Background
FloatingRocks-Canaries

The most recent eruption on the Canary Islands – at El Hierro in 2011 – produced spectacularly enigmatic white “floating rocks” that originated from the layers of oceanic sedimentary rock underneath the island. Despite being violently transported through the volcano, some of these rocks contain microscopic fossils of delicate single-celled marine organisms, making the survival of these fossils all the more extraordinary. A new study published in Scientific Reports, an open access journal of the Nature Publishing Group, by a team of scientists which includes Prof Valentin Troll and Dr Fiona Meade (formally of Trinity College Dublin), uses these fossil time-travellers to date the sedimentary layers beneath El Hierro and, in turn, shed new light on the long-standing puzzle about the origin of the Canary Islands.

The origin and life cycle of oceanic volcanoes, such as the Canary Islands, has long been a source of debate among natural scientists. There are two competing models for the origin of the Canaries – one in which ocean floor fractures control the location of volcanic activity, and another in which an anomalously hot plume of molten rock from the Earth’s mantle feeds island growth from below. A cornerstone of the debate concerns the validity of an age-progression along the island chain. A fixed mantle plume under the roughly eastwards moving African tectonic plate would cause the islands and the pre-volcanic ocean sediments underlying them to become progressively younger towards the westernmost island of El Hierro. The fracture model, in turn, would give rise to randomly distributed island ages.

Fossils and volcanoes are not usually compatible with each other, which is what makes these samples so special. The newly published study in Scientific Reports by a research group led by Prof. Valentin Troll from Uppsala University, Sweden, offers a unique perspective on the plume versus fracture model debate for the origin of the Canary Islands. The fossils are de facto witnesses of the pre-island environment. Researchers can now place constraints on the ages of the sedimentary strata present before island-building and, indeed, on the initiation of island-building itself. In combination with known sediment ages from the east of the archipelago, it is now clear that the oceanic sediments become younger towards the west of the island chain, thus verifying an age-progression among the islands. These findings are in strong agreement with the mantle plume model for the origin of the Canary Islands and thus contribute to our wider understanding of ocean island volcano genesis.

For more information please contact Prof. Valentin R. Troll, Chair in Petrology at Uppsala University, valentin.troll@geo.uu.se

Zaczek, K., Troll, V. R., Cachao, M., Ferreira, J., Deegan, F.M., Carracedo, J.C., Soler, V., Meade, F.C., Burchardt, S. 2015. Nannofossils in 2011 El Hierro eruptive products reinstate plume model for Canary Islands. Scientific Reports 5:7945. DOI 10.1038/srep07945.

This project was initiated by Prof. Valentin Troll (Uppsala University, Sweden), Dr. Mario Cachao (University of Lisbon, Portugal), and Prof. Juan Carlos Carracedo (University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain) and forms part of the doctoral thesis of Kirsten Zaczek at Uppsala University. The research was supported by an international team of co-workers from institutions in Spain and Portugal and by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (KVA), the Center for Natural Disaster Sciences (CNDS) at Uppsala University and through the Swedish Science Foundation (VR).

Mike Hinchey Lero

Lero – the Irish Software Research Centre (Lero) has been selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) for the implementation of a research programme worth €400,000. The 18 month programme, which will be led by Lero Director Prof. Mike Hinchey, will commence this month.

Lero will collaborate with chip manufacturer Cobham Gaisler AB of Gothenburg, Sweden on the software behind specialist microchips to be used in European space missions. The Cobham Gaisler  LEON radiation hardened microchip, which was developed in association with the European Space Agency, is designed to operate in harsh environments such as space.

Lero researchers based at the University of Limerick will work on a new back end for the Open Source LLVM compiler library to enable it to be used for the LEON chip family. This is designed to expand the toolset available to developers working on the flight software for future European space missions in order to boost reliability.

This is the third and largest contract awarded in recent years by the European Space Agency to Lero, which is backed by Science Foundation Ireland.

