News

Almac Discovery and RCSI enter research collaboration

Almac Discovery and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and have announced a research collaboration aimed at understanding how to target therapy-resistant cancer tumors.

Graham Cotton, Senior R&D Group Leader, Almac Discovery; Tracy Robson; and Professor Tim Harrison, VP Discovery Chemistry, Almac Discovery.
Graham Cotton, Senior R&D Group Leader, Almac Discovery; Tracy Robson; and Professor Tim Harrison, VP Discovery Chemistry, Almac Discovery.

TCD geneticists in breakthrough on autism and epilepsy

Move could open up new treatment options for difficult to treat conditions

Professor in genetics and head of department Aoife McLysaght led the research which focused on neurodevelopmental disorders including ADHD, developmental delay, schizophrenia and intellectual disability.

It involved a novel new way to look at disease-related DNA not by studying the genes as they are today but by watching their evolution over time, said Prof McLysaght, whose research is funded by the European Research Council.

The researchers were interested in places where the DNA made multiple copies or deletions of itself. They also wanted to see what genes near these places were doing.

Humans all have these duplicates and deletions that vary in size and seem random, but the Trinity team noticed a pattern when they were near a gene associated with a disease condition.

Goldilocks

The copies and deletions tended to be longer near these genes but there were fewer of them, something that encouraged Prof McLysaght to make a link with “Goldilocks”.

“Our idea was that there must be some genes within these regions with Goldilocks properties – too much or too little duplication and things don’t work properly,” she said. “The number of copies must be just right.”

The group looked back over our evolutionary history, searching for genes that did not seem to tolerate too much or too little variation.

It found that there was far less variation around genes associated with neurodevelopmental disorders compared to genes that had no association with disorders.

This held true for humans but was also true for other mammal species including sheep, dogs, rabbits and gorillas.

Details of the work were published on Wednesday in Nature Communications.

The research shows that our evolutionary history could be useful for understanding human disease, Prof McLysaght said.

It could also make it easier to identify genes linked with a developmental condition.

“These metrics also allow us to home in on a short list of genes as candidates for the diseases in question,” she said.

Isolating disease-related genes will help explain why these conditions arise, provide better diagnostic tools and potentially help to develop new therapies, she said.

NUI Galway – New research will investigate how changing diet affects kidney disease

Dr Andrew Smyth
Dr. Andrew Smyth

 

Dr Andrew Smyth, NUI Galway, has secured a prestigious Wellcome Post-Doctoral Training Fellowship award through the SFI-HRB-Wellcome Partnership to carry out a clinical trial to determine the effect of dietary modification on kidney disease. The award is worth €486,492 and will be co-funded by Science Foundation Ireland, the Health Research Board and Wellcome.

Using the award, Dr Smyth will also form collaborations with international researchers in McMaster University in Canada and the University of Oxford in the UK to help reveal the risk factors for, and impact of, kidney disease. They will also look at the effect of kidney disease on other aspects of health.

Commenting on the award, Dr Smyth said he is: “Very privileged to be given the opportunity to continue to further develop his clinical research skills.”

Speaking about the achievement, Dr Graham Love, Chief Executive at the Health Research Board said: “Securing this award is a real testament to Andrew’s research capability. These awards are not easy to get and we are delighted to work with SFI and Wellcome to help make them accessible to Irish researchers.”

Commenting on the award, Dr Darrin Morrissey, Director of Programmes at Science Foundation Ireland said: “Science Foundation Ireland would like to congratulate Dr Andrew Smyth as the first recipient in Ireland of this award. I hope that his success will encourage other clinician researchers to explore the opportunities available to support excellent and impactful research through the SFI-HRB-Wellcome Partnership.”

Head of Research Careers in Wellcome, Dr Anne-Maire Coriat, commented on the award saying: “We are delighted that Andrew was successful in his application for a Clinical Postdoctoral Research Training Fellowship, he is the first successful applicant from Ireland that Wellcome has supported since we launched the scheme for early postdoctoral fellowships in 2011. Research-active clinicians have an overwhelmingly positive impact on patient care but there are still many challenges facing clinicians who juggle clinical work and research. Our recent support for the Wellcome – Health Research Board Irish Clinical Academic Training (ICAT) Programme is a further example of our support for clinical academic research in Ireland – this award provides support for an all-Ireland cross-institutional, comprehensive national programme for Clinician Scientists based at six major Irish universities and their affiliated hospital groups.”

