Friday, 6 October 2023:  Today on World Cerebral Palsy Day, University College Cork (UCC) has announced the appointment of Professor Deirdre Murray as the new Chair in Early Brain Injury and Cerebral Palsy, as part of a new programme of excellence to revolutionise the delivery of cerebral palsy care in Ireland.

In May, the Cerebral Palsy Foundation (CPF) announced that UCC as one of three new clinical and research hubs to help establish Ireland as an international leader in Cerebral Palsy (CP) care and research.

As part of the programme, CPF is investing €1.6 million to advance research in early brain injury and cerebral palsy at the Irish Centre for Maternal and Child Health Research (INFANT), UCC.

A UCC alumnus, Professor Murray graduated from UCC in 1995 before completing paediatric training in Paediatric Intensive Care Medicine in Bristol Royal Hospital for Sick Children, and later working as a Paediatric Intensive care Fellow in the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne. In 2012 she was awarded a prestigious Health Research Board Clinician Scientist Award for the BiHiVE study, an ongoing project focusing on the discovery and validation of biomarkers in neonatal brain injury.

A Consultant Paediatrician, Paediatric Research Lead at INFANT and Professor of Paediatrics, in UCC’s Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Deirdre’s research is focused on early brain injury and the development of new ways to predict and assess neurocognitive outcome in children.

Rachel Byrne, Executive Director of the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, said: “We established the CP Programme of Excellence to vastly improve the care provided to people with cerebral palsy in Ireland; from childhood right through to adulthood. We know that the correct interventions at an early age can have a huge impact on the lifespan of people living with cerebral palsy. Professor Murray will lead incredibly important research on early brain injury that will inform how we treat and support children with cerebral palsy and ensure they have the best possible outcomes.”

Professor Geraldine Boylan, Director of INFANT, said: “Congratulations to Professor Deirdre Murray on her well-deserved appointment as Chair in Early Brain Injury and Cerebral Palsy at UCC.  Professor Murray’s expertise in this important leadership role will allow us to focus our early brain injury research on early detection and interventions for cerebral palsy.   We are immensely grateful to the Cerebral Palsy Foundation for this strategic funding which also highlights our growing partnership and joint commitment to effect positive change for people with cerebral palsy.”

Professor Deirdre Murray said: I am very honoured to assume the role of Chair in Early Brain Injury and Cerebral Palsy. This signifies an important step forward and I am committed to leading our research efforts at INFANT in partnership with the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, to make Ireland a leading country for research into early brain injury and more importantly to improve health outcomes for children with cerebral palsy and their families.”

Currently the most common lifelong physical disability acquired during childhood, cerebral palsy is diagnosed in approximately 150 children each year in Ireland. Early diagnosis in babies can lead to much better outcomes. The Cerebral Palsy Foundation’s partnership with UCC will enable researchers at INFANT to generate critical knowledge that will transform outcomes for children with Cerebral Palsy and their families.

Professor John F. Cryan, UCC Vice-President for Research and Innovation said: “Congratulations to Professor Deirdre Murray on her appointment as the new Chair in Early Brain Injury and Cerebral Palsy, and sincere thanks to the Cerebral Palsy Foundation for their continued partnership with UCC. In the coming months, we will launch UCC Futures – Children and UCC Futures – Ageing and Brain Science, and Professor Murray’s research expertise in early brain injury and cerebral palsy will be very important in these two areas of research prioritisation at UCC.”

Professor Helen Whelton, Head of College of Medicine and Health, UCC said: “Congratulations to Professor Deirdre Murray and INFANT Research Centre, UCC for the excellent work being done by our clinicians and researchers to help revolutionise cerebral palsy care in Ireland which will improve health outcomes and so change the trajectory of people’s lives.”

The creation of this new Chair at UCC in Early Brain Injury and Cerebral Palsy will build on an existing collaboration between the Cerebral Palsy Foundation and the INFANT Centre on the ‘Early Detection and Intervention for Cerebral Palsy in Ireland’ study. This is a national, multi-centre cohort study led by INFANT and coordinated by In4kids, the HRB Irish Network for Children’s Clinical Trials.