“We are honoured to be selected for this important work,” commented Prof Mike Hinchey, Director, Lero. “Software designed for space missions needs to be leading edge and highly reliable in view of the cost, distance and unforgiving environment involved.”

Before heading up Lero, Prof. Hinchey was Director of the Software Engineering Laboratory at NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Maryland. He remains a consultant to NASA.

Lero (www.lero.ie) is a global leader in software engineering research. It combines the best in Irish software talent by bringing together researchers from Dublin City University, Dundalk Institute of Technology, NUI Galway, Trinity College Dublin, University College Cork, University College Dublin and University of Limerick. It is funded by Science Foundation Ireland as well as by contracts from Irish and international technology corporations.

Equilume-Barbara

Equilume, the University College Dublin (UCD) equine technology spin-out company, has announced that it has secured €550,000 in seed funding.

The innovative technology was profiled in The Science Squad Series 3, Episode 4 which aired on RTE One on Monday 17th November. You can view the programme on the RTE Player by clicking here:  http://www.rte.ie/player/ie/show/10345569/

Equilume, which is based in Co. Kildare, has secured the funding from Enterprise Ireland and a number of angel investors based in Ireland, the UK and in the USA. The company intends to use the investment to accelerate sales of its innovative Equilume Light Mask technology within the global Thoroughbred industry to assist breeders to maximise the reproductive efficiency and performance in their horses.

The Equilume Light Mask, which is manufactured entirely in Ireland, is a novel automated mobile lighting device that fits comfortably under a horse’s head collar. The Light Mask has been scientifically proven to provide the optimum level of blue light to a single eye of a mare to successfully advance her breeding season, prevent long gestations and ensure reproductive activity in early foaling mares.

Thoroughbred breeders around the world are currently using the Equilume Light Mask to eliminate the requirement to maintain their non-pregnant mares indoors under artificial lighting and thereby save at least €1,000 per mare per season while at the same meeting crucial industry timelines. The technology is also being successfully used globally to help pregnant mares foal on time.

Dr Barbara Murphy, UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science and the founder of Equilume said, “The Equilume Light Mask has already gained considerable traction within the global Thoroughbred market and this summer we doubled our sales in the key Australian market. This seed funding will help us accelerate our marketing efforts, expand our reach into new market segments and continue to break new boundaries in advancing equine reproductive health technologies with our ongoing new product development.”

She added, “Equilume currently employs 7 people and we plan to increase staff numbers to 11 by end of 2016.”

The Equilume Light Mask has been developed as a result of ground breaking research carried out by Dr Barbara Murphy from UCD’s School of Agriculture and Food Science, in collaboration with Professor John Sheridan, an optoelectronics researcher in UCD’s School of Electrical, Electronic and Communications Engineering.

Dr Brian O’Neill, Manager, High Potential Start-Ups, Lifesciences, Enterprise Ireland said, “This is an amazing success story and a world’s first. We are delighted to have supported this company from a research concept stage right through to commercialisation and global roll-out. I believe Equilume has enormous potential and is a real game changer for the equine industry. It really adds to Ireland’s reputation as a global centre of excellence for equine technology.”

Brendan Cremen, UCD Director of Enterprise and Commercialisation said, “Equilume is an excellent example of a UCD spin-out company, established with the support of our technology transfer and enterprise development team at NovaUCD, which has translated an innovative idea arising from world-class UCD research into a commercial entity which in generating global sales and impact in the Thoroughbred industry.”

Equilume has already won a number awards including Enterprise Ireland’s ‘One to Watch’ Award (2012); overall winner Newbridge 200 Business Start-Up Competition (2012) and a NovaUCD Start-Up Award (2011).

For more information click here

 

CorkYoungScientists

Scientific hat-trick winners Sophie Healy-Thow 17 yrs, 16-year-olds Ciara Judge and Emer Hickey have been chosen Cork Persons of the Month.  Their names now also go forward, with the other Persons of Month chosen this year, for possible selection as Cork Persons of the Year at a gala awards lunch on January 16th next.

