€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.

At UL, One-of-a-kind multi-million-Euro microscope unveiled

A multi-million-Euro microscope funded by Science Foundation Ireland and the University of Limerick (UL), was unveiled today at UL’s Bernal Institute. The new microscope will allow researchers to study materials at an atomic level in real-world conditions and is one of only a handful of microscopes with these capabilities worldwide.

The Titan Themis is a double-corrected, monochromated Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM) and is valued at €6 million. A further €3 million worth of specialist equipment has been added to the UL machine including in-situ microscopy and ultra-fast and sensitive detectors, as well as environmental holders, which allow for the behaviour of materials to be studied in real-time across a range of environments.

“The holders for the specimens are especially interesting. For the past 70 years, we have been observing materials in a vacuum and not in the conditions these materials are used on a day-to-day basis. The holders allow us to introduce specific triggers into samples allowing us to see how these materials, at an atomic level, interact with the world, for example, how they react when exposed to different gases, liquids, heating, biasing or cryo-cooling,” explained Dr Andrew Stewart of UL’s Department of Physics and the Bernal Institute.

“This TEM is also equipped with a detector which allows us to capture the atoms’ reactions at a rate of 1,600 frames per second. Up until now, we have only been able to detect 10 frames per second so effectively this new camera will allow us to record the processes at a sub-millisecond timescale and capture that information as it unfolds. It is the difference between seeing time-stamped stills of a process and seeing a movie of what is happening at an atomic level. It is the combination of all of these features, that makes this microscope quite unique,” he continued.

The microscope could be used in the drug discovery and design processes in the pharmaceutical industry; medical device development; in the electronics industry; and, in materials characterisation in the nuclear and aviation industries.

President of UL, Dr Des Fitzgerald, officially unveiled the microscope at a ceremony in the Bernal Institute on Wednesday.

“At a total value of €9 million, the acquisition of the Titan Themis marks the biggest single investment in a piece of instrumentation by University of Limerick. TEM is a fast evolving area of research that is moving towards automation and structural dynamics at shorter timescales – these new facilities will place UL at the forefront of this directional change, and will create a generation of postgraduate students who will have world-class skills in electron microscopy. This, in turn, will strengthen UL’s international academic profile by attracting overseas students and programmes,” Dr Fitzgerald stated.

The equipment is funded by University of Limerick in partnership with Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) through its Infrastructure and Opportunistic funds and has already enabled funding to be received from FET Open via Horizon2020.

Science Foundation Ireland to invest €72m in four new world-class research centres

Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) today announced that it will invest €72 million, over the next six years, in four new world-class SFI Research Centres in Ireland.

The new SFI Research Centres will be supported by 80 industry partners who will provide an additional €38 million to support cutting-edge basic and applied research with strong industry engagement, economic and societal impact. The decision follows a comprehensive international peer review process involving leading industry and academic experts over the last 12 months.

Innovation 2020, the Government’s five-year strategy for research and development, science and technology, directs that the network of SFI Research Centres should be further developed to build critical mass in strategic areas of research strength and address enterprise needs.

The announcement marks the third tranche of funding under the SFI Research Centres Programme. The first seven SFI Research Centres were established in 2013 and a further five were established 2015.

These 12 world-leading SFI Research Centres are recognised internationally for research excellence; attract talent and capital to Ireland; anchor, attract and spin-out businesses; consolidate excellent basic and applied research across Higher Education Institutions; and secure EU and other international funding.

The four new SFI Research Centres announced today, including two from University College Dublin (UCD), are:

  • Biological resources as alternative materials to finite fossil resources, led by Professor Kevin O’Connor (pictured right), UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science (Project Title – BEACON)
  • Innovative techniques and processes in Additive Manufacturing, led by Professor Denis Dowling (pictured below right) UCD School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering (Project Title – Déantús)
  • Smart manufacturing IT and industrial automation systems, led by Professor Conor McCarthy, University of Limerick (Project Title – Confirm)
  • Diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of chronic and rare neurological diseases – led by Professor David Henshall, RCSI (Project Title – Future Neuro).

