News

NUI Galway to Develop Novel Imaging Platform for Regenerative Medicine

The European Commission has awarded a €6 million project grant to a consortium led by Professor Martin Leahy of the Tissue Optics and Microcirculation Imaging (TOMI) group at NUI Galway to develop a novel imaging platform for regenerative medicine. This new project, ‘STARSTEM’ will allow researchers and eventually, hospital doctors, to detect and measure the healing effects of novel stem cell therapies, even where they occur under the skin.

Regenerative medicine and stem cell therapies provide unique opportunities for treating a wide range of human diseases. While clinical trials have shown very promising results, scientists do not yet fully understand how stem cells trigger healing, or indeed where the cells go after they are administered to the patient. This uncertainty makes it difficult for regulators to approve new stem cell therapies, and for doctors to prescribe them.

The new STARSTEM project will address both of these challenges. Therapeutic stem cells will be ‘tagged’ with tiny gold star-shaped nanoparticles (‘nanostars’) invented at NUI Galway, which will make them much easier to detect with an exciting new imaging technology, optoacoustic imaging (OAI). This will enable researchers to track the location of very small amounts of stem cells, after they are administered. The effects of the stem cell therapy will also be measurable using OAI, which can detect healing as it happens, by measuring oxygen levels in the blood, formation of new blood vessels, and other signs of healing. These new insights will greatly help to take regenerative medicine into the clinic, a key aim of the Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI) at NUI Galway.

While STARSTEM is focused on developing new imaging technologies, it opens the door to new clinical research in regenerative medicine, with new tools and capabilities, and so helps to unlock the promise of regenerative medicine. Initially using osteoarthritis as its model disease target, STARSTEM’s platform has the potential to advance new treatments for cancers, neurodegenerative diseases and a host of other illnesses.

Professor Martin Leahy, Coordinator of STARSTEM and the Director of TOMI at NUI Galway, said: “This is an exciting opportunity to use fundamental advances in the physics of imaging to validate stem cell treatments for arthritis. Once demonstrated in this application the STARSTEM technology can be used to enable a wide range of stem cell therapies.”

Professor Frank Barry, Scientific Director of REMEDI at NUI Galway, said: “It is critically important that we understand dynamics and distribution of stem cells so that we can optimise treatments for patients. This project will allow us to make great strides in this regard.”

STARSTEM brings together leaders in the nano-materials, regenerative medicine, and bio-imaging fields from across Europe. The team includes; NUI Galway (Project Co-ordinator); Technical University of Munich; University of Genoa; University of Cambridge; The Institute of Photonic Sciences, Barcelona; iThera Medical GmbH; Biorigen Srl; and Pintail Ltd, Ireland.

STARSTEM has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

Ronan Leonard

RCSI to Train New Generation of Researchers as Part of International Study to Tackle Most Common Brain Disease

RCSI is leading an international team of scientists on a major research study that aims to train the next generation of specialists in purinergic signalling during brain diseases. The project (PurinesDX) aims to establish the potential of newly developed devices to better diagnose and treat patients.

Brain disorders affect 180 million people and their families in Europe alone. PurinesDX has received funding of over €3.5 million from the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Framework Programme.

The research project brings together global leaders in translational research in purinergic signalling, Europe’s leading clinical specialists in a broad range of brain diseases, and industrial partners specialising in drug and biomarker development from six different European countries. The main aim of PurinesDX is to train an urgently needed new generation of highly skilled, innovative, creative and entrepreneurial early stage researchers and to tackle brain disorders.

The project is led by Dr Tobias Engel, RCSI Department of Physiology and Medical Physics. “Despite diversity in symptomatology and etiology of brain diseases, it is becoming increasingly clear that neuroinflammation-induced hyperexcitability plays a key role in common mechanisms underlying both primary disorders of the brain and their shared co-morbidities. PurinesDX has identified the ATP-gated purinergic P2X7 receptor as the ideal target. By sharing unique genetic tools, newly developed diagnostic devices and novel, selective and brain-stable P2X7 antagonists, the synergism facilitated within PurinesDX will determine the therapeutic potential of targeting P2X7 in a wide array of the most common brain diseases and provide, at the same time, a high level training in state-of-the-art neuroscience for early stage researchers,” Dr Engel said.

