NUI Galway-led research projects received almost €4.4 million in funding last week in an announcement by Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Mary Mitchell-O’Connor TD. Three projects from the University were funded and they will investigate: the use of cell therapy for diabetic complications; the therapeutic potential of compounds from sponges and corals; and more efficient energy production.
In total nearly €40 million was given nationally to 24 major research projects distributed via Science Foundation Ireland’s Investigators Programme through a funding stream provided by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.
With awards ranging from €500,000 to €2.7 million over four to five year periods, projects funded by the Investigators Programme will support over 200 researchers.
Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD said: “This funding provides an important platform for researchers to advance their investigations and further enhance Ireland’s reputation for excellence in sectors such as health, agriculture, marine, energy and technology. Engaging with 39 companies, the programme offers researchers the opportunity to develop their careers, as well as providing industry collaborators with access to the wealth of outstanding expertise and infrastructure found throughout the island. The alignment of the Investigators Programme with Horizon 2020, the European Union’s research funding programme, will lead to further successes in leveraging EU resources and increasing international collaboration. The projects within this programme clearly demonstrate excellent and impactful research which is a key goal of the Government’s science and innovation strategy – Innovation 2020.”
According to NUI Galway’s Vice-President for Research, Professor Lokesh Joshi: ‘Research aimed at harnessing the therapeutic potential of novel natural products from deep-sea marine organisms, enhancing energy efficiency, and reducing the likelihood of amputation in diabetic patients is highly relevant to many of the challenges we face and will undoubtedly yield significant societal and economic benefits. I congratulate all involved in these projects; their success in the SFI Investigators Programme is reflective of the scientific excellence and relevance of on-going innovative research at NUI Galway.”
Exploiting and conserving deep-sea genetic resources
NUI Galway’s Dr Louise Allcock and Professor Mark Johnson, in partnership with the Marine Institute, are undertaking a €1.9 million project. The team aim to elucidate unique chemical compounds from two groups of marine organisms, sponges and corals, from the deep-sea – where extreme environmental conditions seem to promote the evolution of novel compounds. They will extract compounds and use techniques to purify them and examine their structure and biological assays to determine their pharmacological potential. To increase the efficiency of future sampling, mathematical modeling techniques will be used to produce maps predicting areas in Irish waters with the greatest biodiscovery potential. This will maximize the economic impact of future biodiscovery work.
Combustion Chemistry for Sustainable Fuel Utilization
NUI Galway’s Professor Henry Curran was awarded €1.9 million to focus on understanding, at a molecular level, how fuel burns in combustors. This will enhance the efficient utilisation of energy and develop sustainable energy sources in order to comply with economic, environmental, and strategic imperatives. Professor Curran explains: “We will combine experimental chemical combustion studies with detailed computer models to develop accurate chemical kinetic models, leading to the identification of optimal conditions for combustion efficiency with minimal emissions. We will study the combustion of conventional fuels by considering some key gasoline and diesel components in addition to some novel biofuels to be used in gas turbines for energy production.”
Combinatoral Cell Therapy For Diabetes-Related Critical Limb Ischaemia
NUI Galway’s Professor Tim O’Brien, who is Director of REMEDI and Co-Director of CÚRAM, the SFI Centre for Research in Medical Devices, was awarded over €700,000 for a cell therapy project. His team believes that a diabetic blood vessel complication critical limb ischaemia (CLI ), a condition where blood flow to the lower extremity is impaired to the extent of threatening viability, could be treated with cell therapy to regenerate damaged tissues. The aim is to isolate reparative cells, expand and then inject them into sites of blood vessel damage. “Cells from diabetics are known to be defective so we will identify and correct this defect and potentially use patient’s own cells for therapy or in combination with cells from healthy donors”, explains Professor O’Brien. “We aim to provide a pioneering new treatment for CLI personalised to diabetic patients.”