Wellcome’s existing schemes for postdoctoral clinical academics (the Clinical Postdoctoral Research Training Fellowship and Intermediate Clinical Fellowship) have recently been consolidated to establish a new scheme, the Clinical Research Career Development Fellowship. This offers the possibility of longer term support, and much greater flexibility in balancing research and clinical training. Those interested in finding out more, or applying, should visit: https://wellcome.ac.uk/funding/clinical-research-career-development-fellowships.

Further Irish success in securing funding

Recently, three more Irish researchers were successful in obtaining seed funding, worth over €350,000, from Wellcome through the same SFI-HRB-Wellcome Partnership. The Seed Awards are once-off awards of up to £100,000 (or euro equivalent) designed to help researchers develop a novel research idea, which could form part of a larger grant application in the future.

The three recent successful awardees are using their funding to understand the function of a novel molecule in killing breast cancer cells, to model the transport of drugs into diseased heart tissue and to generate models of motor neuron diseases using fruit flies.

Among the recipients was Dr Ellen Roche, based in NUI Galway also, will work on modelling the transport of drugs into diseased heart tissue using a novel, implantable device that is attached to the outer surface of the heart. Dr Roche’s work has the potential to ultimately improve treatment for patients with heart failure.

Seven researchers based in the Republic of Ireland have been successful in securing Seed Awards since the scheme opened in 2015. The closing date for the next round is 13 March 2017, with outcomes due in May 2017. Anyone wishing to apply can find more information on the scheme here: https://wellcome.ac.uk/funding/seed-awards-science

Author: Marketing and Communications Office, NUI Galway

‘UCC’s the best thing that’s happened to me’

Samar Khan is studying for an MA in Women’s Studies at UCC.
Samar Khan is studying for an MA in Women’s Studies at UCC.

When I arrived in Ireland last September, alone on my first trip to Europe, I was reminded of how, as a young Muslim girl growing up in the State of Uttar Pradesh in India, I was always discouraged from travelling alone. Using public transport was prohibited because it would have exposed me to public gaze and increased the chances of harassment by strangers. My mobility was curbed for my own safety, I was told.

Living and studying away from home in New Delhi, for five years in a democratic and academic environment cultivated my personality, and my perceptions and beliefs evolved. Today, I see travel not only as a mode of exploring new geographical locations, but more importantly, of meeting new people with different perspectives and ideas.

Carrying my luggage on my back and travelling alone from one place to another on buses, trains and planes, has instilled in me the kind of self-confidence that no patronising protective institution ever could. As an Indian Muslim woman, I think this kind of self-realisation is a big achievement in itself.

I am currently pursuing my Masters in Women’s Studies at UCC and I’m able to study in this world-class institution because I was given this opportunity by the Irish Government in the form of a scholarship and for this, I am very grateful. I know that not all deserving people get to enjoy the privilege that I have been given.

I identify as an Indian Muslim woman because my personal experience and academic training gives me the confidence to assert my identity wherever possible and not just to be referred to as another ‘international student’.

I believe that our historical, political and social context play a vital role in shaping our future. My parents’ decision to send me away to study was one that led me to where I am today. It took me some time to comprehend that our political situation in society largely determines the kind of life we live. Discrimination is so rampant and systematic in society, that it has been internalised and normalised in our day-to-day lives.

If we critically analyse, we observe that the construction of language is also misogynistic. A girl like me at 24 would be expected to settle down, while for a guy this is the crucial time to establish himself professionally. The driving factor that led me to join the Women’s Studies MA programme at UCC was to challenge this social tendency and through my course, I intend to use gender as a tool of analysis for feminist research. After only one semester, I can already see my vision taking shape, thanks to the expert faculty and my amazing bunch of classmates.

Religion has always been used politically by the powerful elites to subjugate the weak. If we talk about Islam, it is seen to be a religion where women are treated as inferior to men with virtually no legal rights. However, we tend to forget that Islamic philosophy and Islamic practice are two different things. One of the most damaging phases for Islam was the age of feudalism that bred patriarchy, institutionalised misogyny and made a gender neutral compilation of the Qur’an and its interpretation something aggressively masculine.

As a critical believer who thinks that the emergence of Islam was a political response to the historical problems of that space and time, be it slavery, adultery, female infanticide, I challenge the perception that the same religion encourages gender discrimination.

I think the lack of female scholars in Islamic philosophy feeds into the misinterpretation of Islam. We need more women academics to research and investigate religious texts and to promote the basic philosophy before it can be manipulated against the economic and political development of women.