PurinesDX includes major academic and industry researchers from across Europe, including collaborators in Ireland (Longboat Clinical); Germany (University Ludwig Maximilans; Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry; Dr Seibt Genomics; Epilepsy Centre Frankfurt Rhein-Main; Affectis Pharmaceuticals AG); Hungary (Institute of Experimental Medicine, Hungarian Academy of Sciences; Bio Talentum; Semmelweis University); Belgium (Janssen Pharmaceutica NV); Spain (University Complutense Madrid; CIBERNED, CIEN, Foundation Teofilo Hernando; Ramon y Cajal Hospital); and the UK (Sarissa Biomedical).

The four-year project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 766124.

RCSI is ranked among the top 250 (top 2%) of universities worldwide in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings (2018). 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. RCSI is a signatory of the Athena SWAN Charter.

Team of Irish Medical Students Win European ‘Move Neurology’ Contest

Pictured left to right were students Aisling O’Meachair, UCD; Milo Delaney, TCD; Aisling Murphy, UCD; Aoife Brady, UCD; Eimear Duff, TCD; Sophie Murphy, UCD; Michael Gilligan, UCD; and Eithne Nic Riogh, UCD
Pictured left to right were students Aisling O’Meachair, UCD; Milo Delaney, TCD; Aisling Murphy, UCD; Aoife Brady, UCD; Eimear Duff, TCD; Sophie Murphy, UCD; Michael Gilligan, UCD; and Eithne Nic Riogh, UCD

By June Shannon

 

University College Dublin and Trinity College Dublin students won the inaugural competition

A team of medical students from University College Dublin and Trinity College Dublin were champions at recent inaugural ‘Move Neurology’ competition at the famous Pitiè-Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris — the birthplace of modern day neurology.

Prof Emmanuel Flamand-Roze, who teaches clinical neurology at the Pitie-Salpêtrière and the Pierre and Marie University Paris, devised a novel teaching technique called ‘The Move’ to help young medical students overcome neurophobia, which is a well-recognised fear of neurology.

The Move aims to tackle this fear and untangle the perceived complexity of neurology through simulation-based learning techniques for various neurological complaints.

It uses miming to teach medical students neurological semiology — the expression of neurological diseases.

Miming the symptoms of neurological illnesses gives students a unique insight and deeper understanding of what it is like to have a neurological illness. It also enhances their understanding of neurology and increases empathy.

The inaugural ‘Move’ final brought together a team of medical students from Paris and Dublin, where they showcased their neurological skills. An international judging panel comprised Profs Michael Hutchinson and Niall Tubridy, con­sultant neurologists at St Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin; and a team from the Pitiè-Salpêtrière Hospital.

This novel teaching technique has gained momentum and is being incorporated into the teaching curriculum of several university teaching hospitals throughout Europe.

Coverage by French media of this technique has also created a greater public awareness of neurological illness.

june.shannon@imt.ie

INFANT Centre Announces Collaboration with the HRB Mother & Baby Network

INFANT Centre announces collaboration with the HRB Mother & Baby Network to investigate the benefits of an additional diagnostic blood test to improve the outcomes of pregnant women with suspected pre-eclampsia.

Investigating a point of care diagnostic tool to enable appropriate stratification of the antenatal management of women presenting with suspected pre-eclampsia.

INFANT, a world leading Science Foundation Ireland research centre at University College Cork (UCC) and Cork University Maternity Hospital, announced it has commenced an all-Ireland study of 4,000 women, in collaboration with the Health Research Board (HRB) Mother & Baby Network. The research will investigate a point of care diagnostic platform that will measure the potential benefits of offering an additional blood test to measure Placental Growth Factor (PlGF) to improve the outcomes for both mother and baby when pre term pre-eclampsia (PET) is suspected. Pre-eclampsia is a pregnancy complication that can affect any woman and there is no treatment for it.

The HRB Mother and Baby Clinical Trial Network Ireland brings together leading Irish obstetric and neonatal researchers, with an international reputation to address problems in women and children’s health that will have a global impact.

The PARROT Ireland research programme aims to more effectively diagnose pregnant women when it is suspected they may have PET so that their care may be managed more efficiently. Diagnosing mothers earlier would have an impact on their medical outcomes and also upon hospital resources, reducing unnecessary admissions.

The PARROT Ireland programme is a follow on to the PELICAN study. INFANT took part in this multicentre prospective study to evaluate the use of PlGF tests in women presenting with suspected PET. The study suggests that PlGF testing presents a realistic and innovative adjunct to the management of women with suspected PET, especially in those presenting preterm.

