strong focus on cell production, on local ethical and regulatory approvals, and on planning for the recruitment of our first patients.

Following the meeting, the entire team enjoyed an excellent dinner, hosted by NUI Galway, and a series of musical interludes from talented team members, led by Martino Introna.


Martino at the piano

Martino at the piano

The consortium at Galway

NUIG researchers present on Diabetic Kidney Disease at the 2016 Irish Endocrine Society Annual Conference

NEPHSTROM researchers based at the National University of Ireland, Galway presented two posters on Diabetic Kidney Disease at the recent Irish Endocrine Society 40th Annual Conference in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

martinIn one poster entitled “Influence of chronic kidney disease aetiology on outcomes of multi-disciplinary diabetic renal clinic attendance”, Dr Liam Martin presented evidence that attendance at a multi-disciplinary diabetes renal clinic (DRC) at the Galway University Hospitals improved the rate of loss of kidney function of people with type 2 diabetes and chronic kidney disease. In contrast, those with type 1 diabetes and chronic kidney disease did not have improvement in kidney function loss but did benefit in terms of better blood glucose and cholesterol levels.

griffinIn the other poster, entitled “Pilot study of biomarkers in diabetic kidney disease”, Dr Tomás Griffin reported the results of assays for several different biomarkers in serum samples from Galway University Hospital outpatients with mild, moderate and severe diabetic kidney disease. He concluded that serum levels of the proteins leptin, adiponectin, fibroblast growth factor-21 (FGF-21), soluble tumour necrosis factor receptors-1 and 2 (sTNFR-1 and 2), neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin (NGAL) and interleukin-8 (IL-8) correlate with current kidney function and are promising biomarkers for tracking responses to novel therapies during clinical trials such as the forthcoming NEPHSTROM Phase 1b/2a clinical trial of allogeneic Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) (product ORBCEL M®) in diabetic kidney disease.

The abstracts are published online by the Irish Journal of Medical Sciences (

The NEPHSTROM team meets in Liverpool


The NEPHSTROM consortium met for their third project plenary on September 22-23. The meeting was hosted by NHS Blood and Transplant in Liverpool. The team enjoyed productive discussions about GMP stem cell production, and planning and preparation for the forthcoming clinical trial.

STEM CELL REVOLUTIONS documentary screening, NUI Galway

Featuring beautiful hand-drawn animations and interviews with leading stem cell scientists, STEM CELL REVOLUTIONS charts the history and scientific evolution of stem cell research – from the earliest experiments that first revealed stem cells in the body, to leading current scientific and clinical developments. Watch the trailer here

Question & answer session to follow led by Profs Tim O’ Brien and Matt Griffin

Clinical Science Institute (CSI) Lecture Theatre – Costelloe Road NUI Galway, H91 YR71 Galway – View Map

For more details and to book tickets click here.