RCSI researchers’ success in HRB Emerging Investigator Awards for Health 2022

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Two researchers from RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences were among those awarded Health Research Board (HRB) Emerging Investigator Awards (EIA) for Health 2022 as part of a €7 million investment from the HRB to nurture a talented new generation of academic researchers.

The successful RCSI projects have the potential to improve quality of life for those living with cystic fibrosis and osteoarthritis.

The overarching aim of the HRB EIA programme is to create a cohort of talented new independent academic investigators by facilitating and supporting their transition from postdoctoral researchers to independent and self-directed health research investigators.

Dr Irene Oglesby, Department of Medicine, RCSI, will receive an award for her project 'Interrogating the role of miRNA in predicting responses to novel modulator therapies in children with cystic fibrosis'. In this study, the researchers will pair with the clinical teams working on the RECOVER study, which is examining the day-to-day effects of the latest triple combination drug, Kaftrio. Their findings may have value in predicting which patients will respond to new drugs, enhance efficacy of existing drug and expand access to these lifesaving medications.

Dr Tom Hodgkinson, Department of Anatomy and Regenerative Medicine, RCSI, has been awarded funding for his project “Development of a gene activated construct targeting proinflammatory signalling to promote zonal regeneration of osteoarthritic cartilage”. No effective treatment is available to repair cartilage or halt the progression of osteoarthritis. This project aims develop a specialised implant designed to simultaneously support weight-bearing and treat inflammation to promote cartilage repair. This paradigm shifting approach has the potential to revolutionise treatment of degenerative diseases like osteoarthritis.

Professor Fergal O’Brien, Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation at RCSI, said: “RCSI’s success in the HRB Emerging Investigator Awards for Health is a testament to the high-quality, focused health sciences research taking place at the university. This programme will support our talented researchers at a critical career transition stage to establish themselves as independent health investigators.  Their research has the potential to bring about vital improvements for the benefit patients with conditions such as cystic fibrosis and osteoarthritis, in Ireland and globally.”

Dr Mairead O’Driscoll, Chief Executive at the Health Research Board, said: “EIA 2022 continues the HRB’s investment in Ireland’s research leadership and capacity to respond to current and emerging health and social care research needs. It will also advance our commitment to building a strong and supportive environment for research in Ireland. We are excited by the scheme’s great potential to unlock the talent of a new cohort of independent academic investigators and improve people’s health in many important areas.”

The scheme benefits researchers who have a minimum of four years active post-doctoral research experience and who are progressing towards research independence. The awards will be undertaken for four years and will fund the research project and associated personnel to support the awardee to build their own independent research team.

The successful applicants were selected in a two-stage application process, underpinned by a rigorous review, including expert international peer review, an applicant response stage and interviews conducted by an independent and international panel.

Find further information on the HRB EIA 2022 programme here.