The Kinsale Community School pupils won this year’s BT Young Scientist, EU Young Scientist and the top prize at the Google Science Fair in San Francisco, beating thousands of entries from around the world.

The trio investigated how natural bacteria could be used as a growth aid for crops as part of their project “Natural Bacteria Combating World Hunger”.

Working from home over the last three years, the girls did an extensive study on how the bacteria “diazotroph” affects germination rates and found that it increased crop growth by up to 50% and barley yields by as much as 74%. These results have significant potential for increasing crop yield, providing a possible solution to food shortages in developing countries.  It could also reduce the footprint agriculture has on the environment by reducing fertiliser needs.

Kinsale Community School Deputy Principal Kathleen O’Brien said that the three girls were inspirational to women, the science community and the country, and their work has the potential to solve the global food crisis.

“They are also highlighting the education system and raising the profile of Ireland as a country with a high skill base in science” added Ms O’Brien.

Time Magazine has named the girls as three of the top 25 influential teenagers in the world, along with people like Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzal who was shot by Taliban gunmen for promoting girls education.

“The trio from Kinsale Community School are now working on commercializing their discovery of using Diazotroph, a bacteria that sucks nitrogen from the atmosphere into soil, speeding up the germination of cereal crops and – more importantly – increasing their yield,” said Time Magazine.

_DSC5207

Athlone, 3rd November – Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, Damien English TD, this evening announced Prof Barry Smyth as the Science Foundation Ireland Researcher of the Year 2014 at the SFI Science Summit, to an audience of 300 researchers in attendance.  Prof Smyth, an international expert on personalization technologies and recommender systems, was recognised by his peers for his exceptional research accomplishments and contribution to the Irish scientific community over the past year.

Prof Barry Smyth holds the Digital Chair of Computer Science in UCD’s Scho­­­ol of Computer Science and Informatics. He is also a co-founder of ChangingWorlds, which was acquired by Amdocs Inc, and is Chief Scientist and co-founder of HeyStaks, an Irish collaborative search analytics company.

Presenting the award to Prof Smyth, Minister English, said: “Professor Smyth exemplifies the theme of this year’s SFI Science Summit 2014 – ‘Illustrating Impact.’  An experienced entrepreneur, he has been able to translate his research into the commercial world.  Barry is adept at straddling the worlds of research and commerce, and was one of the the driving forces behind INSIGHT – Ireland’s Data Analytics Research Centre established in 2013 through the SFI Research Centres Programme. INSIGHT is developing innovative new technologies of critical importance to Ireland’s future economic success.  His experience and expertise has brought about a highly successful collaboration between academia and industry, ultimately delivering a commercial impact and generating job creation opportunities in Ireland.”

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of SFI and Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government of Ireland, added: “We are delighted to recognise Professor Smyth’s achievements with this award.  He is working at the cutting edge, putting Ireland at the forefront of the big data analytics and the sensor web revolution.  His research illustrates the positive benefits that investment in the Irish scientific community can unlock.  We wish him continued success into the future and are glad to be able to honour him with this prestigious award.

Accepting his award, Professor Barry Smyth, said: “I am delighted to be receiving this award. The journey to here has been an unusual and exciting one because I have been able to combine my research interests with commercial opportunities. It is hugely fulfilling to see the product of research make an impact in the real-world. It has been possible only because of the support of UCD, SFI and the Irish government, as well as the hard work of dozens of students and collaborators, and for this I am very grateful.

Barry Smyth holds the Digital Chair of Computer Science in UCD’s School of Computer Science and Informatics. Barry has published more than 400 scientific papers. He has received more than 20 best paper awards, the inaugural Irish Software Association Outstanding Academic Achievement of the Year Award (2012) and an Honorary Doctor of Technology degree from Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen. Barry’s research has found broad application across markets such as web services, social networking and mobile internet, leading to a number of successful patents and licences and to the foundation of two companies: ChangingWorlds (1998) and HeyStaks Technologies (2008). Barry played a leading role (as CTO and/or CSO) in these companies, which have created more than 150 jobs in Ireland. ChangingWorlds was acquired by Amdocs in 2008 for more than $60m. As the Director of the CLARITY Centre for Sensor Web Technologies, Barry helped to grow CLARITY from seed funding of €12m to more than €35m in just 4 years, with approximately 30% from industry. More recently, the INSIGHT Centre for Data Analytics was established under his leadership in 2013 with the largest ever single SFI Research Centre award of €58 million, combined with €30 million from over 30 industry collaborators.