My aim is to become one of these academics by making the most of the resources I’ve been given by UCC so that we can be in a position to counter religious questions on a woman’s autonomy more theoretically. And thanks to the exposure and experience I have been given, I’m optimistic about that.

This university has given me the chance to speak, and more importantly, to be heard as a person of lower status, a woman belonging to a minority community in my country. In UCC’s conducive environment of bilateral learning, I feel comfortable and confident to voice what I think. In a set-up without hierarchy, I feel myself delivering my best and really being productive. It reaffirms my faith in academia and its role in building a better and more democratic world. Coming to Ireland and studying at UCC may be the best thing that has ever happened to me.

Samar Khan is studying for an MA in Women’s Studies at UCC. Students benefit from academic expertise across a range of disciplines including sociology, applied social studies, law, history, literature, philosophy, folklore, politics, linguistics, performance, popular culture, and religions. Find out more here: https://www.ucc.ie/en/womensstudies/mainwomensstudies/ or follow @uccwomenstudies on Twitter.

Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe features two UCD students

  • LGBTQ+ activist is one of youngest to be recognised
  • PhD researcher honoured for efforts to bring disruptive tech to developing world

UCD students Sam Blanckensee and Colin Keogh have been named in Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe list of people “who will impact Europe for the next 50 years.”

The listing features 300 young leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs under the age of 30 who are transforming areas including business, technology, media and culture.

22 year-old activist Blanckensee was named in the Law and Policy and Youngest categories.

He is National Development Officer at Transgender Equality Network Ireland and Education Officer at Irish Trans Student Alliance.

Forbes described him as “an outspoken voice for the trans community across Irish media and politics.”

Blanckensee was part of the lobbying effort that helped pass legislation to allow people to self-declare their gender and receive new birth certificates.

He is a student in the UCD School of Veterinary Medicine and was LGBT Coordinator with UCD Students’ Union.

Blanckensee received a UCD President’s Award in 2014 for work advocating for the rights of transgender students inside and outside the UCD community.


PhD student Keogh was featured for his work towards “using low-cost disruptive technologies to help improve the world.”

He was named in the Science and Healthcare category.

Keogh is a research engineer at UCD College of Engineering and Architecture and founder of Rapid Foundation.

It aims to put “technology such as 3D printers and low-cost electronics in the hands of people who need it most in developing countries.”

The Rapid Foundation was a recipient of the 2016 Fritz Schumacher Award.

By: Jonny Baxter, digital journalist, UCD University Relations

RCSI awards contract for €9.5 million expansion of Education and Research Building at Beaumont Hospital to the Stewart Group

RCSI (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland) has announced that it has awarded the main construction contract for the extension of the RCSI Education and Research Centre, Smurfit Building at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin to the Stewart Group.
RCSI will invest in the region of €11 million in the development of the construction of the 30,000 sq ft three-story extension. The construction value of the project is €9.5 million marking the largest capital investment in the Beaumont Hospital Campus in a considerable period. The project will create approximately 200 jobs over the course of the development. Construction will commence in January 2017 and works are scheduled for 18 months for completion by mid-2018.
The project will incorporate a new student concourse at ground floor to link the existing building, with the new facility. The new facilities will include a series of large flexible multi-functional tutorial rooms on the ground floor, open plan faculty offices and meeting spaces on the first floor and laboratory and research facilities, including write up space, on the second floor. The building will be linked vertically with a feature stairs under a large atrium.
Professor Cathal Kelly, CEO/Registrar of RCSI, said: “Today’s contract signing for the expansion of the RCSI Education and Research Centre, Smurfit Building paves the way for the next level of RCSI investment in healthcare education and research in Ireland and will extend the existing RCSI facilities at Beaumont Hospital to create world-class modern facilities for our students and staff.”
The RCSI Education and Research Centre (ERC), Smurfit Building was first opened at Beaumont Hospital in 2000 and is home to the first academic Clinical Research Centre to be established in Ireland. The ERC forms part of RCSI’s Research Institute which is a multi-site research infrastructure encompassing the research activities of RCSI at the St Stephen’s Green campus and the RCSI Education and Research Centre (ERC) at Beaumont Hospital.
Rachael Stewart, Business Development Director, Stewart Group, observed that “the ERC extension project is an exciting opportunity for Stewart to collaborate on the creation of a future proof, state-of-the-art medical learning facility, which will harvest leading international medical professionals for generations to come. The Stewart brand is synonymous with excellence in our field which is in perfect alignment with RCSI’s unrivalled, international reputation. Stewart employ flexible and dynamic construction professionals who are equipped to rapidly respond to our clients’ needs, which is of particular importance on a live hospital campus.”
Established in 1902, Stewart is one of Ireland’s leading construction companies with offices in Dublin and Galway. The company has expertise in many sectors including commercial, industrial, healthcare, education and pharmaceutical. Project Managers are RCSI, Project Architects McCauley Daye O’Connell, Cost Consultancy Aecom, Service Engineers OCSC and Civil and Structural Engineers CS Consulting Group.
RCSI is ranked in the top 250 institutions worldwide and joint 1st place in the Republic of Ireland in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings (2016-2017). It is an international not-for-profit health sciences institution, with its headquarters in Dublin, focused on education and research to drive improvements in human health worldwide.