PlGF is a protein produced by the placenta in pregnancy and it is known to exist in much lower levels in women with pre-eclampsia at all stages of their pregnancy. Pre-eclampsia is a disease of pregnancy usually characterised by high blood pressure and protein in the urine and is known to complicate 2-8% of pregnancies. If present it can result in significant maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality.

Launching the PARROT Ireland project, Professor Louise Kenny, co-director of the INFANT centre said, “this study is a unique opportunity to make immediate changes to a patient suspected of having pre-eclampsia’s care using a point of care device. Results of the test are available within 30 minutes, ensuring information is relayed to the treating clinician in a timely manner. This study will combine the wide range of expertise in the INFANT centre and the HRB Mother & Baby Network and contribute to a more stratified system of patient management which in turn will lead to better outcomes for mother and baby.”

This all-island study will invite 4,000 pregnant women over two years in 7 centres around Ireland – Cork University Maternity Hospital, the National Maternity Hospital, Coombe Women & Infants University Hospital, the Rotunda Maternity Hospital, University Hospital Galway, University Maternity Hospital Limerick and the Royal Jubilee Maternity Service Hospital in Belfast.

Professor Fergal Malone, Co-Network Lead of the HRB Mother & Baby Network, said, “this research has the potential to have enormous impact on the management of pregnant women with suspected pre-eclampsia and the resulting outcomes. We are very happy to see Ireland’s health researchers continuing to foster research and innovation in our health care services.”

Evidence from the PARROT Ireland study may inform national guidelines on the management of suspected pre-eclampsia and contribute to the better care and management of pregnant women.

RCSI Wins Prestigious Tripartite €5.1 Million Award as Part of Global Project to Tackle Colorectal Cancer

RCSI has been successful in a €5.1m tripartite grant award to tackle colorectal cancer. The prestigious US-Ireland partnership award provides a unique opportunity to bring together leading researchers from GE Research in the US, RCSI and Queen’s University Belfast in an interdisciplinary programme of research to develop new approaches to diagnose and treat the deadly disease.

Using Cell DIVE, the state-of-the-art technology developed by GE Research, the RCSI Centre for Systems Medicine in collaboration with Prof. Deborah McNamara and Prof. Elaine Kay from the Departments of Surgery and Pathology at RCSI and Beaumont Hospital and cancer researchers at Queen’s University will comprehensively characterise the gene and protein interactions inside colorectal cancer cells and use this information to select or stratify patients for particular therapeutic interventions.

RCSI’s Prof. Jochen Prehn commented: “This collaborative programme of research shows how a comprehensive knowledge of the tumour, generated through an interdisciplinary tumour profiling and computational analysis approach can not only give us precise insights into the complex biology of cancer, but also allow us to develop new diagnostic and prognostic tools.”
Dr Fiona Ginty from GE Research said: “The Cell DIVE technology that we have developed allows the examination of tumour tissue samples at a level of detail that has not been possible before. Examining multiple proteins and different cell types in a single tissue sample allows us to define more clearly the biology that drives individual tumours. We are delighted to be working with researchers on the island of Ireland to apply this technology and know it will positively influence patient care.”

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer worldwide and it is predicted that the number of cases will rise to 2.4 million diagnosed per year by 2035. There are a number of treatment options available to colorectal cancer patients and a patient’s response to treatment will depend on the specific type or makeup of their cancer. As a ‘one-size-fits-all’ treatment approach does not work for all patients, a more precise understanding of what happens inside colorectal cancer cells is required. This study will involve the examination of thousands of tumour samples in a bid to develop a diagnostic test that will enable more precise treatment plans for individual patients.

Prof.Mark Lawler, Chair in Translational Genomics at Queen’s University explains: “Inside the colorectal cancer cell is like a massive series of circuits that are switched on all the time but different subsets of patients have differences in their circuitry. The Cell DIVE technology allows us to take multiple snapshots inside the colorectal cancer cell, defining a particular signature that identifies the patient’s molecular subtype. This will allow us to match the right patient to the right treatment.”

Director of Research and Innovation at RCSI, Prof. Ray Stallings, welcomed the announcement saying: “This exciting project is a great example of how the impact of RCSI’s research, focussed on translating scientific discoveries for patient benefit, can be accelerated through our collaboration with industry. This funding will enable Prof. Jochen Prehn and others in RCSI to carry out research that will lead to the development new diagnostics and treatments of the third most common cancer.”

