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Home >> Research >> National Diagnostics Centre
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DNA Diagnostics                                      
Nucleic acids technologies (NAT) are a core competency at the National Diagnostics Centre. The NAT competency in the DNA Diagnostics group at the NDC is  relevant to the strategic research aims of NUI, Galway and the team are bringing this competency to projects funded through the PRTLI, EU Sixth Framework, Enterprise Ireland and Marine Strategic -Advanced Technologies Programmes. The NAT skills base at the NDC has been identified as a complimentary technology for integration with platforms and nano-systems under development in other Irish Universities. This competency is relevant to the Irish BioIndustry, particularly to the diagnostics, biopharma and drug discovery sectors. 

The DNA diagnostics group at the NDC is engaged in the following activities:

  • Applied Research

  • Technology Development and Application

  • Provision of Pre-Incubation facilities to industry

  • Industry-led R&D programmes

  • Contract research for industry

  • Consultancy

  • Training

The group has expertise in the following areas:

  • Molecular diagnostic assay design-conventional and real-time in-vitro amplification based platforms 

  • Identification of novel targets for molecular diagnostic assay development 

  • Molecular assay validation 

  • Development of Nucleic acid extraction methods for complex samples 

  • Gene expression analysis

  • Molecular epidemiology

  • Set-up and provision of molecular testing services

Current R+D activities are related to:  

BioIndustry-led research for Biopharma and Biodiagnostics  
Food sector 
   Marine sector
Clinical Microbiology sector 

Group publications 2000-2005


Dr. Majella Maher, 
Team Leader, 
DNA Diagnostics Group, 
National Diagnostics Centre, 
National University of Ireland,Galway. 
Ph: 353 91 492842 X 2089; 353 91 492089 (direct) 
Fax: 353 91 586570 


BioIndustry-led research for Biopharma and Biodiagnostics

The group is currently involved as an R+D partner in an Enterprise-Ireland funded programme aimed at addressing the "generic" needs of biodiagnostics and biopharmaceutical industries. Two R+D themes have been identified for this first programme- "In-line analysis for BioProcessing" and "Quantitative POC for protein marker detection". Phase 1 of this programme which is a feasibility project aimed at generating a technology roadmap in both project areas is due to commence in July 05 with the expectation that multidisciplinary R+D project proposals will be formulated during the feasibility phase and submitted to EI for funding in Q4 2005.


Nucleic acid tests for the Food sector: 

Food is a major source of exposure to pathogenic microorganisms. Foods contaminated with unacceptable levels of pathogens represent a substantial health risk to consumers and severe economic burdens on individual communities and nations. At a recent pan-European conference on food quality and safety, jointly organised by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), the pathogens identified by expert consultants as requiring immediate attention included Listeria in ready to eat foods, Campylobacter in poultry and Salmonella in eggs and poultry ( Recent serious and high profile cases of outbreaks of food poisoning within Ireland, the UK and the US has lead to heightened public awareness and concern over food-borne illness. Increased public concern has resulted in consumer demands for assurances from the food industry as to the microbiological quality and safety of food and food products. These outbreaks have also highlighted the need for new improved, user friendly and cost effective diagnostics assays to enable the effective monitoring of food during preparation and processing for human consumption. 
The DNA Diagnostics group at the NDC is working closely with researchers in the department of Microbiology at NUI, Galway and the National Centre of BioMedical Engineering science applying their expertise to exploit an NUI, Galway owned patented genomic target platform technology to develop rapid NAT tests based on real-time PCR and RT-PCR technologies for common food-borne pathogens, Listeria, Campylobacter and Salmonella. The current focus of the research programme is on demonstrating the application of these NAT tests in food testing.


Nucleic acid tests for the Marine sector: 

In 2002, exports of Irish shellfish were worth in excess of 50 million. In order to meet EU legislation pertaining to production and export of shellfish (Council directive 91/492/EEC), the Marine Institute have implemented a national biotoxin monitoring programme. As part of the monitoring service, more than 2000 water samples collected annually from shellfish production sites are monitored for the presence of toxic algal species. Current identification of species relies on microscopy which is very useful in providing a global view of phytoplankton species present in water samples and also in precisely identifying selected toxic species for example Dinophysis sps. and Protoperidenium sps. However, there are a number of toxic species that are difficult to identify by microscopy including Alexandrium tamaranse, A. minutum and Pseudo-nitzschia sps. 

