Ground-Breaking Geneticist Wins 2014 Boyle Medal for Scientific Excellence

Smurfit Professor of Medical Genetics, Seamus Martin, has been awarded the RDS Irish Times Boyle Medal for Scientific Excellence. Professor Martin was chosen for pioneering work in molecular biology and immunology that has significantly improved worldwide understanding of how cell death is regulated in our bodies and how this malfunctions in cancer, auto-immune conditions and Parkinson's disease.

Specifically, Professor Martin has made outstanding contributions to the understanding of programmed cell death, a process that underpins numerous aspects of human biology, and which has significant implications for the treatment of major diseases such as cancer and Parkinson’s.

Professor Martin said: “I am tremendously honoured and surprised to be awarded this year's Boyle Medal and to join a list of such illustrious scientific figures in Ireland’s history. I am delighted to accept this Award and must recognise the contribution of those who work alongside me in the lab. I am very proud of the remarkable scientists with whom I collaborate to break new ground in this important field.”

He added: “I place great emphasis on training people to a very high standard and I am convinced that this will have a lasting impact towards improving the quality and profile of Irish science, both at home and abroad.”

Professor Martin is the 39th recipient of the Boyle Medal, which is awarded every two years and alternates between a scientist based in Ireland and an Irish scientist based abroad.

Professor Martin leads a team that studies the molecular process of cell death, with particular focus on the inflammation that can arise when this process goes wrong due to infection or disease. His Trinity-based group has made a number of important discoveries, which could lead to improved treatments across a range of disorders. Most recently, the team demonstrated how our bodies’ cells communicate with the immune system via the production of special signalling molecules; this has now become a major focus in cell death research across the globe.

Professor Martin will be conferred with the Boyle Medal when he gives a public lecture at the RDS in March, 2015, which will be open to the public.

An international judging panel selected Professor Martin from a shortlist of five world-class Irish scientists. The members of the panel were Professor Sir Richard Brook (Chair, UK), Professor Margaret Murnane (2011 Boyle Medal Laureate, USA), Professor Michael Duff (UK), Professor Willie Motherwell (UK), and Professor John O'Shea (USA).

Speaking following their deliberations, the panel said: “Professor Martin has demonstrated consistent attention to investigating a fundamental problem in biochemistry and cell biology. His work has brought a greater understanding of the important biological process of cell death and his research enriches the investigations of scientists across many disciplines into cancer, autoimmunity and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s.” 

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Thomas Deane, Press Officer for the Faculty of Engineering, Mathematics and Science | deaneth@tcd.ie | +353 1 896 4685