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government of Ireland said, “Our existing 12 SFI Research Centres are outstanding international examples of applied and basic combined (ABC) research. They are making important scientific advances, enhancing enterprise and industry, developing critical skills, supporting regional development, and enhancing Ireland’s international reputation.

“They are drivers of Ireland’s increased rankings in research and innovation over the last number of years. They are also an important engine for the economy; companies engaged with the SFI Research Centres are located all over Ireland and globally.”

“The commitment of industry and academic bodies to come together to develop these new SFI Research Centres clearly demonstrates the potential economic and societal impact of the planned research. I look forward to working with the four new SFI Research Centres on their road to becoming world-class centres of research excellence.”

Professor Orla Feely, UCD Vice-President for Research, Innovation and Impact said, “This is a wonderful achievement by all involved at UCD. The research that will take place in these Centres over the coming years will advance knowledge, train excellent researchers, and deliver impact to the economy and society.”

The four new SFI Research Centres involve strong collaborative partnerships between research bodies in Ireland with funded researchers participating from institutions including; Athlone Institute of TechnologyBeaumont HospitalCork Institute of TechnologyDublin City UniversityMater HospitalMaynooth UniversityNUI Galway, the Royal College of Surgeons in IrelandTeagascTemple Street Children’s HospitalTrinity College DublinTyndall National Institute (UCC), University College CorkUniversity College DublinUniversity of Limerick and Waterford Institute of Technology.

Four further SFI Research Centre proposals were approved in principle by the SFI Board following stringent assessment by international peer review.
SFI is seeking additional funding to support these centres over the next six years. These proposed SFI Research Centres involve collaborative partnerships with over 100 companies who have committed €60 million funding to the centres.

These proposals, including one from UCD, are:

  • Mapping the molecular causes of human diseases using Systems Biology led by Professor Walter Kolch (pictured right), UCD School of Medicine (Project Title – H-SYS)
  • Innovative technologies to support the production of dairy products: From Pasture, To Cow, To Food, led by Dr Donagh Berry, Teagasc (Project Title Future Milk)
  • Inflammation and Innate Immunology led by Professor Andrew Bowie, TCD (Project Title – INNATE)
  • Advanced Biopharmaceutical Manufacturing led by Professor Michael Butler, National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT) (Project Title – Bio-Logic).

Commenting on the SFI Board decision, Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government of Ireland said, “We need to be ambitious and invest in areas of real potential to ensure our future economic competitiveness. In line with Innovation 2020 we have identified through the SFI Research Centre programme a further four proposals of strategic national importance that meet the high criteria of scientific excellence and impact.”

“Over the coming months we will be working to seek additional funding to support these four SFI Research Centres that have been approved in principle.  I am greatly encouraged by the high quality of research and the significant level of industry and international engagement in the proposals.”

The new SFI Research Centres will be formally launched in September 2017.

UCC Professor Barry O’Sullivan named top SFI researcher

Professor Barry O'Sullivan, Director of Insight at UCC.

 

Professor Barry O’Sullivan, Director of Insight at UCC, has been named SFI Researcher of the Year, recognizing his significant contribution to the Irish research community in his career.

He has been honored for his “exceptional scientific and engineering research outputs” combined with his ability to communicate and, where appropriate, exploit his research.

 

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland said “2016 marks the addition of five new awards recognizing crucial areas of research and development including: industry collaborations, entrepreneurship, communication, public engagement and outstanding early career researchers. I want to congratulate the award winners on their hard work and accomplishments. I hope their success will be a source of inspiration to others.”

The recipients of SFI Early Career Researcher of the year are Prof Valeria Nicolosi, AMBER, SFI Research Centre, Trinity College Dublin and Dr Martin O’Halloran, National University of Ireland Galway.

The SFI Industry Partnership Award recognized AMBER, Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre, Trinity College Dublin and Merck.

APC Ltd – Prof Brian Glennon and Dr Mark Barrett, SFI SSPC Research Centre, University College Dublin received the SFI Entrepreneurship Award.

Dr Sabina Brennan of Trinity College Dublin, received the SFI Outstanding Contribution to STEM Communication award, recognizing her outstanding contribution to the popularization of science, while the SFI Best Reported Impact Award went to Dr Emmeline Hill, University College Dublin.