The DNA Diagnostics group at the NDC is working with researchers at the Martin Ryan Institute at NUI, Galway and the Marine Institute (MI) to develop NAT tests based on FISH and real-time PCR technologies for the identification of phytoplankton species of concern in Irish waters. To date, real-time PCR assays for the detection and discrimination of toxic and non-toxic Alexandrium species have been developed and their application to species identification in samples collected for routine monitoring has been demonstrated. In the period 2005-2008, the team will work closely with the MI to develop NAT tests for other species with the aim of transferring the NAT technologies to MI in the final phase of the project for application in the routine monitoring service. 

Nucleic acid tests for the Clinical Microbiology Sector: 

The DNA Diagnostics group has significant expertise in the design and validation of NAT tests for application in the clinical microbiology sector. Previously, the group has worked with a number of industrial partners, including Belgian Diagnostics Company, Innogenetics and Roche Molecular Systems to develop commercial NAT tests for the infectious disease market. Current R+D focus within the team is on the further development and validation of an NAT test for C. albicans which is the subject of a NUI, Galway patent filing. The team is also involved in a EU funded project aimed at developing nucleic acid based biosensor tests for respiratory pathogens. The group has a number of ongoing projects focused on the development of molecular diagnostic assays for infectious diseases.

Group publications 2000-2005: 

Lavery, R. Houghton, J.A., Nolan, A. Glennon, M. Egan, D. and Maher M. CAG repeat length in an infertile male population of Irish origin. Genetica, 123, 295-302. O' Connor, L., Lahiff, S., Casey, F., Glennon, M., Cormican, M. and Maher, M. (2005). Quantification of ALS1 gene expression in Candida albicans biofilms by RT-PCR using hybridisation probes on the LightCyclerTM. Mol. Cell Probes. 11, 153-162

Fitzmaurice, J., Duffy, G., Kilbride, B., Sheridan, J. J., Carroll, C. and Maher, M. (2004). Comparison of a membrane surface adhesion recovery method with an IMS method for use in a polymerase chain reaction method to detect Escherichia coli 0157:H7 in minced beef. J. Microbiol. Methods. 59, 243-252.

Fitzmaurice, J., Glennon, M., Duffy, G., Sheridan, J. J., Carroll, C. and Maher, M. (2004). Application of real-time PCR and RT-PCR assays for the detection and quantitation of VT1 and VT2 toxin genes in E. coli 0157:H7. Mol. Cell. Probes 18, 123-132.

Morris, D., O'Hare, C., Glennon, M., Maher, M., Corbett-Feeney, G. and Cormican, M. (2003). Extended-Spectrum -Lactamases in Ireland, including a novel enzyme, TEM-102. Antimicrobial Agents Chemother. 47, 2572-2578.

Fallon, R., O' Sullivan, N., Maher, M. and Carroll, C. (2003). Antimicrobial resistance in Campylobacter jejuni and Campylobacter coli isolates from broiler chickens isolated from an Irish poultry processing plant. Letts. Appl. Microbiol. 36, 277-28.

Devaney, J., Maher, M., Smith, T., Houghton, J. A. and Glennon, M. (2003). HFE Alleles in an Irish Cystic Fibrosis population. Genetic testing.7, 155-158.

Maher, M., Finnegan, C., Collins, E., Ward, B., Carroll, C. and Cormican, M. (2003). An evaluation of culture methods and a PCR/DNA probe assay for detection of Campylobacter species in clinical specimens of faeces. J. Clin. Microbiol. 41, 2980-2986.

Devaney, J., Glennon, M., Farrell, G., Ruttledge, M., Smith, T., Houghton, J. A. and Maher, M. (2003). Cystic fibrosis mutation frequencies in an Irish population. Clinical Genetics 63,121-125. Ryan, K. A., Moran, A. P., Little, C. L., Glennon, M., Smith, T. and Maher, M. (2002).Detection and identification of Helicobacter pylori directly from gastric biopsies using polymerase chain reaction. Ir. J. Med. Sci. 171:117. Lahiff, S., Glennon, M., Lyng, J., Shilton, N., Smith, T. and Maher, M. (2002). Real-Time PCR assay for the detection of bovine material in meat and bone meal. J. Food Prot. 65, 1158-1165.