Neurons
In a ground breaking paper just published in the international journal Neuron, an international consortium involving scientists and clinicians from Trinity College Dublin, led by their long term collaborator Dr John Landers of the University of Massachusetts has reported a new Motor Neuron Disease -associated gene (TUBA4A). The team have shown that they can identify new and important causes of Motor Neuron Disease (MND) through the detailed analysis of rare coding variations in DNA from people with MND.

Genes are a code within DNA used to make all the proteins in a human’s body. Some diseases are caused by faulty coding within our genes, leading to the manufacture of defective proteins. Finding these coding faults can help scientists to understand diseases like MND. The disease, which causes a gradual degradation and death of motor neurons, affects about 300 people in Ireland, with some 110 new cases reported each year.

Dr Landers’ group examined the DNA from 363 people with MND, each of whom also had another family member with the condition. They performed an analysis of every gene in the genome of these patients which generated trillions of individual DNA base cells. Piecing these together, they searched for patterns of rare damaging mutations that appeared more frequently in patients with MND than in people without the disease.

They found that more people than expected with MND had an unusual change in the code for a protein in nerve cells that transport vital building blocks from one part of the nerve cell to another. Damage to this transport system leads to dysfunction of the nerve, and understanding this may help scientists to find new treatments for MND.

This important discovery from Dr Lander’s laboratory, which required advanced DNA analysis by Irish scientist Dr Kevin Kenna, and used samples from the MND Research Group in Trinity College and other centres, has added another piece to the jigsaw of the understanding of the causes of MND.

Speaking about this discovery, Orla Hardiman, Professor of Neurology in Trinity College Dublin, Consultant Neurologist at Beaumont Hospital and one of the paper’s authors said: “We are very excited by Dr Landers’ finding for mutations in the gene TUBA4A in some forms of MND. We are particularly proud of the contribution of Dr Kenna, a young post-doctoral scientist who has recently completed his PhD in MND Genetics with our group in Trinity College Dublin.  This form of international collaboration across leading centres will help us to bring new treatments closer to the clinic.”

“We will continue to collect and analyse DNA from Irish patients with Motor Neuron Disease in collaboration with our colleagues in genetics, Dr Russell McLaughlin and Professor Dan Bradley at Trinity, as there are many discoveries still to be made in collaboration with our international colleagues,” she added.

A video describing this discovery and featuring Dr Kevin Kenna is available here: http://youtu.be/d1rCjNSNiI0

The paper is available from Neuron: http://www.cell.com/neuron/home

Media Contact

Yolanda Kennedy, Press Officer for the Faculty of Health Sciences |yokenned@tcd.ie | 01 896 3551

web-connect-science
  • €155m in funding from the Department of Jobs through SFI will be provided for five World-Class SFI Research Centres
  • €90m co-investment by industry partners, bringing the total investment to €245m
  • Directly supporting 700 researcher positions
  • Addresses research in critical and emerging areas of the economy including applied geosciences, software and medical devices
  • Potential to receive further competitive research funding from industry and EU Horizon 2020

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD, and Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation Damien English TD has announced Government and industry funding of €245 million for the establishment of five new world-class SFI Research Centres in Ireland.

The funding of €155 million from the Department of Jobs will be delivered through Science Foundation Ireland’s (SFI) Research Centres Programme, coupled with €90 million in cash and in-kind contributions from industry partners. The funding will support cutting-edge research in critical and emerging sectors of the economy which are key for job creation in Ireland. The funding will be provided over the next six years, 2014-2020.