Andrea Zanetti a Chemistry PhD student at University College Dublin captured the SFI Research Image of the Year, titled Organic ‘ChemisTree’, a Telescopic View.

International Partnership Awards

The international partnership between Science Foundation Ireland, the National Science Foundation in the US and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland also recognised three new international collaborations between Research Centres in the Republic of Ireland, the United States and Northern Ireland.

“These three new collaborations demonstrate the value of linking research clusters across the Atlantic, and of partnerships between the scientific and entrepreneurial communities,” said National Science Foundation Director France Córdova. “To augment Science Foundation Ireland’s financial commitments to the new centers, NSF will make new investments in the U.S.-based centers that collaborate with them. These partnerships provide us with the opportunity to address global research challenges.”

Science Foundation Ireland is investing €2.5 million into the three international collaborations over the course of 24-36 months. During the course of the collaborations, the three new awards will employ 8 postdoctoral researchers and 2 PhD students in Ireland, in addition to giving an opportunity to two summer students to work on cutting edge-research. The collaborations aim to foster entrepreneurship and economic development in the participating countries by directly engaging with at least 14 companies during the course of the three awards.

The Science Foundation Ireland funded Research Centre, MaREI, together with the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), is collaborating with the NSF Engineering Research Centre, Future Renewable Electric Energy Delivery and Management Systems (FREEDM) and the Energy Power & Intelligent Control Research Cluster (EPIC) at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB).

Each partner will contribute to a specific area of the project. MaREI will lead the energy systems modelling efforts, ESRI provides insight into socio-economic aspects, FREEDM will bring expertise on distributed energy management solutions and systems-level theory, modelling and control, and EPIC-QUB will lead the communication-centred activities.

Three NUI Galway investigators identified as the next generation of research talent

(from left to right): Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, Professor Mark Ferguson, NUI Galway’s Dr Laura Russo and Dr Aideen Ryan, Minister of State for Training, Skills and Innovation, John Halligan TD.
(from left to right): Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, Professor Mark Ferguson, NUI Galway’s Dr Laura Russo and Dr Aideen Ryan, Minister of State for Training, Skills and Innovation, John Halligan TD.

Three NUI Galway researchers have been awarded significant funding in an announcement made by Science Foundation Ireland this week.  Working in the fields of colon cancer, intervertebral disc repair and tissue engineering, the individuals were selected as “the next leaders of research in Ireland, shaping the research community both here in Ireland and internationally”.

Minister of State for Training, Skills and Innovation, John Halligan TD, announced a total of €22.3 million in research funding for 40 major research projects in Ireland.  The funding is distributed through Science Foundation Ireland’s Starting Investigator Research Grant (SIRG) and Career Development Award (CDA) Programmes.

Dr Aideen Ryan, a Senior Research Fellow in Immunology at NUI Galway’s Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI), was awarded a SIRG of €518,821 for her work on colon cancer. Her project, RESTRAIN, involves investigating tumour stromal interactions in metastatic colon cancer for the identification of novel immuno-therapeutic targets.

Dr Laura Russo, a member of the CÚRAM Centre for Research in Medical Devices at NUI Galway, was awarded a SIRG of €518,749 for her research on tissue engineering for degenerative intervertebral disc disease. Her project will look at glyco-functionalised hydrogel to stimulate the repair of the damaged disc.

Dr Dimitrios Zeugolis, Director of the Regenerative, Modular and Developmental Engineering Laboratory (REMODEL) and Principal Investigator of the CÚRAM Centre for Research in Medical Devices at NUI Galway, was awarded a CDA of €493,759 for his work on tissue engineering. His project, Tissue Engineered Nanoassemblies of Advanced Biomimicry of Living Equivalents (TENABLE), will develop living tissue substitutes using iPSCs based on the principles of in vitro organogenesis.

NUI Galway’s Vice-President for Research, Professor Lokesh Joshi, welcomed the awards: “These awards recognise the excellent young research talent at NUI Galway and how our researchers are advancing scientific frontiers which will ultimately benefit patients. We are focused on developing the next generation of researchers which is critical to the long-term sustainability of delivering research impact.”

