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RCSI researchers awarded €6.3m in SFI Frontiers for the Future programme

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Eight researchers from RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences have been awarded more than €6.3m to lead large-scale awards and projects as part of the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Frontiers for the Future programme announced today.

The RCSI researchers were among the successful recipients awarded funding to support frontiers research, through SFI, announced by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD. The research will investigate areas such as cancer, bleeding disorders, heart disease and vaccine efficacy.

RCSI SFI Frontiers for the Future Awards programmes:

  • Professor James O'Donnell, School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences and Irish Centre for Vascular Biology – Defining the mechanisms through which enhanced clearance contributes to the pathogenesis of the common inherited bleeding disorder Von Willebrand disease
  • Professor Tracy Robson, School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences, in collaboration with Professor Jacintha O'Sullivan, Trinity College Dublin – Breaking the obesity-cancer link; a theranostic role for FKBPL in modulating immunometabolism across disease progression in oesophageal adenocarcinoma
  • Dr Roger Preston, School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences – New approaches to exploit coagulation protease-receptor signalling for therapeutic benefit

The award funding stream supports large scale innovative, collaborative excellent research programmes that have the potential to deliver economic and societal impact.

RCSI SFI Frontiers for the Future projects:

  • Professor Annette Byrne, Physiology and Medical Physics – Leveraging chromosomal instability for improved diagnosis and treatment in bevacizumab resistant metastatic colorectal cancer
  • Professor Annie Curtis, School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences – Chrono-Vac: harnessing the chronobiology of skin dendritic cells to boost vaccine efficacy
  • Professor Brona Murphy, Physiology and Medical Physics – GLIOTREAT-novel treatments for glioblastoma patients
  • Dr Claire Conway, Anatomy and Regenerative Medicine – Digital models for next generation mitral prostheses
  • Dr Damir Vareslija, School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences – Epigenetic and microenvironmental regulation of brain metastases

The project funding stream supports high-risk, high-reward research to facilitate highly innovative and novel approaches to research.

Professor Fergal O’Brien, Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation at RCSI, said: “RCSI’s success in the SFI Frontiers for the Future programme is a testament to the high-quality, focused health sciences research taking place at the university. Through this programme, our researchers will lead large-scale collaborative research and embark on novel projects that have the potential to bring about vital improvements in diagnostics and therapeutics that will benefit patients in Ireland and globally.”

Commenting on the SFI Future Frontiers Programme, Minister Harris TD, said: “Congratulations to all the researchers who have received funding today as part of the SFI Frontiers for the Future Programme. I am delighted to support this programme which funds individual-led research, with an emphasis on fundamental research at the cutting edge of science and engineering which will help us build a better future for Ireland through discovery, innovation, and impact.”

Professor Philip Nolan, Director General of SFI, said: “After the success of the first SFI Future Frontiers programme in 2020, I am delighted to see 76 research grants awarded. The research programmes are wonderfully diverse, but they have one thing in common: they ask fundamental questions and will lead to important scientific breakthroughs, with important applications in areas such as climate action, biodiversity, human and animal health and digital transformation, with real and lasting benefits to our society and economy. The SFI Frontiers for the Future programme is a key element of SFI’s new strategy, 'Shaping Our Future', providing support for excellent research.”

In line with SFI’s gender strategy, the programme seeks to provide opportunities to address gender imbalance and to provide support for investigators returning to research after a period of leave. 42% of the research grants supported will be led by female researchers and 32% by emerging investigators early in their research careers.

A total of 76 grants valued at €53.7m were awarded to ten Higher Education Institutions through SFI. The programme is run in collaboration with Geological Survey Ireland and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) who are co-funding a number of the grants. 46 industrial collaborators are engaging in the research programmes.