Research on cell analysis to drive new cancer treatment, adapting nature to clear pollution and developing new animal feed to reduce methane emissions are among the NUI Galway projects being supported by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) funding.
More than €6.5million is being provided to progress the studies under SFI’s Frontiers for the Future Programme announced by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD.
Among the projects being funded is research by Dr Aideen Ryan, from NUI Galway’s School of Medicine, which is focused on new ways to boost the body’s natural ability to fight colorectal cancer.
Dr Ryan’s research is seeking to understand how the sugars that naturally coat cancer cells affect how those cells grow and interact with their surroundings. If successful, the project could point to a new way to treat cancer.
“The key to finding new immunotherapies is understanding how cells within the tumour communicate with our immune system,” Dr Ryan said.
“In colorectal cancer only a proportion of patients respond to or are eligible for current immunotherapies. I am delighted to have the opportunity to lead this research which will uncover new ways to restore immune cell function in colorectal cancer focusing on interactions between tumour associated glycoproteins and immune cells in colorectal cancer. Our aim is to improve therapeutic options and outcomes for patients.”
Also included in the SFI funded programme are two projects led by academics in NUI Galway’s School of Natural Sciences.
One project led by Professor Vincent O’Flaherty is looking at new additives for animal feed and manure, to reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and get more value from manure.
“Our research is looking at using two naturally occurring additives in animal feed, or adding them to the manure or slurry that they produce,” Professor O’Flaherty said.
“By using these we can temporarily switch off some microbes. We can lock in gases like methane and we can ensure the animals get more nutrients from their food. About one third of Ireland’s greenhouse emissions come from agriculture, so progressing research like this and seeing how it can be applied on farms is huge in terms of the environmental implications, cost saving and getting the best from our animals and land.”
The second project from the School of Natural Sciences is led by Dr Ronan Sulpice who is researching how sea lettuce could be grown on the coast to clean pollution from wastewater and estuaries.
“The research is looking at sea lettuce varieties – seaweeds which can grow in brackish water – to see which would be suitable to help clean municipal or agricultural waste water,” Dr Sulpice said.
“Our study will see if we can use them to reduce nitrates in the sea or estuaries by diverting waste water into special pools where the seaweeds would be grown. Then we will also be able to study how we can use the seaweeds when they are harvested. It is like looking for nature’s cure for a human problem.”
Commenting on the SFI funding programme, Minister Harris said: “The funding will support researchers who are already carrying out excellent work in Ireland, as well as those in the early stages of their research careers who hold incredible potential. It is through investment like this that Ireland will become an innovation leader and provide solutions and opportunities for our society and economy.”
Here are the NUI Galway projects being supported under the SFI Frontiers for the Future Awards:
- Dr Aideen Ryan – School of Medicine. Research to understand how sugars that naturally coat cancer cells affect how the cancer cells grow and interact with their surroundings. If successful, the project could point to a new way to treat cancer. Award – €697,606
- Professor Vincent O’Flaherty – School of Natural Sciences. A research team will develop new additives for animal feed and manure, to reduce agricultural greenhouse-gas emissions and get more value from manure. Award – €762,365
- Ronan Sulpice – School of Natural Sciences. Research on how sea lettuce could be grown in coastal regions to ‘depollute’ wastewater and estuaries. Award – €478,783
- Noel Lowndes – School of Natural Sciences. Canonical and non-canonical roles for ATR in maintenance of genomic integrity. Award – €877,338
- Dimitrios Zeugolis – School of Engineering. Cell Assembled Tissue Engineered Remedies for Enhanced Regeneration (CATERER) Award – €998,390
- Professor James O’Gara – School of Natural Sciences. Targeting membrane transporters to increase antibiotic susceptibility in bacterial pathogens. Award – €477,395
- Eilís Dowd – School of Medicine. Harnessing the potential of biomaterials for improving stem cell-derived brain repair for Parkinson’s disease €459,527
- Gerhard Schlosser – School of Natural Sciences. Cofactor-dependent functions of Eya1 in sensory neurogenesis. Award – €393,893
- Katarzyna Goljanek-Whysall – College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences. Pre-clinical development of oxi-mir inhibitors for muscle wasting. Award – €475,909
- Professor Charles Spillane – School of Natural Sciences. Harnessing haploid inducers & cyto-nuclear interactions for enhanced plant growth and heterosis effects for sustainable agriculture (CytoHeterosis). Award – €479,966
- Dr Andrew Simpkin – School of Mathematics, Statistics and Applied Mathematics (along with Norma Bargary UL). Functional data Analysis for Sensor Technologies. Award – €467,569