The research could also lead to improvements in treatment for colorectal cancer, namely immunotherapy, a powerful new approach that has shown to be effective in treating a number of other cancers.

The project is funded by the US National Institutes of Health, Science Foundation Ireland/Health Research Board and the Health and Social Care Research and Development (HSC R&D) Division of the Public Health Agency Northern Ireland/Medical Research Council.

RCSI is ranked among the top 250 (top 2%) of universities worldwide in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings (2018). 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. RCSI is a signatory of the Athena SWAN Charter.

‘Birthing’ Robot Among Education Tools at €80m RCSI Facility

 

Lucina lies in labour on a hospital bed screaming for an epidural even though she can feel no pain. She is Ireland’s only “birthing mannequin”, a €75,000 life-size robot bought to benefit surgical education at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI).

The robot, one of many hi-tech tools at the new college building in Dublin, simulates a speeded-up, three-minute version of childbirth to maximise the number of students who can learn from her.

Demonstrated by senior lecturer Kate Flood, the robot is anatomically accurate, wireless and with full-body “skin” and delivers a lifelike baby of realistic weight and proportion and a placenta. Students can even feel her “contractions”.

Tucked away beside St Stephen’s Green, the new €80 million building at 26 York Street is designed to provide “professional healthcare training in multiple learning and study environments”.

Designed by Henry J Lyons Architects and built by Bennett Construction over the last three years, it claims to be the largest and most modern facility of its kind in Europe.

The new building complements the traditional 207-year old RCSI building on St Stephen’s Green on the corner of York Street, creating a campus environment for 3,200 students of medicine, pharmacy and physiotherapy.

Four floors below road-level is a 540-seat auditorium and the college also has a large sports hall, a gym and a separate gym for women.

The 12,000sq ft simulation centre is laid out over three floors of the 10-storey building, where students have access to a surgical and training suite with clinical skills labs, a mock operating theatre and clinical training wards.

RCSI has used a simulation model since 2003 to teach at undergraduate level, but says the newly opened facilities “move postgraduate surgical training in Ireland to a new level”.

Time capsule

An arresting time capsule art installation by Vanessa Donoso Lopez covers an entire wall, holding 448 bulla – clay vessels each containing a message.

The artist set up a studio in the college earlier this year and invited students to make their time capsule and to contribute a secret message outlining their hopes and wishes. That message, later etched on to a thin metal scroll, was then inserted into the bulla and each of them is housed in an acrylic box and hung on an interior wall.

Prof Hannah McGee, dean of the faculty of medicine and health sciences, says the aim is that in 40 years’ time in 2057, and perhaps towards the end of their careers, the students will gather for a reunion and open their time capsule.

“It is a metaphor for the RCSI as a custodian of the career aspirations of our students,” she says.

RCSI chief executive Prof Cathal Kelly said: “In a world where continuous professional development and reaccreditation is essential, these new facilities provide a national capacity for surgeons to refresh their skills and to avail of innovative techniques and international advancements. No 26 York Street represents a world class clinical learning environment, enabling a truly transformative clinical learning experience.”

The college is ranked among the top 250 (top 2 per cent) of universities worldwide in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings (2018). It is an international not-for-profit health sciences institution, with its headquarters in Dublin.

 

Elaine Edwards, The Irish Times

Irish Scientists Identify Genetic Factor in Schizophrenia Diagnosis

Researchers from the Smurfit Institute of Genetics at Trinity College Dublin and the Department of Psychiatry at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland have identified a genetic factor which contributes to the development of schizophrenia.

In conjunction with scientists at Cardiff University, Stanford University, Stanley Medical Research Institute and Duke University, the Irish team established that there exist abnormal vessels which essentially threaten the structure which delivers blood to the brain – a factor which can give rise to the development of the mental health disorder.

Focussing on a chromosomal abnormality known as 22q11 deletion syndrome, researchers ascertained that changes to these genes can affect the blood brain barrier, and leaves those with the syndrome 20 times more likely to develop schizophrenia.

Dr Matthew Campbell, Assistant Professor in Neurovascular Genetics at Trinity, provided an insight into the significance of the discovery, and the impact it can have on those living with the condition.

