Two Trinity researchers awarded considerable funding grants

The funding, which was given under the SFI “Frontiers for the Future” programme, has given significant grants to two Trinity professors, Luke O’Neill and David Hoey

Two Trinity researchers have each been given considerable funding, following a €53 million funding package provided in the form of 71 grants to higher education institutions across the country.

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, has announced that €53 million in funding has been provided in the form of 71 different grants throughout various Irish colleges. 

Professor Luke O’Neill, who is a professor of biochemistry at Trinity, has been awarded €985,950 for his continued research following his discovery of an off-switch for inflammation in the body called itaconate. This project will look at itaconate to develop potential new treatments for inflammatory diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. 

Speaking to Trinity News, O’Neill said: “I am delighted to have received this award from SFI. It will allow me to pursue some brand new ideas on how the metabolite itaconate might have potential in inflammatory diseases, including Covid-19.”

Government announced €29 million investment in research funding earlier in the year, but the Irish Universities Association (IUA) also claimed that “an immediate increase” in research funding of €50 million is required.

Professor David Hoey was also awarded money to lead research on how bones respond to exercise by releasing tiny vesicles, or sacs of material, that encourage the body to build more bone. Hoey is an associate professor in biochemical engineering at Trinity.

Speaking to Trinity News, Hoey stated:  “This Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) award will enable me to build an interdisciplinary research team that will identify fundamental mechanisms by which exercise promotes skeletal health.”

He added: “Importantly it will also allow us to turn this knowledge into new therapies for bone repair and osteoporosis.”

The funding has been divided across twelve higher education institutions for 231 research positions, including 95 postdoctoral scientists, 101 PhD students and 35 research assistants.

The funding has been made available under the SFI Frontiers for the Future programme. Some of the research that is being funded includes climate change, spinal cord injury, biodiversity in food production and waste, smart manufacturing, horse breeding, pharmaceutical manufacturing, and information security.

Professor Leonie Young and Prof Arnold Hill at the Royal College of Surgeons were also awarded funding, which they intend to use to look at how potentially reversible genetic changes and activities are involved in the spread of breast cancer to the brain.

Professor Emma Teeling at University College Dublin (UCD) was also among those who were awarded, for her project which is looking at anti-ageing molecular mechanisms in wild bats to protect humans as they age. 

Speaking about the funding grants, Harris said: “I am delighted to support this programme which funds individual-led research with an emphasis on areas of high risk, high reward, which will help us build a better future for Ireland through discovery, innovation, and impact.”

Harris expressed his praise for the gender initiative, brought forth under the SFI’s Gender Strategy programme to address gender imbalance. 

“I am pleased to see the successful outcome of the new gender initiative that sees 45pc of the research grants announced today led by female researchers,” he explained. 

Harris added: “The funding will support researchers who are already carrying out excellent work in Ireland, as well as those in the early stages of their research careers who hold incredible potential.”

Julia Bochenek

Julia Bochenek is a Staff Writer for Trinity News, and a Junior Sophister English Studies student.