The mesentery: A ‘new’ organ you didn’t know you had

In case you’ve ever wondered what connects your intestine to your abdomen, there’s a word — and now, a single organ — for that: the mesentery. But don’t worry; you haven’t grown a new organ. It’s always been there, performing important functions that affect systems throughout the body, from cardiovascular to immunological.

Leonardo da Vinci depicted it as one contiguous organ, and it remained that way for centuries until 1885, when Sir Frederick Treves’ findings presented the mesentery as fragmented amongst the small intestine, transverse colon and sigmoid colon.
The research of Dr. J. Calvin Coffey, foundation chair of surgery at the University of Limerick, is reclassifying this part of the digestive system as a contiguous organ. In a new study, Coffey has established the anatomy and structure of the mesentery, using images and compiling research to show that the organ’s continuity can be seen only when it’s exposed in a certain way.
The current findings resonate with those of Carl Toldt, who accurately described the presence of the mesentery in 1878. But his research was largely overlooked. At the time, Treves’ findings supported the statements of Henry Gray, who mentioned multiple mesenteries in the 1858 first edition of his book “Gray’s Anatomy,” the go-to medical textbook for students around the world.
Coffey’s research has already prompted the latest edition of “Gray’s Anatomy” to refer to the mesentery as a continuous organ.
How the mesentery functions in your body. (A) Peritoneum, mesentery, fascia and intestine. (B) Mesentery, fascia and intestine. (C) Mesentery and intestine. (D) Mesentery.
University of Limerick Professor Dr. J. Calvin Coffey’s research reclassifies the mesentery as a contiguous organ.

What does it do?

Linking your gut to the rest of your body is an important task, and the mesentery performs it well.
Among its functions, it carries blood and lymphatic fluid between the intestine and the rest of the body. It also maintains the position of the intestine so that it’s connected with the abdominal wall without being in direct contact.
That connection is key.
“Without a mesentery to keep the intestine connected, the intestine would have to attach directly to the body wall,” Coffey said. “It is unlikely that it would be able to contract and relax along its entire length if it were directly in contact. It maintains the intestine in a particular conformation, ‘hitched up,’ so that when you stand up or walk about, it doesn’t collapse into the pelvis and not function.”
Although researchers know that the mesentery plays an important role in the intestinal, vascular, endocrine, cardiovascular and immunological systems, more research is needed to determine the extent of those roles.
But they do have evidence that the mesentery takes environmental signals from the intestine and orchestrates the body’s response, Coffey said. One example is how bacteria are sampled in the lymph glands in the mesentery. In response, the glands then coordinate immune responses.

Why has it been misunderstood?

To look at the shape of the membrane, which Coffey calls remarkable, it’s easy to see why the mesentery has been depicted differently. It has a spiral formation in the abdomen and is packaged along a spinal trajectory, starting in the upper abdomen and ending in the pelvis.
“In between, it fans out, like a Chinese fan, to span the length of the intestine from the upper small intestine to the end of the large bowel,” Coffey said.
The latest anatomy and structure clarifications aid not only doctors, but medical students as well.
“For students, it greatly simplifies the matter of the mesentery,” Coffey said. “This was traditionally regarded as a complex field. The current anatomic model is elegant and simple and will help students understand this structure. It will also provide them with a new perspective from which to view other organs in the abdomen. For example, we now know that the mesentery and intestine intersect along the entire length of the small and large intestine, whereas previously, this was though to occur in some regions only.”

