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Team present at three international conferences

In a busy summer, Joe presented his work in talks at the Molecular Sensors and Logic Gates Meeting (Dublin) and European Biological Inorganic Chemistry Symposium (Grenoble), while Karolina gave an oral presentation at the International Carbohydrate Symposium. Through these presentations, the team have been able to share their latest results from the SFI-funded project with various audiences and field questions and suggestions. Our interdisciplinary work involves using carbohydrate-functionalised metal complexes to sense bacterial proteins. With two years of no international conferences, it has been more valuable than ever to share our results with colleagues and catch up on other developments in the various fields of interest to our work.

  • Invited talk: “Sweetness and Light: Luminescent tools for sensing bacterial carbohydrate-binding proteins”, Joseph Byrne, 7th International Conference on Molecular Sensors and Molecular Logic Gates, 15 July 2022 (Dublin, Ireland) [Programme]
  • Oral presentation: “Shining a Light on Bacteria : Lanthanide- based Glycoconjugate Molecular Sensors for Lectins”, Karolina Wojtczak, 30th International Carbohydrate Symposium, 13 July 2022 (Online) [Programme]
  • Oral presentation: “Carbohydrate-functionalised metal complexes: targeting bacterial carbohydrate-binding proteins for therapeutic and diagnostic applications”, Joseph Byrne, 16th European Biological Inorganic Chemistry Symposium, 20 July 2022 (Grenoble, France) [Programme]

Joe attends Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting in Germany

Joe finally attended the prestigious Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting this year, after two years of pandemic-related postponements. It was an excellent experience, where he met several Nobel laureates including Dick Schrock and Benjamin List, and had dinner with Jean-Marie Lehn and William Kaelin.

Joe has summarised his experiences at the meeting in a blog, which the Irish Research Council asked him to keep while away.

Karolina wins prize for talk at ICI Colloquium

Karol delivered an oral presentation at the Irish Universities Chemistry Research Colloquium in UCD on 15 June 2022 entitled “Shining a Light on Bacteria : Lanthanide- based Glycoconjugate Molecular Sensors for Lectins”. The talk was very well received, with lots of discussion arising afterwards. The judges at the Colloquium, the highlight of the Institute of Chemistry of Ireland’s scientific calendar, awarded her a prize for her talk.

Prof. Declan Gilheany (UCD) awarding Karolina a prize for her presentation at the Colloquium

May Outreach Activities

In May Karolina participated in two outreach events, talking about science to both adults and children alike! Pint of Science was held on the 11th of May in Massimo’s Bar in Galway. The first Pint of Science Festival to be held in person in two years was a sold-out event and over 50 people of all different backgrounds enjoyed Karol’s talk about antimicrobial resistance and how we can fight it using sugars, over a pint. 

The second event was the annual START Competition, held in NUI Galway on the 20th of May. An event geared towards primary school children in 4th, 5th and 6th class to mark the anniversary of the first documented randomised clinical trial in 1747, and learn more about all the different disciplines of science that make clinical trials possible. Karol along with her colleagues volunteered as part of Kitchen Chemistry to chat to students from three different schools and show them fun and safe experiments they can easily do in their kitchen. After lunch she also put on a show demonstrating how to make “elephant toothpaste” and the freezing power of liquid nitrogen with help from Darragh, Lamis and Hanka. 

Article on lectin-inhibitors published in ChemMedChem

Karolina and Joe’s review article on “Structural considerations for building synthetic glycoconjugates as inhibitors for Pseudomonas aeruginosa lectins” has been published by ChemMedChem. The article is available here: https://doi.org/10.1002/cmdc.202200081

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a pathogenic bacterium, responsible for a large portion of nosocomial infections globally and designated as critical priority by the World Health Organisation. Its characteristic carbohydrate-binding proteins LecA and LecB, which play a role in biofilm-formation and lung-infection, can be targeted by glycoconjugates. In the review, we present the wide range of inhibitors for these proteins (136 references), highlighting structural features and which impact binding affinity and/or therapeutic effects, including carbohydrate selection; linker length and rigidity; and scaffold topology, particularly for multivalent candidates. We also discuss emerging therapeutic strategies, which build on targeting of LecA and LecB, such as anti-biofilm activity, anti-adhesion and drug-delivery, with promising prospects for medicinal chemistry.

This article would be a good entry-point for any researchers considering tackling P. aeruginosa as a target organism, particularly if they want to build lectin-targeting ligands building on the existing consensus in the field on the best structural features to ensure high lectin affinity.

Thanks to Science Foundation Ireland for funding this research.

Shared Island Funding awarded to medical device coating project

Researchers at NUI Galway and Queen’s University Belfast are investigating how attaching sugar molecules to plastics could help prevent and detect bacterial infections in medical devices (e.g. urinary catheters, endotracheal tubes). Certain sugar molecules can interact selectively with bacterial proteins, and the researchers plan to harness these interaction to make fluorescent materials which glow at first, darkening when they become compromised by bacteria, allowing clinicians to react faster to potential infections before they become a serious risk to patient health. Coating medical devices with these plastics would result in “smart” devices, giving doctors and nurses tools to reduce risks of infection, bring down healthcare costs and decrease the need for antibiotic use in hospitals.

