Opportunity knocks for five up and coming Trinity health researchers

Five Trinity health researchers are among 11 researchers to receive HRB  Emerging Investigator Awards, which are designed to enable researchers at the mid stage of their career to shift gear to become independent investigators.

Dr Peter Bede, Specialist Registrar in Neurology at Trinity and Beaumont Hospital; Dr Cathal McCrory, Senior Research Fellow (Psychology); Dr Mark Robinson, Research Fellow (Immunology), Dr Niamh Lynam-Lennon, Senior Research Fellow (Molecular and cellular biology) and Dr James O'Mahony, Research Fellow (Health economics) have been named as recipients of the awards.

The HRB is investing €8.3 million through this scheme to support the 11 researchers who have demonstrated real promise as they take their first step to research independence. The HRB will support these investigators for four years with a maximum of €800K, including the investigators’ salary and support for research staff. Areas that will benefit from this investment include: – health economics, biostatistics, immunology, respiratory medicine, pharmacology, neurology and neuroscience, psychology, molecular and cellular biology and health services research.

According to Mairead O Driscoll, Interim CEO at the Health Research Board, ‘What set these successful individuals apart was their diversity and ability to multitask. Their challenge now is to build their research team, advance their research programmes, foster collaborations and leverage funding to build a sustainable research programme.  Everyone is well qualified for the challenge’.

Successful individuals will be recognised as principle investigators in their institutions. As well as doing research that would ultimately improve people’s health, or positively influence policy or practice; they will also be expected to act as mentors and work well in collaboration with other disciplines.

More about Trinity awardees:

Dr Peter Bede, Specialist Registrar in Neurology, Trinity and Beaumont Hospital

Dr Bede’s research interest is in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), which is a devastating, relentlessly progressive neurodegenerative condition with no effective disease-modifying therapies and no validated biomarkers. The aim of the project is to develop non-invasive imaging modalities into accurate diagnostic, prognostic and monitoring biomarkers. The findings will have implications for diagnostic applications, clinical management, pharmaceutical trials, and characterising anatomical patterns of pathological spread in neurodegeneration.

Dr Cathal McCrory, Senior Research Fellow (Psychology), Trinity

Dr McCrory will conduct a research project addressing why individuals from more disadvantaged social backgrounds will develop diseases earlier and will die earlier compared with their more advantaged peers using the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) dataset. The project aims to understand how social group-based differences affect the health of individuals over the life course. Some of the findings should inform societal approaches to reduce health inequalities and promote healthy ageing.

Dr Niamh Lynam-Lennon, Senior Research Fellow (Molecular and cellular biology), Trinity

Dr Lynam-Lennon will conduct a project in the area of cancer of the rectum, which is one of the most common cancers in Ireland and worldwide. Patients with rectal cancer are commonly treated with chemoradiation therapy to shrink the tumour before surgery to remove the tumour but unfortunately not all patients respond to this treatment reducing survival rate. The project aims to identify prior to the start of treatment, whether a patient will benefit from chemoradiation therapy or not. In addition it aims to identify an alternative novel treatment approach for rectal cancer patients who do not benefit from chemoradiation therapy, in order to ultimately improve patient treatments, outcomes and quality of life.

Dr James O'Mahony, Research Fellow (Health economics), Trinity

Dr O’Mahony will conduct a research project addressing how to increase the relevance and reliability of health economic evidence in Ireland. He will continue his work with the CERVIVA research consortium to advance cervical cancer screening and to translate the lessons learnt from cervical cancer prevention to screening for other cancers, including breast, colorectal and lung. The research will identify simple pitfalls in health economic modelling and show how to avoid them. The value of this work will be improved cancer screening that provides the right balance of benefits to screened individuals with the needs of others in the health system.

Dr Mark Robinson, Research Fellow (Immunology), Trinity

Dr Robinson will conduct a project on the area of liver cirrhosis, which occurs when normal liver tissue is replaced by scar tissue, leading to the eventual failure of normal liver functions. This study will link three Dublin hospitals that currently care for patients with liver cirrhosis and will exploit new discoveries in liver immunology to identify immunological markers to predict the presence and rate of progression of liver cirrhosis. The research findings will generate health knowledge needed to predict a patient’s risk of liver failure and stop the progression of liver cirrhosis.

Other winners of the Emerging Investigator Awards were Dr Jane English, Research Fellow (Neuroscience), University College Cork; Dr John Ferguson, Senior Research Fellow (Biostatistics), National University of Ireland, Galway; Dr Attracta Lafferty Senior Research Fellow (Psychology), University College Dublin; Dr Niamh Humphries, Senior Research Fellow (Health service research), Royal College of Physicians Ireland; Dr Silke Ryan, Consultant in Respiratory Medicine, University College Dublin and St Vincent’s Hospital; Dr Cathal McCarthy, Research Fellow (Obstetrics), University College Cork.