Improving surgery and treatment

More research will allow for better definition of the gut membrane’s function, what happens when it functions abnormally and diseases that affect it. This also allows for mesenteric science to become its own field of medical study, like neurology.
Coffey hopes that creating a better understanding of the mesentery can help with diagnosing issues and less invasive ways of assessing them. Currently, its remote location in the body means the mesentery can be accessed only radiologically or surgically. This research lays the foundation for investigating possible prescriptions and how less-invasive endoscopic procedures during a colonscopy could map the mesentery.
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Adopting a universal classification like this in the medical world has benefits that extend to standardizing surgical procedures, such as moving or cutting into the intestine. The mesentery extends from the duodenum, or first part of the small intestine immediately beyond the stomach, all the way to the rectum, the final section of the large intestine.
Because of this, it can factor into diseases such as Crohn’s, colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease or cardiovascular disease and major health concerns like diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome. The more doctors know about the exact function of the mesentery, the more measures they can take to investigate the part it plays.
“For doctors, it provides us with an opportunity to refresh our approach to many diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease and others,” Coffey said. “This could help in identifying the mechanisms underlying these conditions and help us in unraveling their cause and how they develop.”
 By Ashley Strickland, CNN
 Link to the original article here.

Students from Trinity recognized by ‘Junior Nobel Prize’

The Undergraduate Awards (UA) gathered 150 of the world’s top undergraduate students in Dublin for the 2016 UA Global Summit in Dublin, including seven students from Trinity College Dublin.

Cited as the ultimate champion of high-potential undergraduates, and often referred to as a “junior Nobel Prize”, The Undergraduate Awards is the world’s largest international academic awards programme, recognising excellent research and original work across the sciences, humanities, business and creative arts.

The Undergraduate Awards received a record number of submissions in the 2016 programme, totaling a massive 5,514 papers from undergraduates in 244 institutions and 121 nationalities. In each category, the Global Winner is the highest-performing paper overall and also within each category the Regional Winner is the highest performing Highly Commended paper from their region. Highly Commended Entrants are those who were ranked in the top 10% of submissions in each category.

In total, 58 different universities and 37 different nationalities were represented at the UA Global Summit this year. Ryerson University, Canada; Stanford University, USA; University of Johannesburg, South Africa and the University of Helsinki, Finland were among the institutions represented at the event.

The students received their medals and certificates at the UA Global Summit and were addressed by keynote speaker Dr. Mae Jemison, NASA Astronaut.

The winning students from Trinity College Dublin are:

  • Eoin O’Leary – Global Winner – Social Sciences: Anthropology & Cultural Studies
  • Stephen Cox – Global Winner – Literature: Non-English
  • Naoise Dolan – Global Winner – Literature: English
  • Ben Price – Regional Winner Island of Ireland – Art History, Music, Film & Theatre
  • Rory Patrick Joseph Hennessy – Regional Winner Island of Ireland – Law
  • Conor Mc Glynn – Regional Winner Island of Ireland – Philosophy
  • Francis Ian Aristosa – Highly Commended – Nursing & Midwifery

Speaking about this year’s Winners and Highly Commended Entrants, CEO of The Undergraduate Awards Louise Hodgson said “This is a huge achievement for Trinity College Dublin and its students. UA received the highest number of submissions to date with only the best papers making it through the judging process –  the competition was extremely tough and the Judges were astounded at the high quality of undergraduate research in the programme this year. Congratulations to this year’s successful entrants”.

 

The UA Global Summit took place the week of November 8th-11th in Dublin across several beautiful venues including Farmleigh House, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and City Hall, Dublin.

 

About The Undergraduate Awards

The Undergraduate Awards is the world’s largest international academic awards programme, recognising innovation and excellence at undergraduate level. Cited as the ultimate champion for high-potential undergraduates, UA identifies leading creative thinkers through their undergraduate coursework and provides top performing students with the support, network and opportunities they require to raise their profiles and further their career paths.

University of Limerick professor outlines evidence for categorising mesentery as organ

A University of Limerick (Ireland) professor has identified an emerging area of science having reclassified part of the digestive system as an organ.

The mesentery, which connects the intestine to the abdomen, had for hundreds of years been considered a fragmented structure made up of multiple separate parts. However, research by Professor of Surgery at UL’s Graduate Entry Medical School, J Calvin Coffey, describes the mesentery as one, continuous structure.

In a review published in the November issue of one of the top medical journals, The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology, Professor Coffey outlined the evidence for categorising the mesentery as an organ.