Early-career researchers Dr Joseph Byrne (NUIG) and Dr Matthew Wylie (QUB) have been awarded €193,000 to spearhead the SUGARCOAT project, developing coatings for medical devices using polymers containing sugar molecules, with the support of senior colleagues Prof Abhay Pandit, Director of CÚRAM Centre for Medical Device Research, and Prof Colin McCoy, Head of School of Pharmacy in QUB. The project will bring together complementary expertise from chemistry, pharmaceutical materials science and medical device research to tackle the growing  challenge of hospital-acquired infections.

This project is part of the North-South Research Programme, announced by An Taoiseach Micheál Martin TD on 2 March 2022, as part of the Shared Island Fund. [Government Press Release]

Hospital-acquired infections are a major health concern for patients, and also incur significant expense to health systems across the island of Ireland, requiring longer hospital stays and antibiotic use. Patients requiring medical devices are at greater risk, often taking medicines that suppress their immune system making their bodies more susceptible to infection. Infections by dangerous bacteria, such as E. coli and P. aeruginosa have risen significantly in recent years, with medical device-associated infections account for up to half of healthcare-associated infections. Immunocompromised people and people with cystic fibrosis (CF) are particularly affected; Ireland, North and South have among the highest per capita CF incidence.

The rise of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria is an urgent problem highlighted by the World Health Organisation in recent years, decreasing the effectiveness of existing antiobiotics. It is estimated that across EU/EEA countries, 33,000 deaths per year in EU/EEA countries are associated with antimicrobial resistance, costing more than €1bn to health services. This project hopes to minimise the impact of this challenge by producing innovative device coatings, which will prevent or detect bacterial build-up on widely-used medical devices before they lead to infection in a patient.

Speaking about the funding award, Dr Joseph Byrne, Honorary Research Lecturer in the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, NUI Galway, said

“Prevention of bacterial infections is key to fighting the challenge of antimicrobial resistance and if this isn’t possible, then early detection through innovative sensing materials, would allow devices to be removed and replaced by healthcare professionals before infection becomes a more serious risk to patient health. Hospital-acquired bacterial infections are a major issue across the entire island of Ireland, and I’m excited to forge a new and lasting relationship with Matthew, Colin and their team in Belfast to deliver meaningful new tools in fighting this challenge.”

“My work in this area is largely fundamental chemistry research, and this funding is a great opportunity will allow me to partner with more patient-facing researchers and healthcare stakeholders to increase our societal impact. Building all-island collaborations through this Scheme will help us to unlock Ireland’s potential for innovation and cutting-edge science.”

Dr Matthew Wylie, Lecturer in Pharmaceutical Materials Science in Queens University Belfast added:

“We are delighted to receive this funding from the Shared Island Fund. The partnership between NUIG and QUB will not only support two early career researchers but will open up opportunities for collaboration with industry and clinicians in both the North and South of Ireland. Galway is home to a number of major medical device companies. We are excited to have the opportunity to pursue clinical translation of cutting-edge research developed right here in Ireland.

“The team at QUB have vast experience collaborating with medical device companies across the UK and Ireland and working closely with clinicians in Belfast. At the start of the project we will assemble a committee of key stakeholders building a consensus, North and South, to steer development of this innovative sensing technology to address antimicrobial resistance.”

About Shared Island Fund

Last year, €40m was allocated from the Shared Island Fund over five years for the North-South Research programme. This significant development is aimed at supporting the deepening of links between higher education institutions, researchers and research communities on the island of Ireland, delivering all-island approaches to research and innovation.

Announcing the awards, Taoiseach Micheál Martin, said: “These awards will support the Government’s Shared Island vision by bringing researchers from all corners of the island together to work on pioneering projects over the next four years, and is not only strengthening existing relationships, but is fostering new research partnerships.

“I’m particularly impressed by the high level of interest and the calibre of the proposals, and I am confident that these cross-border collaborations will further strengthen the island’s reputation for innovation and research excellence”.

Sixty-two collaborative research projects between academics and institutions in Ireland and in Northern Ireland were awarded a total of €37.3 million under the first funding call from the North-South Research Programme, which is a collaborative scheme funded through the Government’s Shared Island Fund. It is being administered by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) on behalf of the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science.

Announcement: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eT0sV2TjrAo

New article on carbohydrate-NHC iridium catalysts

A new article from Joe’s Marie Curie Fellowship in Bern reports the catalytic activity of carbohydrate-N-heterocyclic carbene hybrid iridium complexes, which can hydrogenate ketones with modest enantiomeric induction (depending on the carbohydrate geometry).

“Carbohydrate-functionalized triazolylidene iridium complexes: hydrogenation catalysis in water with asymmetric induction” was published in ChemCatChem, as part of a special collection on Carbohydrate Chemistry and catalysis.

The article can be read here: 10.1002/cctc.202200086