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(l to r) Prof. Anne-Marie Healy, TCD; Prof. Mark Ferguson, Director General of SFI; Damien English TD; and Prof. Richard O'Kennedy, BDI.



Congratulations to Prof. Richard O'Kennedy and Prof. Tia Keyes who have both received a prestigious SFI Investigator Award. The SFI Investigators Progamme supports excellent scientific research that has the potential to impact Ireland’s society and economy. 23 projects were selected by competitive peer review involving 400 international scientists after a call for proposals across a number of thematic areas of national and international importance.

The awards include research in areas such as materials science, data management, medicine and pharmaceuticals, food and nutrition, agriculture and veterinary research and have links to 40 companies.

Details of the projects are as follows:

Professor Richard O’Kennedy: Metabolomic and array-based biomarker approaches to understand human exposure to potent carcinogenic fresh water toxins.

Colorectal and liver cancers are the 3rd and 6th most common cancers globally. The role that exposure to water and food toxins play in the development of these cancers is not fully understood. Increasing numbers of human poisonings globally are caused by freshwater algal microcystin toxins due to climate change and pollution. These toxins are linked to cancer but there is no means of measuring the extent of human exposure and thus determining how important they are in these diseases. We will identify and validate biomarkers of microcystin exposure and conduct surveys in low and high risk populations.

Professor Tia Keyes: Microcavity array supported lipid membranes: Highly versatile cell membrane models in sickness and in health.

This progamme builds advanced models of the cell-membrane to address two issues away from the complexity of the living cell. The first models membranes reminiscent of health and of disease states (e.g. Alzheimers) to help understand how each affects membrane permeability towards different drugs. These models can help ensure drug effectiveness and safety before preclinical testing. The second model addresses structure and dynamics of sugar lattices that occur at the cell-membrane. They play an important role in autoimmune disorders and cancer and understanding how they form and the role of the membrane will aid in developing therapeutics for these diseases.