“The concept of tailoring drugs to regulate and treat abnormal brain blood vessels is a novel treatment strategy and offers great potential to complement existing treatments of this debilitating disease,” he said.

Elaborating on the use of cardiovascular drugs in the treatment of cerebral conditions, he added: “While it is very well accepted that improving cardiovascular health can reduce the risk of stroke and heart attacks, we now believe that drugs aimed at improving cerebrovascular health may be an additional strategy to treating brain diseases in the future.”

The findings have been published in the journal of Molecular Psychiatry.

by Niamh McClelland

Computer Program Developed in Cork Can Detect Seizures in Newborns

A computer program that can detect seizures in newborns has been developed by researchers at the Infant perinatal research centre in Cork.

Tech companies have already expressed interest in the programme which has been tested cotside in a clinical trial involving more than 500 babies across eight European countries.

Prof Geraldine Boylan, principal investigator in the ANSeR study— Algorithm for Neonatal Seizure Recognition — said they have “trained the algorithm over many years to detect seizures”.

The success of the algorithm is proof of the usefulness of artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare, she said, “not replacing jobs, but doing a job no-one else can do”.

“We hear a lot about AI taking over the world but there are certain areas in healthcare where we need this kind of help and this is one area where machines may do the job better,” she said.

The two-year trial, completed earlier this year, involved babies deemed at risk of seizure due to a difficult birth or who suffered hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) — a type of brain injury that occurs when an infant’s brain does not receive enough oxygen and blood.

“All the infants were full term but there were clinical concerns that the brain was at risk of injury and we wanted to monitor their brain patterns,” said Prof Boylan.

She said seizures are difficult to detect in babies “because they don’t often show any visible signs”.

“But we need to know when to treat and this AI is like having a tireless eye at the cotside, constantly monitoring the baby’s brainwaves. An alarm goes off if the baby is having a seizure.

“Up to now, the standard monitoring for newborns at risk of seizure has been an EEG, a test that monitors the brain’s electrical activity. We have developed an algorithm that has allowed constant analysis of the EEG.”

The trial showed that seizures can be detected when the algorithm is used in real-time at the cotside, providing expert help “so machine learning does help”, Prof Boylan said.

“EEGs can be hard to interpret so having this expertise cotside will help clinicians pick up seizures as they are happening.”

The algorithm, which has been patented, was developed by a multidisciplinary team of doctors, scientists, engineers and computer programmers at the Infant centre in University College Cork. The trial using the algorithm, the first of its kind, involved the collection of thousands of hours of data.

Prof Boylan said developments in artificial intelligence, offer “limitless opportunities to support our work in the area of neonatal research, monitoring and neuroprotection for babies”.

The preliminary ANSeR findings will be presented tomorrow at the Brain Monitoring and Neuroprotection in the Newborn conference, underway in Killarney.

Prof Boylan is director of the INFANT Centre, professor of neonatal physiology at UCC, and conference host and co-chair.

By Catherine Shanahan, Health Correspondent, Irish Examiner

Irish Scientists Discover Method to Produce Electricity from Tears

A team of scientists at University of Limerick has discovered that applying pressure to a protein found in egg whites and tears can generate electricity. The researchers from the Bernal Institute observed that crystals of lysozyme, a model protein that is abundant in egg whites of birds as well as in the tears, saliva and milk of mammals can generate electricity when pressed. Their report was published on October 2 in the journal, Applied Physics Letters.

A team of scientists at University of Limerick has discovered that applying pressure to a protein found in egg whites and tears can generate electricity. The full paper, The Direct Piezoelectric Effect in the Globular Protein Lysozyme, by Aimee Stapleton, Mohamed R Noor, John Sweeney, Vincent Casey, Andrei Kholkin, Christophe Silien, Abbasi A. Gandhi, Tewfik Soulimane and Syed A M Tofail, is published in Applied Physics Letters.

The ability to generate electricity by applying pressure, known as direct piezoelectricity, is a property of materials such as quartz that can convert mechanical energy into electrical energy and vice versa. Such materials are used in a variety of applications ranging from resonators and vibrators in mobile phones to deep ocean sonars and ultrasound imaging. Bone, tendon and wood are long known to possess piezoelectricity.

