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

Online Seminar Series

Joe is organising an Online Seminar Series in NUI Galway’s School of Chemistry. The programme for this series of lectures is given below, and many of the talks will be open to the public. Links will be shared on the School’s Events page in the days before the lecture. Seminars are hosted on Microsoft Teams group “NUI Galway Chemistry Seminar Series”. With most normal activities in research labs shut down for a period of months due to the Coronavirus Lockdown, and conferences canceled for the summer, these seminars offer us a chance to engage with exciting research from around the world.

The weekly seminars take place on Fridays at 12 noon (Irish time), unless otherwise specified. Contact Joe directly for more details.

PROGRAMME OF SPEAKERS (currently confirmed)

DateTimeSpeakerAffiliation
22 May12:00Chris HawesKeele University (UK)
29 May15:00*Grace Morgan*UCD Dublin (IE)
5 June12:00Syma KhalidUniversity of Southampton (UK)
12 June12:00Kurt HoogewijsNUI Galway (IE)
19 June12:00Carmen GalanUniversity of Bristol (UK)
26 June16:00*Keary Engle*Scripps Institute (USA)
3 July12:00Jelena StojadinovicMembrasenz (CH)
10 July12:00Jean-Louis ReymondUniversity of Berne (CH)
17 July12:00Nathalie WeickgenanntAngewandte Chemie

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.’

Joe said:

“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.”

Adele said:

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.”

Karolina and Joe at Young Scientist Exhibition stand

Kitchen Chemistry at BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition 2020

Karolina and Joe joined the team from Kitchen Chemistry, who spent a day representing NUI Galway’s College of Science at the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition. It was a long but engaging day of demonstrating simple chemistry experiments to members of the public of all ages, from primary school children up. In particular it was a chance to talk to the many secondary school students who attend this annual event about studying science, and particularly chemistry, at university level.

There were some very high-quality projects on display at the competition, presented by students who had a good understanding of how to carry out a well-designed scientific project. The future is bright.

Congratulations to Prof Murphy on his Research Supervisor Award from the University

Congratulations to Prof Paul Murphy on his recognition by NUI Galway with a Research Supervision Award, reflecting his commitment to training PhD students and postdocs through the years. Paul is Joe’s SIRG-mentor and co-supervises Karolina’s PhD project. We are very grateful for his support and hosting us in his lab space at NUI Galway. The award is very well deserved!

Prof Paul Murphy along with researchers he currently supervises at the awards ceremony

Dillon Symposium Public Session videos

The Public Session of the Dillon Centenary Symposium is available to view on YouTube. This includes the Dillon Threesis Challenge (young researchers talking about their work for 3 minutes with zero jargon), a chemistry-inspired ballet and historical talk about Prof Dillon.

Selected lectures from the Scientific Session are available as a playlist here.

Not all lectures were broadcast. Consult the programme to see who is currently speaking. The “Public Session” from 17.00 GMT was broadcast.

Update 20/12/2019: More edited videos of the threesis and ballet, filmed from various angles are now available as a playlist here.