Speaking at the announcement, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD, said: “A key part of the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs is to build on the major achievements in scientific research we have built up over the past decade and turn more good ideas into good jobs. Today’s announcement will lead to the establishment in Ireland of world-class centres of research excellence and scale which will be game-changers for Irish scientific research.”

“The €245 million investment announced today, and the five new, large-scale, world-class research centres it will support, are aimed at achieving a step-change in the reputation and performance of Ireland’s research system. This builds on the announcement of seven similar centres last year. With twelve world-class SFI Research Centres, Ireland is now well placed to take the lead developing cutting-edge research and new technologies, ultimately delivering more commercial ideas and jobs.”

Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, Damien English TD, added, “This investment delivers another milestone for this Government’s Research Prioritisation objectives. These SFI Research Centres are ideally positioned to nurture real collaboration across industry and academia in Ireland which supports increased commercialisation of research and will ultimately grow jobs in the STEM sector. Importantly, these centres will also strongly position Irish based scientists to win funding through the EU Horizon 2020 funding programme, and will enable us to attract further investment from international companies in the future.“

The five SFI Research Centres will be involved in over 165 industry collaborations with partners ranging from multinationals to SMEs and including Intel, Google, Microsoft, Medtronic Vascular Galway Ltd, Xilinx, Huawei and many more.

The new funding has been competitively awarded in areas of national importance closely aligned to industry and enterprise needs, job opportunities and societal goals. The five new SFI Research Centres are as follows:

- ADAPT – Global digital connectivity enables enterprises, communities and individuals to share information and communicate globally at incredible speed, in enormous volumes, across the world’s languages and over an ever-increasing number of devices. Adapt’s research will fundamentally change the way in which enterprises, communities and individuals can engage globally in real time. Adapt will enhance efficiencies and global reach for industry partners in key priority sectors for Ireland, including ICT, localisation, financial services, eCommerce, media, entertainment and games, life sciences, eLearning, digital culture and humanities.

- CONNECT Centre for Future Networks & Communications – The key challenges that face society all drive the need for new and varied forms of networked services. These include mobile Internet, connected health, smart agriculture, smart grids and metering, and environmental monitoring services. The CONNECT Centre focuses on future broadband, cellular and Internet-of-Things networks on which all of these services will be enabled; thereby growing the economy and supporting society at large.

- CÚRAM Centre for Research in Medical Devices – As the global population ages, one in three people are expected to be over 65 by 2050, with the potential financial burden for healthcare expected to rise. CÚRAM is engaged in research to radically improve health outcomes for patients by developing innovative implantable ‘smart’ medical devices to treat major unmet medical needs. This research will position Ireland as the leader in developing medical device technologies which will provide affordable transformative solutions for chronic diseases.

- iCRAG Centre for Research in Applied Geosciences – Geoscience underpins the discovery of raw materials, water and energy resources that are critical to the world’s economy. With increasing demand and diminishing supply, focused innovations in geoscience are of paramount importance globally. Ireland is home to Europe’s largest zinc mine, untapped hydrocarbon resources in challenging North East Atlantic deep water environments, and a diverse geological framework with important untapped seabed and groundwater resources. The iCRAG centre will carry out research to find and harness these resources whilst protecting the environment.

- LERO The Irish Software Research Centre – Software is everywhere and key Irish industry sectors such as manufacturing, medical devices, financial services, cloud computing, analytics, and smart cities depend on it. LERO’s research mission is to replicate the success of traditional software engineering in the context of large-scale, pervasive, physically-integrated, highly interconnected, evolving, and continuously-available systems, in which the boundary between design-time and runtime is disappearing.

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said, “These five new SFI Research Centres were selected following a highly competitive and rigorous international peer review process which screened for scientific excellence and assessed potential economic and societal impact. These five SFI Research Centres complement the seven we announced last year – which are already having a major positive impact: making important scientific advances, initiating and enhancing enterprise, training people with appropriate skills, winning EU projects and enhancing Ireland’s international reputation. These SFI Research Centres combine scientific research with deep and significant enterprise engagement, excellence and impact. We are confident that they will make a significant contribution to Ireland’s economy, employment and reputation.”