Friel, A., Houghton, J. A., Glennon, M., Smith, T., Nolan, A. and Maher, M. (2002). Using RT-PCR to detect DAZ, RBMY and USP9Y RNA in testicular biopsy samples from azoospermic men. Int. J. Androl. 25, 59-64.

Collins, E., Glennon, M., Hanley, S., Murray, A-M., Cormican, M., Smith, T. and Maher, M. (2001). Evaluation of a PCR/DNA probe colorimetric membrane assay for the identification of Campylobacter spp. in human stool specimens. J. Clin. Microbiol. 39, 4163-4165.

Ryan, K., van Doorn, L-J., Glennon, M., Smith, T., Moran, A. P. and Maher, M. (2001). Evaluation of clarithromycin resistance in Helicobacter pylori strains from the west of Ireland using Line Probe assays. J. Clin. Microbiol. 39, 1978-1980.

Friel, A., Houghton, J. A., Maher, M., Smith, T., Nol, S., Nolan, A., Egan, D. and Glennon, M. (2001). Molecular detection of Y chromosome microdeletions: An Irish study. Int. J. Androl. 24, 31-36.

Lahiff, S., Glennon, M., O'Brien, L., Lyng, J., Smith, T., Maher, M. and Shilton, N. (2001). Species-specific PCR for the identification of bovine, ovine, porcine and poultry species in meat and bone meal (MBM). Mol. Cell. Probes 15, 27-35.

Colgan, S., O' Brien, L., Maher, M., Shilton, N., McDonnell, K. and Ward, S. (2001). Development of a DNA-based assay for species identification in meat and bone meal. Food. Res. Int. 34, 409-414.

Grennan, B., O'Sullivan, N., Fallon, R., Carroll, C., Smith, T., Glennon, M. and Maher, M. (2001). PCR-ELISA assays for the detection of Campylobacter jejuni and Campylobacter coli in poultry samples. Biotechniques 30, 602-6, 608-10.

Glennon, M. and Maher, M. (2001). Nucleic acid-based diagnostics: past, present and future. Clinical Laboratory International, 25, 10-11.

Smith, T. J., O' Connor, L., Glennon, M., and Maher, M. (2000). Molecular diagnostics in food safety: rapid detection of food-borne pathogens. Ir. J. Agri. Food Res. 39, 309-319.

Morris, D., Glennon, M., Maher, M., Barry, T., Ni Riain, U., Corbett-Feeney, G. and Cormican, M. (2000). Detection of extended spectrum beta-lactamase producing bacteria in Irish hospitals and evidence of Inter-hospital spread. Ir. J. Med. Sci. 169, 20.

O'Connor, L., Joy, J., Kane, M., Smith, T. J. and Maher, M. (2000). Rapid Polymerase Chain Reaction/DNA Probe Membrane-Based Assay for the detection of Listeria and Listeria monocytogenes in Food. J. Food Prot. 63, 337-342.

O'Sullivan, N. A., Fallon, R., Carroll, C., Smith, T. and Maher, M. (2000). Detection and differentiation of Campylobacer jejuni and Campylobacter coli in broiler chicken samples using a PCR/DNA probe membrane based colorimetric detection assay. Mol. Cell. Probes 14, 7-16.

Martin, C., Roberts, D., van der Weide, M., Rossau, R., Jannes, G., Smith, T. and Maher, M. (2000). Development of a PCR-based line probe assay for the identification of fungal pathogens. J. Clin. Microbiol. 38, 3735-3742.

Ryan, K., Moran, A. P., Hynes, S. O., Smith, T. J., Hyde, D., O' Morain, C. and Maher, M. (2000). Genotyping cagA and vacA, Lewis antigen status, and analysis of the poly-(C) tract in the a(1,3)-fucosyltransferase gene in Irish Helicobacter pylori isolates. FEMS Microbiol. Lett. 28, 113-119.




National Diagnostics Centre
National University of Ireland, Galway, University Road, Galway, Ireland.
Phone: +353 (0)91.512266 , Fax: +353 (0) 91.586570 , E-mail: