NUI Galway Researchers Secure €1.7m in New Starter Investigator Research Awards

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Three NUI Galway postgraduate researchers will benefit from the New Starter Investigator Research Awards announced yesterday by the Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation, Mr Conor Lenihan T.D.. "It is vital that we have in Ireland the mechanism to keep and attract to Ireland highly skilled, early-stage career researchers," Minister Lenihan said as he announced Government funding of €7.9million under a new Science Foundation Ireland initiative that will help 15 highly-talented researchers at an early stage in their profession to progress towards a fully independent academic research career. NUI Galway Awardees: Dr Kimon-Andreas Karatzas, Microbiology, College of Science Title: Elucidating the Role of g-Aminobutyric Acid Metabolism in Stress Resistance and Virulence of Listeria monocytogenes Synopsis: Listeria monocytogenes is the bacterial causative agent of Listeria, a serious disease associated with significant mortality in humans. The development of disease by L. monocytogenes, the causative agent of Listeria, is thought to involve the novel gene lmo0913, a component of the GABA metabolic pathway. Dr Karatzas proposes to establish the existence of this pathway in the listeria pathogen and elucidate its contribution to acid tolerance and invasion. Dr Hongyun Tai, Network of Excellence for Functional Materials (NFB) Title: Minimally Invasive Tissue Engineering Scaffolds for Repair of the Nucleus Pulposus of an Intervertebral Disc Synopsis: Degenerated intervertebral discs (DIVD), a cause of lower back pain, is associated with significant socioeconomic costs. Therapeutic restoration of degenerated intervertebral discs presents a tissue engineering challenge to develop materials with suitable properties. Dr Tai proposes to optimise and test a candidate material which she has developed as a novel injectable scaffold system to restore damaged discs. Eva Szegezdi, Biochemistry, College of Science Title: Novel ratiometric approach to identify decisive molecular interactions of the TRAIL apoptotic machinery Synopsis: Despite extensive research, the average five year survival rate for the 20 most common cancers is still below 50%. Survival rates of tumours typically detected late (e.g. lung cancer) or difficult to remove by surgery (e.g. brain tumours) are the lowest and have only marginally increased over the last 20 years. Targeting the abnormal molecular pathways with drugs can be the key to eradicate such tumours. Resistance to cancer chemotherapy is a major public health issue with both social and economical effects. Dr Szegezdi's research aims to generate a predictive formula to determine the likelihood of a tumour's ability to respond to particular anti-cancer therapies. Announcing the first SFI Starting Investigator Research Grant (SIRG) awards, Minister Lenihan said: "These 15 outstanding individuals are among the brightest working in Irish laboratories today, and SIRG provides them with the necessary support to enable the transition from team member to independent and accomplished innovator in their respective fields. It will also allow them to recruit 15 postgraduate students". The Minister added: "SIRG is the instrument to ensure that the best trained post doctoral scientists can be both attracted to and retained in Ireland which is central to our overall national aim of building a sustainable world-class research system. SIRG not only provides financial backing but crucially also provides structured support and expert advice to these highly capable early-career researchers as they navigate through this critical period in their careers. The research of these successful awardees will focus on strategic areas such as renewable energy, cancer research, genetics and telecommunications that will benefit both society and the economy," the Minister concluded. The 15 award recipients are based in the following seven Higher Education Institutions: Tyndall National Institute, Cork (4 awards); Trinity College Dublin (4 awards); NUI Galway (3 awards); Dublin Institute of Technology (1 award); University College Cork (1 award); University College Dublin (1 award); and Waterford Institute of Technology (1 award).
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