The five centres involve a collaborative partnership across Higher Education Institutions in Ireland with participation from Cork Institute of Technology; Dublin City University; Dublin Institute of Technology; Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies; Dundalk IT; NUI Galway; Maynooth University; Royal College of Surgeons Ireland; Trinity College Dublin; Tyndall National Institute; University College Cork; University College Dublin; University of Limerick and Waterford Institute of Technology.

As a result of today’s announcement there will be a total of twelve SFI Research Centres in Ireland. Today’s investment marks the second tranche of funding under the SFI Research Centres Programme; last year €300 million (€200 from SFI and €100 from industry) in funding was announced for seven research centres, the largest ever combined Government and Industry co-funding collaboration of its kind in the research field in Ireland.

BTYSTESanFran2014

Three Irish students have won a global science research competition at the GoogleScience Fair 2014 in San Francisco. Ciara Judge, Emer Hickey and Sophie Healy-Thow from Kinsale Community School, Cork were named the grand prize winner in the 15 to 16-year-old age category for a project which examined the use of natural bacteria to increase crop output. They were inspired to try and help improve food production, particularly in third world countries, after learning about a famine in the Horn of Africa in 2011.

The basis of their project focuses on a naturally occurring bacteria in soil called Diazotroph. Their research showed that if Diazotroph is present, it accelerates the germination process of high-value crops such as barley and oats, potentially boosting output by up to 50 per cent. Using naturally occurring Rhizobium strains of the Diazotroph bacteria family, they carried out an extensive study of their impact on the germination rate and subsequent growth of the cereal crops wheat, oats and barley. Detailed statistical analysis of their results indicated that these bacterial strains accelerated crop germination by up to 50 per cent and increased barley yields by 74 per cent. Such a cereal crop performance improvement could significantly assist combating the growing global food poverty challenge and benefit the environment by reducing fertilizer use.

The Irish students are previous winners in the 2013 BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition and have competed in the EU Contest for Young Scientists. They were among five global finalists for their age category selected from thousands of submissions by students in more than 90 countries.

Speaking on RTÉ radio, Emer (16) said they worked on the project for three years. “We did a lot of experimental work in Ciara’s house. First we took over the spare room, [AND]then expanded into the kitchen, sitting room, conservatory, and the garden.. We tested over 13,000 seeds. It was quite a lot of work but it has really been worth it,” she said.

Sophie (17) described the prizes the trio have won as “absolutely amazing”. “We get to go on an exhibition with National Geographic to the Galápagos Islands. We get $50,000 towards our project and a $25,000 scholarship. It’s absolutely insane.”

Another part of the girls’ prize will see them undertake astronaut training with Virgin Galactic.

“We’ll be trained as airforce civilians going on a trip to outer space. It is part of Richard Branson’s project to commercialise space travel. [WE ARE]really excited about that.… It’s not even about the prize, just getting recognition for all our hard work,” said 16-year-old Ciara.

Asked about their plans for the next few days, Emer said they were going to celebrate for the next few days but are “ looking forward to going home and meeting our friends, going back to school and in the long run we are definitely going to continue the project and try to commercialise it in whatever way we can. Then we can really begin to change the world.”

Human Bone Marrow MSCs

NUI Galway has signed an agreement to formalise collaborative ties with the Mayo Clinic Centre for Regenerative Medicine in the US. The agreement follows many years of close cooperation, and paves the way for joint collaborations in clinical trials using regenerative therapies.

(You can check out REMEDI’s research in an upcoming episode of Series 3 of The Science Squad, due for broadcast this Autumn on RTE One)

Collaborative research projects will focus on a number of key strategic areas of importance for both institutes, including adult stem cell therapy, gene therapy, biomaterials and biomedical engineering. Furthermore, the agreement facilitates ongoing student and staff exchange between Galway and the US.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) puts the emphasis on regulatory science to facilitate global translation of regenerative medicine therapies to the clinic. Both the National University Ireland Galway and the Mayo Clinic Centre for Regenerative Medicine have GMP cell manufacturing facilities, licensed for use by the respective national medical authorities.