Announcing the awards, Minister of State for Training, Skills and Innovation, John Halligan TD said; This investment in the SFI SIRG and CDA Programmes allows researchers to advance their research investigations and continue developing their careers. These researchers will be the next leaders of research in Ireland, shaping the research community both here in Ireland and internationally. The nine industrial collaborations linked with these awards provides industry with access to the emerging research expertise found throughout Ireland. Collaborations at these early career stages will help establish relationships which will advance Ireland’s economy, society and reputation for research excellence now and in the future.”

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland welcomed the announcement saying: “Science Foundation Ireland places a heavy emphasis on supporting researchers at every stage of their careers. The SIRG and CDA awards help early and mid-career researchers develop essential skills and track records necessary to become the next generation of research leaders in Ireland.  I have high expectations for these projects and look forward to these teams contributing to the advancement of Ireland’s international reputation in areas such as energy, materials, technology, and health.”

UCD cancer research to reduce number of patients exposed to excessive treatment

  • €2.5m funding will support more accurate breast and prostate cancer diagnosis
  • This will save patients from unnecessary chemotherapy or surgery

A UCD cancer research project that aims to reduce the harmful effects of over-treatment by more accurately diagnosing patients has received €2.5 million in funding from Science Foundation Ireland.

OPTi-PREDICT will develop two biomarker panels to assess the risk of breast and prostate cancer progression. A biomarker is an indicator of the presence and severity of a disease. Examples include genes or proteins.

OncoMasTR will be used in breast cancer diagnosis and Pro-RISK CAL will be used for prostate diagnosis. Together they will reduce the number of patients who suffer the harmful effects of unnecessary chemotherapy or surgery.

The project will be led by Professor William Gallagher, UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science, and Professor William Watson, UCD School of Medicine. Professor Gallagher and Professor Watson are also Fellows at UCD Conway Institute.

Pictured: Micrograph of signet ring cells (arising from breast). H&E stain. Nephron/Creative Commons.

“This highly interdisciplinary and translational research programme, funded by Science Foundation Ireland, will allow us to fast-track development of novel diagnostic solutions for two of the most significant cancer types to affect men and women,” said Professor Gallagher.

“A key element of our approach is comprehensive clinical validation of the new decision support systems developed, such that they can be provided in the short-term as useful aids to spare patients from unnecessary treatment.”

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, making up a quarter of all cancer diagnoses with approximately 1.6 million new cases each year.

In men, prostate cancer is the most common non-skin related cancer in developed countries with almost one million cases each year. Like breast cancer, current standard testing can result in over-diagnosis and excessive treatment.

The OPTi-PREDICT group will collaborate with digital healthcare company Optimata. They will develop two computerised systems to support decision making and provide more personalised treatment choice.

Scientists make major breakthrough in understanding inflammation

  • The action of cells that spark inflammation causes a ‘re-wiring’ of their mitochondria, which amplifies the inflammation response
  • Targeting the cells responsible for the initial spark may keep the process under control and offer new treatment options for a host or inflammatory diseases

 

Scientists have made a major breakthrough in understanding the workings of the cellular machinery involved in a host of inflammatory diseases. Their discovery opens the door to potential new therapies if they are able to target specific cells and keep our natural inflammation response under control.

The scientists found that ‘macrophage’ cells, when activated, re-wire energy powerhouses called ‘mitochondria’ to amplify the response – sometimes to the point that a normal bodily reaction to infection or injury is way over the top.

This elevated response is implicated in a number of inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and septic shock.

Macrophages have two jobs in the body; they must react quickly to an infection by kicking the body’s inflammation response into action, and they must then depress that initial response and repair tissues that are damaged as a result.

However, the scientists found that the initial macrophage activity diverts mitochondria from their normal role of producing energy, to instead producing toxic compounds that amplify inflammation.

The scientists now hope that they can find ways of suppressing macrophages to an appropriate level, so as to reduce associated tissue damage when the body’s inflammation alert status has amped up too far. The scientists, from the Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute at Trinity College Dublin, report their findings today in the world’s leading life sciences journal Cell.

Co-lead author, Dr Evanna Mills, said: “Mitochondria are well known as the key energy generators in our cells, but we found that during inflammation they switch from that role to instead making toxic products from oxygen using an enzyme called succinate dehydrogenase, which promotes inflammation.”

Co-lead author Dr Beth Kelly added:  “Preventing this process turns the macrophage into a more benign anti-inflammatory cell, so if we can find a way of mediating the macrophage response, we might be able to preferentially calm down the inflammation.”

The work is a joint collaboration between the Inflammation Research Group at Trinity, which is led by Professor of Biochemistry, Luke O’Neill, and the Medical Research Council Mitochondrial Biology Unit, Cambridge UK, which is led by Dr Mike Murphy.

It involves a major effort by nine institutions, including the Universities of Cambridge, Helsinki and Tampere, Harvard Medical School, the Medical Research Council UK Cancer Unit, Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute Glasgow, and the Max Planck Institute, Germany.

Professor O’Neill said: “Our work contributes to a burgeoning area in immunology termed ‘immunometabolism’. We have great hope that this area will go on to yield a whole new understanding of the complexities of inflammation, which might ultimately benefit patients via new therapeutic options.”

The work in Trinity was supported by Science Foundation Ireland, the Irish Research Council, the Wellcome Trust and the European Research Council.

UL early career researchers awarded over €1.85 million in SFI funding

Career Development Award recipient, Dr Pat Kiely, University of Limerick
Career Development Award recipient, Dr Pat Kiely, University of Limerick
Four University of Limerick researchers have been awarded in excess of €1.85 million in funding by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) as part of today’s €23 million funding announcement by Minister for Research and Innovation, Sean Sherlock. The UL research awards included Career Development Awards to Dr Pat Kiely, Dr Sarah Hudson and Dr Christophe Silien and a Starting Investigator Research Grant to Dr Stephen Dooley.
Dr Mary Shire, Vice President Research, UL welcomed the announcement; “The Career Development Awards and Starting Investigator Research Grants programmes from Science Foundation Ireland are essential in supporting the next generation of world-class researchers in Ireland. Programmes like these enable our best researchers to pursue their work to make a real impact for society.”
The research activities supported through these grants are in the vital fields of cancer, alternative energy, nanoscience and drug delivery.
Career Development Award recipient, Dr Pat Kiely is undertaking research into colon cancer. Dr Kiely explains; “Approximately 3,000 people are diagnosed with colon cancer every year in Ireland and it is the second most common cause of cancer death in Ireland.”

Dr Kiely’s research is focused on a protein called RACK1, he explains: “RACK1 is present in all cells and its role is similar to that of a conductor of an orchestra. When the conductor does not work properly, things go wrong, leading to the development of cancer. The work here is designed to reveal RACK1 function as a potential prognostic marker and therapeutic target in colon cancer and establish inhibitory peptides with novel therapeutic prospects as anti-cancer drugs.”
Dr Kiely’s research is a unique collaboration between bioscientists, engineers and medics. Dr Kiely explains; “will be based in the Department of Life Sciences, MSSI and Stokes Institute where we will use state of the art microscopy and novel cell monitoring platforms to advance our understanding of colon cancer. The project will also help forge stronger links between UL and clinicians based in University Hospital Limerick.”
University of Limerick – SFI Career Development Award Winners
Dr Christophe Silien, Nonlinear optical micro-spectroscopy for multiplex susoension immunoassay. Department of Physics and Energy, University of Limerick.
Dr Sarah Hudson, Bio-availing of Antimicrobial Resources. Dr Hudson is a researcher with the Synthesis and Solid State Pharmaceutical Centre, (SSPC), University of Limerick.
Dr Pat Kiely, Targeting RACKI as a dynamic cog downstream of growth factor. Dr Kiely’s research is based in the Department of Life Sciences, MSSI and Stokes Institute at the University of Limerick and will help forge stronger links between UL and clinicians based in University Hospital Limerick.
University of Limerick SFI Starting Investigator Research Grant Winner
Dr Stephen Dooley, Realistic Reaction Kinetics Models for the Production of Platform Chemicals and Designer Fuel, Carbolea – research group for advanced biomass strategies and technologies, University of Limerick.

RCSI welcomes SFI funding to support early career researchers

On July 7th, Minister for Research and Innovation, Mr Seán Sherlock, T.D. announced €23 million in new funding to help support 40 of Ireland’s most promising young research talent to become fully independent researchers. The funding is being awarded through Science Foundation Ireland’s (SFI) Starting Investigator Research Grant (SIRG) and Career Development Award (CDA) Programmes.

Four RCSI researchers were among those to be awarded funding. Two senior post-doctoral researchers from RCSI were recipients of the Starting Investigator Grants: Dr Eva Jimenez Mateos and Dr Tobias Engel. Both work in the epilepsy research laboratory in the Physiology Department at the RCSI and are mentored by Professor David Henshall. Both projects focus on molecules called microRNAs which work to control of protein levels in cells.

Career Development Awards were announced for two RCSI Senior Lecturers: Dr Annette Byrne, Department of Physiology and Medical Physics, for a project on metastatic colorectal cancer; and Dr Gianpiero Cavalleri, Molecular and Cellular Therapeutics (MCT), for research into genetic biomarkers for epilepsy.

Professor Ray Stallings, RCSI Director of Research said: “RCSI welcomes the announcement to provide major funding to four RCSI research projects through the Science Foundation Ireland Programmes. This is a fantastic achievement and underlines the cutting-edge and competitive research work performed at RCSI. The funding will enable the SIRG awardees to develop new research interests and establish themselves as independent researchers, while CDA awardees will have the opportunity to further develop and strengthen their independent research programmes. These awards reflect the immense hard-work and outstanding research and translational achievements being carried out by the awardees.”

A further 12 projects were also deemed scientifically excellent by the International Review Panel and are on a reserve list to be funded by SFI, if budgets permit later in the year. RCSI researchers on the reserve list were Drs Steven Kerrigan, Markus Rehm and Stephen Madden.

SFI’s Starting Investigator Research Grant (SIRG) provides support for excellent postdoctoral researchers who wish to take steps towards a fully independent research career, while the Career Development Award (CDA) aims to support early and mid-career researchers who already hold a salaried, independent research post and who are looking to expand their research activities. Both programmes aim to support the development of young researchers with the potential to become excellent, fully independent research leaders in their chosen fields.

Minister for Research and Innovation, Mr Seán Sherlock TD said: “Funding for researchers at the outset of their careers is an important element of the Government’s strategy for job creation in research and innovation under our Action Plan for Jobs. SFI’s funding schemes for early career researchers help ensure that excellent research with the potential for real economic and societal impact is properly supported in Ireland. Investment like this is important for Ireland’s developing international reputation for excellent research with impact. The 40 research projects being awarded by SFI today demonstrate the enormous talent and potential that exists among Ireland’s young researchers.”

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of SFI and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said: “Both of the programmes under which funding is being announced today will help promising young researchers to create and develop impactful careers here in Ireland and in turn enable the pursuit of scientific research that has potential economic and societal impact. These programmes are also an important factor in ensuring that Ireland can succeed in persuading top young scientific talent from abroad to base their research efforts here in Ireland.”

Founded in 1784, RCSI’s mission is to develop healthcare leaders who make a difference worldwide. RCSI is a not-for-profit health sciences organisation which focuses on education and research to drive positive change in all areas of human health worldwide. RCSI is headquartered in Dublin and is a recognised College of the National University of Ireland. In 2010, RCSI was granted independent degree awarding status by the State, which enables the College to award degrees alongside its traditional powers to award licentiates.

Pictured at the announcement are (l-r) Professor David Henshall, Dr Gianpiero Cavalleri, Professor Mark Ferguson (Director General of SFI and Chief Scientific Advisor to the Irish Government) Dr Eva Jimenez Mateos and Dr Tobias Engel
Pictured at the announcement are (l-r) Professor David Henshall, Dr Gianpiero Cavalleri, Professor Mark Ferguson (Director General of SFI and Chief Scientific Advisor to the Irish Government) Dr Eva Jimenez Mateos and Dr Tobias Engel

List of RCSI Funded Projects

SIRG Awards
SFI Research Scientist                                                                                    Total Award

Tobias Engel, RCSI
Novel treatments and diagnostics for epilepsy via the ATP-gated P2X7 receptor
519,890.00
Eva Jimenez-Mateos, RCSI
microRNA in the pathogenesis and prognosis of neonatal brain injury
                                                                                                                              519,635.00
2013 CDA Approved Awards

Annette Byrne, RCSI
ColoForetell: A Xenopatient Discovery Platform for the integrated Systems based Identification of Predictive Biomarkers for Targeted Therapies in Metastatic Colorectal Cancer
629,241.00

Gianpiero Cavalleri, RCSI
Genetic biomarkers for epilepsy predisposition and treatment
624,038.00

Reserve List CDA

Steven Kerrigan, RCSI
Endothelial dysfunction in severe blood stream infection
                                                                                                                              593,138.00

Markus Rehm RCSI
Improving melanoma treatment and prognosis by deciphering and exploiting an autophagy-dependent pathway towards apoptotic cell death
620,927.00

Reserve List SIRG

Stephen Madden, RCSI
The Molecular Characterisation of Ovarian Cancer
441,806.00

President of Ireland Young Researcher Award for UCD Scientist

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In recognition of his outstanding contribution to translational obesity research, Professor Carel le Roux (UCD Professor of Experimental Pathology) has received a President of Ireland Young Researcher award (PIYRA).

In recognition of his outstanding contribution to translational obesity research, Professor Carel le Roux (UCD Professor of Experimental Pathology) has received a President of Ireland Young Researcher award (PIYRA).

One of Science Foundation Ireland’s most prestigious accolades, this award acknowledges cutting-edge research in fields considered critical to Ireland’s economic and social prosperity.

President Michael D. Higgins said,

“This award recognises the ongoing contribution of Irish scientists to internationally respected research activity in areas of fundamental relevance to society and the economy.”

In an effort to address the increasing mortality and morbidity associated with obesity and its related diseases, Professor le Roux focuses on achieving a better mechanistic understanding of appetite control.

“If we can learn more about how the gut ‘talks’ to the brain to generate fullness, we can develop safer and more effective treatments for patients. The role of metabolic surgery, gut hormones, bile acids and changes in food preference are important areas of research focus in this quest”,

says Professor Carel le Roux, Professor of Experimental Pathology at UCD School of Medicine & Medical Science and Fellow of UCD Conway Institute.

“The immediate question for clinicians and surgeons is how to optimally use existing medical and surgical treatment to prevent or even reverse end-organ damage secondary to obesity or diabetes. By addressing this question, we can affect immediate health gain for patients and the health system.”

Professor le Roux said:

“Receiving the PIYRA has allowed me to expand our work and establish, within the UCD Diabetes Complications Research Centre, the first group in the world focusing on how changing the anatomy and physiology of the gut with surgery can be used to reverse organ damage such as diabetic kidney disease, which previously was thought of to be permanent. Improving our knowledge will facilitate health gain for patients while saving money for the health system.”

PIYRA is Science Foundation Ireland’s most esteemed award for researchers who have shown exceptional promise as possible future leaders in international research and are known for excellence in their fields. Awardees are selected on the basis of exceptional accomplishments in science and engineering and on the basis of creative research projects that have attracted international acclaim.

Commenting on the awards, Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said:

“PIYRA recognises outstanding researchers who, early in their careers, have already demonstrated or shown exceptional potential for leadership in their fields of research. Through this programme SFI is supporting a new generation of top-tier scientific researchers in Ireland.”

Professor le Roux received his award from President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins in Áras an Uachtaráin along with two recipients from Trinity College Dublin; Dr Matthew Campbell and Professor Valeria Nicolosi. Dr Campbell carries out research on eye conditions including age-related macular degeneration (AMD) while Professor Nicoloi researches materials that can potentially form the basis for innovative new technologies.