“While piezoelectricity is used all around us, the capacity to generate electricity from this particular protein had not been explored. The extent of the piezoelectricity in lysozyme crystals is significant. It is of the same order of magnitude found in quartz. However, because it is a biological material, it is non toxic so it could have many innovative applications such as electroactive anti-microbial coatings for medical implants,” explained Aimee Stapleton, the lead author and an Irish Research Council EMBARK Postgraduate Fellow in the Department of Physics and Bernal Institute of UL.

Crystals of lysozyme are easy to make from natural sources. “The high precision structure of lysozyme crystals has been known since 1965,” said structural biologist at UL and co-author Professor Tewfik Soulimane.
“In fact, it is the second protein structure and the first enzyme structure that was ever solved,” he added, “but we are the first to use these crystals to show the evidence of piezoelectricity”.

According to team leader Professor Tofail Syed of UL’s Department of Physics, “Crystals are the gold-standard for measuring piezoelectricity in non-biological materials. Our team has shown that the same approach can be taken in understanding this effect in biology. This is a new approach as scientists so far have tried to understand piezoelectricity in biology using complex hierarchical structures such as tissues, cells or polypeptides rather than investigating simpler fundamental building blocks”.

Professor Luuk van der Wielen, Director of Bernal Institute and Bernal Professor of Biosystems Engineering and Design expressed his delight at this breakthrough by UL scientists.

The discovery may have wide reaching applications and could lead to further research in the area of energy harvesting and flexible electronics for biomedical devices. Future applications of the discovery may include controlling the release of drugs in the body by using lysozyme as a physiologically mediated pump that scavenges energy from its surroundings. Being naturally biocompatible and piezoelectric, lysozyme may present an alternative to conventional piezoelectric energy harvesters, many of which contain toxic elements such as lead.

“The €109-million Bernal Institute has the ambition to impact the world on the basis of top science in an increasingly international context. The impact of this discovery in the field of biological piezoelectricity will be huge and Bernal scientists are leading from the front the progress in this field,” he said.

The full paper, The Direct Piezoelectric Effect in the Globular Protein Lysozyme, by Aimee Stapleton, Mohamed R Noor, John Sweeney, Vincent Casey, Andrei Kholkin, Christophe Silien, Abbasi A. Gandhi, Tewfik Soulimane and Syed A M Tofail, is published in Applied Physics Letters.

 

For further information, additional photographs or to arrange an interview, please contact Nicola Corless, Communications Officer at Nicola.Corless@ul.ie or on +353 86 141 4640.

€43m allocated by Science Foundation Ireland to support 96 researchers undertaking 26 major projects

Colm Gorey

SFI funding
Image: science photo/Shutterstock

Science Foundation Ireland’s (SFI) Investigators Programme is set to make the lives of almost 100 researchers that bit better with the allocation of €43m in funding for projects over the next five years.

Announced by Minister for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development John Halligan, TD, this morning (21 September), the SFI Investigators Programme has also agreed in principle to fund an additional 33 scientifically excellent projects based on the recommendations of an international peer-review panel. However, these projects are on a reserve list to be supported if the budget permits later in the year.

The 26 projects under the programme cover many different areas of sci-tech, but the most notable is an effort to develop new types of antibiotics, led by Prof Martin Caffrey from Trinity College Dublin (TCD). It received the single greatest amount of funding, at €2m.

Yesterday (20 September), the World Health Organisation made a plea for the development of new antibiotics as resistance to them increases globally.

Other projects in this round include the development of magnetic materials for next-generation data processing; design for advanced materials for energy-efficient carbon capture and natural gas storage; and personalised cancer treatment methods.

Standards of applications ‘exceptionally high’

Of the Irish universities where research projects are being funded, TCD has achieved the greatest success with nine projects, followed by University College Cork and University College Dublin, with three projects each.

Prof Mark Ferguson, director general of SFI, said: “The standard of applications for the SFI Investigators Programme was exceptionally high. The quality and quantity of excellent projects on the reserve list is clear evidence of the increasingly high standard of research in Ireland.

“I have the highest expectations for the projects funded today, and look forward to seeing the benefits to Ireland’s society and economy.”

Minister Halligan added: “In addition, today’s investment provides 20 companies with access to invaluable expertise and infrastructure across the country.

“These collaborations between industry and academia are integral to further enhancing Ireland’s reputation for research excellence.”

This news comes soon after the launch of four new SFI centres across the country, representing an investment of €74m from the Government over the next six years, with a €40m investment from industry.