SFI awards €1.5m to RCSI for new facility to advance neurological research

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RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences has been awarded funding of €1.5m for a new facility to support neurological research through the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Research Infrastructure Fund.

The RCSI funding was announced by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, as part of an overall investment of €53.3 million for the advancement of high-quality and high-impact research activities in institutions across Ireland.

Professor David Henshall, Professor of Molecular Physiology and Neuroscience at RCSI and Director of the SFI FutureNeuro Research Centre, is leading the new project to establish a Core Medium Throughput Facility at the University. The infrastructure will enable researchers to rapidly screen compounds and gene therapies for effects on the electrical activity of neurons in models of brain disease, establishing advanced drug discovery capabilities.

Commenting on the significance of the facility, Professor Henshall said: “This new facility will provide streamlined screening and data analysis for our scientists, enabling faster research outputs across a number of projects that aim to develop urgently-needed treatments to improve quality of life and outcomes for people living with neurological diseases.

“The investment will help our team to advance scientific research at a faster pace and answer new research questions to identify novel drug targets in epilepsy, autism, multiple sclerosis, pain, neurodegenerative, psychiatric, and motor neuron diseases. It will enhance our attractiveness to industry collaborators and strengthen our ability to win competitive EU and international research funding awards.”

The project is co-funded by RCSI and FutureNeuro with each contributing €80,000 towards the facility with technical support to the value of a further €35,000 each.

Professor Fergal O'Brien, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation at RCSI said: "I would like to congratulate Prof. Henshall and everyone involved for securing this important funding through the SFI Research Infrastructure Programme. This project will make more scientific discoveries possible for neurological researchers in RCSI and at our SFI FutureNeuro Research Centre by speeding up drug and biomarker discovery and screening programmes.

“This facility will also have a significant impact on the national research landscape, by providing Irish researchers access to cutting-edge research infrastructure that will enhance high quality research activities and innovation in areas of strategic importance. I am confident that this enhanced capability will promote and facilitate opportunities for partnerships that will lead to a variety of discoveries and ultimately benefit the health of patients."

Announcing the awards, Minister Harris said: “I am delighted to announce €53.3 million in funding through my department that will support and encourage transformative research which will have both a national and international impact. The research community on our island has consistently proved itself to be world-class, not least during COVID-19, and continues to undertake cutting-edge, innovative research projects. In order for this community to continue to thrive, it’s essential that they have sustained access to modern infrastructure and equipment.”

Commenting on the investment, Professor Philip Nolan, SFI Director General, said: “Encouraging and supporting excellent, ambitious and innovative research projects is the core objective of Science Foundation Ireland. The SFI Research Infrastructure Programme was developed with this in mind; in order for researchers to continue to deliver outstanding research and meet evolving and future challenges, we must ensure that they have the tools required for their research. The 33 infrastructure projects awarded funding are at the cutting edge and are truly helping us to achieve our goal of delivering today and preparing for tomorrow.”

The SFI Research Infrastructure Programme supports the research community in building and sustaining cutting edge infrastructure in order to accomplish high-quality, impactful and innovative research. The programme facilitates broad usage across Ireland and to encourage partnerships and collaboration between different cohorts of researchers in Ireland; for example, between universities, technological universities, institutes of technology, other eligible research bodies, researchers in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, and between different cohorts of researchers in Ireland.

For more information about the research infrastructure programme visit the SFI website.