National University of Ireland Galway’s President, Dr Jim Browne, welcoming the signing of the MOU, said: “Formalising our longstanding links paves the way for advancing our common agenda which is to realize the potential of regenerative medicine. Here in Galway we have Ireland’s only facility licenced to produce stem cells for human use, while the new clinical and translational research facility for conducting clinical trials with patients will be complete in early 2015.”

NUI Galway’s Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI) and the Network of Excellence for Functional Biomaterials (NFB), both of which are supported by Science Foundation Ireland, are working together specifically to develop joint clinical trial programmes in the area of regenerative medicine.

Professor Tony Windebank, Deputy Director for Discovery of the Centre for Regenerative Medicine at Mayo Clinic said: “Mayo Clinic and NUI Galway have an established track record and commitment to regenerative medicine over the last decade. The Mayo Clinic has prioritized the development of new regenerative medicine clinical applications as a critical strategy for meeting the needs of patients in the future, which was evidenced in the formation of our Centre for Regenerative Medicine in 2012.”

The signing of the MOU comes on top of the recent announcement of a new $16 million agreement between Mayo Clinic and Enterprise Ireland where up to 20 novel medical technologies will be commercialised in Ireland over the next five years with the aim of creating several high value medical technology spin-out companies.

Video featuring Professor Tony Windebank, Deputy Director for Discovery of the Centre for Regenerative Medicine at Mayo Clinic https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B98ci3iAknE

MichaelODywer

Researchers at the National University of Ireland Galway have identified an enzyme that has a key role in the spread and survival of blood cancer cells. The discovery, which focussed on the cancer multiple myeloma, has just been published by the internationally acclaimed journal, Blood.

Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the blood which results from an overproduction of plasma cells, the white blood cells that produce antibodies. It leads to problems such as anaemia, bone damage, kidney failure and elevated calcium levels. There are about 240 new cases of multiple myeloma diagnosed each year in Ireland.

The research team was led by Health Research Board (HRB) Clinician Scientist, Professor Michael O’Dwyer and Professor Lokesh Joshi of the University’s Glycoscience Group, which is supported by Science Foundation Ireland. The group studies the complex sugars which cover all cells in the human body, and many of the proteins in the bloodstream. Dr Siobhan Glavey, a medical doctor funded by the HRB, also had a key role lead in the study and was lead author on the paper.

HRB Clinician Scientist, Michael O Dwyer, Professor of Haematology at the National University of Ireland Galway says; “While treatments for multiple myeloma have improved over the last decade, and most patients are living longer, there is no cure. Our research is crucial because it sheds new light on the biology of multiple myeloma which could lead to new strategies to overcome resistance to treatment.”

“Working in close cooperation with Dr Irene Ghobrial from the Dana Farber Cancer Institute at Harvard in the US and colleagues from the Institute of Cancer Research in the UK, we focused on alterations in a process called glycosylation, a process whereby proteins and lipids are modified by specific sugars, because of its role in cell-cell interactions and the spread of cancer cells in the blood.”

“In essence, we have linked the overproduction of a specific enzyme called sialyltransferase to disease progression and worse outcomes in multiple myeloma. The increase in this enzyme activity causes a series of knock on effects; increasing glycosylation, which in turn increases the interaction of the cancer cells with receptors on the walls of blood vessels called selectins which then encourages their circulation, spread and retention in the bone marrow.”

“Our aim now is to prevent these interactions that cause the spread using specific enzyme and selectin inhibitors”.

Dr Graham Love, CEO of the HRB, commented on the importance of the research: “Understanding what causes multiple myeloma to progress, or generate worse outcomes, is the first step towards improving treatment. This discovery reinforces the transformational role our Clinician Scientists have in bringing real clinical questions to a research environment and delivering results back to the bedside.”