Eight Research Projects for NUI Galway as Minister Sherlock Announces €6.9 Million Investment

Professor Lokesh Joshi
May 23 2013 Posted: 15:51 IST

Minister for Research and Innovation, Seán Sherlock TD, has today announced Government funding through Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) of €6.9 million encompassing 62 research awards. NUI Galway received 8 of these awards to a total value of almost €1 million.

The investment is being made through SFI’s Technology Innovation Development Award (TIDA) programme, in collaboration with Enterprise Ireland. 

Minister Sherlock said, “The TIDA programme focuses on commercially relevant research projects. It will enable numerous research teams to take the first steps in developing new discoveries and inventions with commercial potential.”

Commenting on the awards, Professor Lokesh Joshi, Vice-President for Research at NUI Galway, said: “NUI Galway researchers are taking on some of the greatest challenges of our times. With today’s announcement, we will go further to commercialise and exploit opportunities arising from our research to deliver excellent research with impact and contribute to economic development.”

The eight NUI Galway projects funded under the Programme and their leaders are:

Dr Stephen Cunningham, Alimentary Glycoscience Research Cluster (AGRC)
Novel direct detection of early bacterial infection for bovine mastitis
Dr Cunningham will develop a method for the early detection and screening of bacterial infection for bovine mastitis. Effective control of mastitis to ensure milk quality is an ongoing challenge facing the dairy industry. The basis of detection is focused on the use of surface coat polysaccharides of the mastitis pathogen, Staphylococcus aureus, which could be adapted for individual and continuous in-line monitoring of herd milk production.

Professor Stefan Decker, Digital Enterprise Research Institute (DERI)
Feasibility study into the social semantic journalism

Professor Decker will develop a Semantic Web assistant for journalists or news organisations, creating breaking news stories by sourcing, aggregating, filtering and verifying User-Generated Content (UGC) from various social media platforms, integrate them and place a structure on them in order to make it machine readable and therefore more easily searchable and verifiable. Currently, this is done manually and is a time-consuming and labour-intensive process for media organisations.

Professor Manfred Hauswirth, Digital Enterprise Research Institute (DERI)
Research, Design, and development of a demonstrator integrating private commercial data, Public Sector data and geographic mapping data with a simple visual user interface to support retail business planning

Professor Hauswirth is developing software which will integrate public and private data with a simple and intuitive user interface to support retail business planning. There is a huge potential in leveraging existing internal private commercial data, public sector data, and geographic mapping data to decrease costs and improve quality of decision making in the context of planning, managing, and developing a retail business going forward. There is a vast amount of data available but the fundamental challenge is that it is fragmented, difficult to find and consolidate in order to make it meaningful.

Dr Donal Leech, School of Chemistry
Development of a biological oxygen demand monitoring system for wastewaters

Dr Leech is applying his TIDA award to develop an in-situ sensor for measurement of the level of dissolved oxygen in waste water treatment plants.  Biochemical oxygen demand or BOD is widely used as an indication of the organic quality of water. It refers to the amount of dissolved oxygen needed by aerobic biological organisms in a body of water to break down organic material present in a given water sample. The standard BOD test can take up to 5 days and there is thus a real need for an in-situ, real time measurement which is the focus of this proposal. 

Professor Paul Murphy, School of Chemistry
New macrocyclic peptidomimetics with potential in cancer therapy

Professor Murphy has developed a compound to inhibit proteins which are involved in the progression of cancer. The project deals with an unmet clinical need in targeting a protein called Mcl-1(myeloid cell leukemia-1). There are very few potent inhibitors of Mcl-1 identified to date and Mcl-1 is a very important target.

Dr Thomas Ritter, Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI)
Regulating immunogenicity and tolerogenicity through cell surface glycosylation (Acronym: GlycoShield)

Dr Ritter is evaluating the use of glyco engineered cells to assess their ability to suppress immune response from host cells during tissue or organ transplantation. Glyco engineering involves coating the cell surface with carbohydrates that are recognised by the host recipient as self, ensuring that cell rejection does not occur. This method will permit researchers, clinicians and industries to perform transplants with no adverse immune reaction from the host and will have wider implications on the engineering of immune-tolerant tissue transplants.

Professor Charles Spillane, Plant & AgriBioscience Centre (PABC)
Application of unique lineage-specific orphan gene cassettes to confer drought stress tolerance in crop plants of commercial importance.

Professor Spillane is using his TIDA award to develop genetically-modified crops which are tolerant to drought. He has identified unique lineage-specific genes in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana which are tolerant to drought. The TIDA award will enable him to determine if these genes can be deployed and commercially developed across multiple crop species. 

Dr Eva Szegezdi, National Centre for Biomedical Engineering Science (NCBES)
Development of Ex Vivo Diagnostic Multivariate Index Assay for Prediction of Treatment Efficacy in Acute Leukemias

Dr Szegezdi is developing a theranostic assay for use in Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).  AML is a heterogeneous and aggressive disease and the current mainstream therapy is unsatisfactory. Refractory and relapsed disease is a major problem that occurs in 70-80% of AML patients. Although a number of potential drugs exist, there are no tools to aid the decision of which drug combinations may be effective and safe in a given patient. The assay under development is based on the extraction of bone marrow from the patient, and testing of a series of chemotherapeutic drugs on the bone marrow ex-vivo. This will enable the testing of medications for possible reactions and the tailoring of optimum treatments based on the test results.

The TIDA Programme

Minister Sherlock concluded by outlining the thinking behind these awards. “A key part of the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs is to support the commercialisation of excellent research and ultimately help to create the quality sustainable jobs we need. These 62 TIDA awards will release vital funding to allow the development of early discoveries and inventions with commercial potential, thereby feeding into our Action Plan.”

The Director General of SFI, Professor Mark Ferguson, said, “As set out in Agenda 2020, one of SFI’s strategic objectives is to become the best scientific funding agency in the world at creating impact from excellent research and demonstrating clear value for our research investment. Each submitted project has been through a rigorous review process and ultimate selection was on the basis of the quality and novelty of the proposed innovation, its potential impact, and its fit with the National Research Prioritisation areas. Additionally, the commercial expertise that Enterprise Ireland brought to the TIDA selection process played a key role in further underpinning the market potential of the award recipients.”

Incorporated into the TIDA programme is an entrepreneurship training course to consolidate and intensify the entrepreneurial skills of postdoctoral researchers active in SFI funded research labs. This course, which will support over 100 personnel, is designed to develop the skills necessary for SFI funded researchers to assess the market for potential commercial developments from research discoveries.

It is also designed to create a network of researchers with business acumen who will interact regularly with each other, with SFI, Enterprise Ireland and Ireland’s Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs) established across the higher education institutes


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