Friday, May 13, 2022

Researchers at Kildare’s Maynooth University will receive €4.8 million to tackle a range of topics such as crop resistance, water pollutants, DNA, artificial intelligence and rising sea levels.

The funding is from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) under the Frontiers for the Future programme.

The Awards strand allocates almost €2 million to two separate projects led by researchers in the Department of Biology, Dr Fiona Walsh and Dr Karen English, while a further seven Maynooth University projects will receive approximately €2.9 million across a range of disciplines.

Dr Walsh’s research focuses on the internal workings of bacteria that cause disease in humans and are found in agriculture and the environment. It aims to understand how antibiotic resistant genes work to prevent the antibiotics from killing bacteria; this information will then be used to help design new targets, or places in bacteria, for new drug treatment.

Research led by Dr English will focus on a cell-based therapy called mesenchymal stromal cells, which is currently under investigation in clinical trials to treat patients suffering from acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). The therapy works by calming the immune system and encouraging repair in distressed lungs. The research seeks to understand why some patients in respiratory distress respond while others do not, and will focus on developing ways to enhance the cell therapy so that more patients can benefit.

Professor Philip Nolan, Director General of SFI, said the research programmes “are wonderfully diverse, but they have one thing in common: they ask fundamental questions and will lead to important scientific breakthroughs, with important applications in areas such as climate action, biodiversity, human and animal health and digital transformation, with real and lasting benefits to our society and economy.”

He added that it’s “really encouraging” to see that 42% of the research grants are led by female researchers for the second year running.

The Maynooth University ‘Awards’ recipients are:

– Dr Fiona Walsh, ‘Targeting antimicrobial resistance plasmids to resurrect antimicrobial therapies’

– Dr Karen English, ‘Removing the brake; Role of PPAR on mesenchymal stromal cell therapeutic efficacy in ARDS’ (in collaboration with John Laffey at NUI Galway).

The Maynooth University ‘Projects’ recipients are:

– Dr Niamh Cahill, ‘Predicting Sea Levels and Sea-Level Extremes for Ireland’

– Professor Carmel Breslin and Dr Eithne Dempsey, ‘The fabrication of conducting 2D layered graphene-like materials and their applications as environmental sensors and as electro-catalysts for electro-Fenton: Improved sensing and removal of emerging pollutants from water’

– Professor Damien Woods, ‘Active DNA tiles for programmable nucleation of robust DNA nanostructures’

– Dr Rosemary Monahan and Professor Barak Pearlmutter, ‘MAIVV: Modular AI Verification and Visualisation’

– Dr Emmanuelle Graciet, ‘Future-proofing our crops by increasing their resilience to flooding (hypoxia) and pathogens’

– Dr Elisa Fadda, ‘GlycoShape: A database/toolbox for structural glycomics and glycoanalytics’

– Dr John Dooley, ‘ORCHESTRA 6G: Orchestrating Arrays for 6G’.

By Conor Forrest
Contact Newsdesk: 045 432147

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