Karol set up a collaboration with Prof Kevin Kavanagh in Maynooth to investigate the effects of carbohydrate-functionalised metal complexes on Candida albicans. She spent 10 days working in the Kavanagh lab recently, carrying out her own biological assays and collecting some very promising results of the impact on yeast cells. There will be further updates about this in the future!
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
“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.
Lindau Online Science Days
The Lindau-Nobel Laureate Online Science Days event was hosted online to replace the annual meeting on the island of Lindau in Germany, as a result of the Coronavirus crisis. Those who were scheduled to attend this year’s Interdisciplinary Meeting were invited, as were attendees of previous Lindau meetings. The result was an engaging programme of events over three 12-hour days (in order to accommodate people in various time zones). Topics included diversity in the sciences, climate change, the economic impact of the pandemic, and green chemistry, among many others.
Joe had the chance to engage directly with Prof. Ryoji Noyori about questions of homogeneous organometallic catalysis – a topic he investigated during his postdoc in University of Bern – and solvent choice for green chemistry. This direct communication with Nobel laureates went on all through the event and was a unique opportunity.
On Wednesday, the top-ranked projects from the “Implementing the Lindau Guidelines” category of the Sciathon contest were invited to present their projects on the main stage and look for further support. Joe and Natalia Jiménez (University of Chile) represented Team Elmiger, and won the 3rd place prize. Watch the Sciathon Results presentation here: https://www.mediatheque.lindau-nobel.org/videos/38750/2020-osd-sciathon-results-lindau-guidelines/meeting-2020
Hopefully, the scheduled 70th Lindau-Nobel Laureate Meeting will take place in 2021 and there will be a chance to attend in person.
Read the Lindau-Nobel blog entry on the “Implementing the Lindau Guidelines” Category.
Lindau Sciathon: “Anansi Webinars” (3rd Place)
A new platform for sharing details of online seminars, and a call to “open the doors of seminar rooms worldwide” was the proposal of Team Elmiger, a group which Joe joined to compete in the inaugural 48-hour Sciathon contest, taking place as part of the Lindau “Online Science Days 2020”.
The team of scientists and economists from around the world wrote a report and made a video over the course of the weekend about the importance of connecting the world to inspiring research talks. In particular, they highlighted the value of harnessing the shift to online events, which has been a consequence of the Coronavirus crisis, to invite researchers from the developing world to attend seminars in leading universities. The team built a prototype website to demonstrate how this could be achieved, and set out a plan about how this could be developed in future to create a more open and connected world. The team was a collaboration between researchers in the developed and developing world, and a clear example of the strength of bringing diverse people together, which is key to the vision of the Lindau-Nobel Foundation.
A panel of international judges awarded Team Elmiger the 3rd Prize in the Category “Implementing the Lindau Guidelines“.
See the video below:
Joe and Adele selected to attend Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting
Joe and our colleague Adele Gabba, both from NUI Galway’s School of Chemistry, have been selected to attend the prestigious meeting of Nobel Laureates and emerging scientists from around the world in 2021. The pair will represent Ireland at the 70th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting on the island of Lindau in Germany.
From the NUI Galway press release: Dr Byrne and Dr Gabba will join a selected group of 660 outstanding early-career scientists from 101 countries, who will meet with 68 Nobel Prize winners in the fields of chemistry, medicine and physiology, and physics. Selection to attend this week-long meeting offers a once-in-a-career opportunity to share their research and ideas with Nobel laureates and a wide network of future scientific leaders.
Dr Joseph Byrne is an Honorary Research Lecturer in the School of Chemistry, who is in the first year of a Science Foundation Ireland Starting Investigator Research Grant project, developing luminescent glycoconjugate materials for detection of bacterial infections.
Dr Adele Gabba recently graduated with a PhD in Chemistry and currently works as a research assistant in the group of Professor Paul Murphy, School of Chemistry at NUI Galway. She will begin a prestigious Marie Sklodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship in MIT in the coming months.
Dr Gabba and Dr Byrne were among six scientists nominated by the Irish Research Council (IRC), before going through a rigorous international selection process, through which only half of nominees were ultimately invited to attend. They will receive a grant from the Irish Research Council to enable them to attend the meeting, which takes place from 27 June-2 July 2021. The meeting was scheduled for this summer, but due to the outbreak of COVID-19, it has been postponed until 2021, while an interactive online programme of events will take place this year to fulfil the Lindau Foundation’s mission ‘Educate. Inspire. Connect.’
“This meeting is unique in putting the most ground-breaking scientists of recent decades and early-career researchers around the same tables for a week. With little-to-no distraction from the outside world, it is ideal for transferring ideas and sharing challenges between generations and countries as well as different disciplines. I am looking forward to building new relationships with other chemists, but also biochemists, physicists, medical scientists, who I could collaborate with to tackle challenging scientific questions of international relevance in the future.”
Dr Gabba said: “Being selected to attend a Nobel Laureate Meeting is a small life dream come true! I have been certainly looking forward with immense excitement for June, so I have to confess the news of the postponement for COVID-19 came along with a bit of disappointment. Despite my childlike eagerness, I think the organising committee took the right decision. I am sure all attendees will see that waiting and, most of all, the reason behind it, as an opportunity to reflect deeply on the importance of bringing together researchers with a different background in an interdisciplinary meeting. Problems that impact our society are mostly extremely complex, we will succeed in solving them only if we put our brains and best efforts together.”