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€2 million award to investigate new frontiers in inflammation research

1 March 2016

Arthritis, inflammatory bowel syndrome, Multiple Sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease all have one thing in common: inflammation. Understanding what causes it is crucial to developing new treatments for these chronic illnesses.

Leading Irish researcher, Professor Luke O Neill from Trinity College Dublin is a pioneer in inflammation research. He has secured a €2 million Investigator Award through the SFI-HRB-Wellcome Trust partnership to investigate totally new theories about how certain cells behave and cause inflammation in the hope of finding new therapies.

‘We have discovered fascinating metabolic changes occur in a key cell associated with inflammation, called a macrophage.  It appears that when this cell becomes over-activated, as it would in an inflammatory disease such as MS or arthritis, it burns nutrients in a peculiar way. This leads to the generation of inflammatory factors, which damage tissue and cause the signs and symptoms of inflammation,’ says Professor O’ Neill.

‘We have discovered totally new events which regulate this process that could prove responsive to targeting with new medicines. Through this investment from the HRB, Science Foundation Ireland and the Wellcome Trust, we will investigate these events in great detail with a view to developing brand new therapies that would be very useful in a whole range of diseases where current treatments are ineffective’. 

Dr Graham Love, Chief Executive at the Health Research Board says,

‘Luke is a legend in immunology research. I believe we will see therapies for inflammatory diseases emerge from this work which will impact positively on people’s lives. The HRB will continue to work in partnership with others to support biomedical research which helps feed the pipeline for future treatments and therapies.’

Professor Mike Turner, Head of Infection and Immuno-biology at the Wellcome Trust, says,

‘We at The Wellcome Trust are delighted to make an award to Professor Luke O’Neill whose work aims to address some of the most important aspects explaining how the immune system in our bodies works to defend us against infection and how it interacts with our metabolism. The award provides generous, long-term, flexible funding, which we hope will enable Luke to continue the very high calibre of work for which he is renowned.’

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, says,

‘I am particularly pleased to congratulate Prof O’Neill on his success, as Science Foundation Ireland have supported Prof O’Neill’s work for the past fifteen years, witnessing directly the quality, progress and impact that his research is making in the field of immunology.  Prof O’Neill is one of the world’s leading researchers and one of the driving forces behind Ireland’s ranking of 2nd in the world in Immunology. I believe that through this work we will gain significant increased understanding of inflammatory diseases and see improved treatments emerge for patients. This award demonstrates that Science Foundation Ireland through the partnership with the Wellcome Trust and HRB can help support those who are leaders in their field, and who are delivering important and impactful scientific research.’

'I am honoured to be supported by this Wellcome Trust - HRB- SFI programme. It will allow me to build a team of four postdoctoral scientists to carry out research into ideas I have in the area of inflammatory diseases which could change our view of the underlying mechanisms of these diseases and in turn might lead to better therapies,’ concludes Professor O Neill.

SFI-HRB-WellcomeTrust Partnership
The Wellcome Trust, in partnership with Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and the Health Research Board (HRB), funds biomedical research in the Republic of Ireland under the auspices of the SFI-HRB-Wellcome Trust Biomedical Research Partnership. This partnership has been running since October 2010, and has just been renewed by the partners until 2020. Applicants based at eligible research bodies in the Republic of Ireland may apply for certain Wellcome Trust funding schemes and if successful will be funded 50% by the Wellcome Trust and the remaining 50% by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and the Health Research Board (HRB).

Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) is the national foundation for investment in scientific and engineering research. SFIs vision is that Ireland will be a global leader in scientific and engineering research, discovery and innovation.

The Health Research Board (HRB) is the lead agency in Ireland responsible for supporting and funding health research, information and evidence. We are driven by our vision: Healthy people through excellent research and applied knowledge.

The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to improving health by supporting the brightest minds in science, the humanities and social sciences, and public engagement. The vision of Trust is to achieve extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. This is accomplished through a broad range of funding schemes in support of outstanding researchers and innovative research programmes in biomedical and clinical research and the medical humanities in the UK and overseas, including the Republic of Ireland

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