“In the paper, which has been peer reviewed and assessed, we are now saying we have an organ in the body which hasn’t been acknowledged as such to date,” Professor Coffey stated.

Better understanding and further scientific study of the mesentery could lead to less invasive surgeries, fewer complications, faster patient recovery and lower overall costs.

“When we approach it like every other organ…we can categorise abdominal disease in terms of this organ,” professor Coffey said.

According to Professor Coffey, the Foundation Chair of Surgery at UL’s Graduate Entry Medical School and University Hospitals Limerick, mesenteric science is its own specific field of medical study in the same way as gastroenterology, neurology and coloproctology.

“This is relevant universally as it affects all of us. Up to now there was no such field as mesenteric science. Now we have established anatomy and the structure. The next step is the function. If you understand the function you can identify abnormal function, and then you have disease. Put them all together and you have the field of mesenteric science…the basis for a whole new area of science,” he said.

“During the initial research, we noticed in particular that the mesentery, which connects the gut to the body, was one continuous organ. Up to that it was regarded as fragmented, present here, absent elsewhere and a very complex structure. The anatomic description that had been laid down over 100 years of anatomy was incorrect. This organ is far from fragmented and complex. It is simply one continuous structure,” Professor Coffey explained.

Already, medical students around the world are, from this year, learning about the mesentery as a continuous organ, after research by Professor Coffey prompted an update in one of the world’s best-known medical textbooks Gray’s Anatomy.

UCC scores gold at synthetic biology competition

UCC’s Limited Lactis” iGEM team pictured with Dr. Mark Tangney, Cork Cancer Research Centre (front, second left); Brandon Malone, iGEM Team Leader, School of Pharmacy (centre) and Dr Cormac Gahan, APC Microbiome Institute, School of Pharmacy and School of Microbiology. Photo: Tomas Tyner, UCC.
UCC’s Limited Lactis” iGEM team pictured with Dr. Mark Tangney, Cork Cancer Research Centre (front, second left); Brandon Malone, iGEM Team Leader, School of Pharmacy (centre) and Dr Cormac Gahan, APC Microbiome Institute, School of Pharmacy and School of Microbiology. Photo: Tomas Tyner, UCC.

UCC’s Limited Lactis team was awarded a gold medal recently at the iGEM (international Genetically Engineered Machine) competition in Boston.

More than 600 teams from top universities across the globe, including MIT, Harvard, Stanford, Cambridge and Oxford took part in the competition, which is held up as the gold standard for ‘research-led education’.

The Cork team, the only Irish entrants in the competition, used the bacterium Lactococcus lactis, a generally recognised as safe (GRAS) bacterium, commonly used in food production, to develop a potential new vaccine against Leishmaniasis, a neglected tropical disease which is increasing in geographical distribution, and also cancer.

Synthetic Biology is a burgeoning approach to designing and making novel products from biology, which is revolutionising what is possible in tackling world needs in health, energy, food and beyond.

Leishmaniasis affects some of the world’s poorest people and is associated with malnutrition, population displacement, poor housing, a weak immune system and lack of financial resources. An estimated 900,000–1.3 million new cases and 20,000-30,000 deaths occur annually. Leishmaniasis is linked to environmental changes such as deforestation, building of dams, irrigation schemes, and urbanisation.

The UCC team worked voluntarily, both in the laboratory and beyond, engaging with people in disease-affected regions such as Honduras, where diseases like Leishmaniasis is a serious problem. Team instructor, Yensi Flores, a PhD candidate at the Cork Cancer Research Centre and APC Microbiome Institute, travelled to Honduras to gain an insight into the realities of developing a suitable treatment for Leishmaniasis. She connected the team with various stakeholders on the ground. The team also engaged in significant outreach work, teaching Cork school pupils about synthetic biology and conducting charity fundraising activities.

The team, which was comprised of students from UCC Pharmacy, Medicine, Genetics, and BioMedical Science andhosted by the APC Microbiome Institute, Cork Cancer Research Centre and the School of Biochemistry, received financial support from the APC Microbiome Institute, Breakthrough Cancer Research, UCC College of Medicine & Health, Fyffes, the EU, Janssen and Eli Lilly.

“I was blown away with how much was achieved in such a short time by undergraduate students, and how sophisticated the resulting technology is, all due to the enthusiasm of the students and the power of Synthetic Biology,” said Mark Tangney PhD MBA, Cork Cancer Research Centre & APC Microbiome Institute, UCC.