Professor Luke O’Neill is Elected as Fellow to the Prestigious Royal Society

Posted on: 03 May 2016

Trinity’s Professor of Biochemistry, Luke O’Neill has been elected a Fellow of the prestigious Royal Society. He is among 50 leading scientists from across the UK and internationally, including Trinity College Dublin and institutions in the USA and Germany.

The Royal Society is a Fellowship of many of the world's most eminent scientists and is the oldest scientific academy in existence. The Society has played a part in some of the most fundamental, significant, and life-changing discoveries in scientific history. 

Only a handful of Irish scientists have been elected to the Royal Society.   Fellows from Trinity  currently include Professors Mike Coey, Denis Weaire and John Pethica.

Commenting on his election, Professor O’Neill said: “I am amazed and delighted to be awarded this honour. I see it as a testament to all the work that my team has done in Trinity College over the past 20 years and I especially want to thank all members of my laboratory, both past and present.”

Professor Luke O’Neill investigates inflammation –a highly complex process that is provoked in the body during infection by bacteria and viruses but also in response to trauma and injury. Inflammation restores us to health but for largely unknown reasons it can go rogue and give rise to a whole range of inflammatory diseases which remain difficult to treat. He has worked on innate immunity, which lies at the heart of inflammation. He has uncovered new molecules and biochemical processes that are triggered by sensors of infection and tissue injury, including the Toll-like receptors and inflammasomes, and the signals they drive that stimulate inflammation, notably cytokines including interleukin-1. He is using his findings to help in the effort to develop badly-needed anti-inflammatory medicines.

He joins outstanding scientists, including pioneers who have increased our understanding of the brain in areas such as memory and paediatric pain; informed international policy on infectious diseases affecting humans and animals; delved into ancient DNA to study human origins and worked on the transformative gene editing technology CRISPR-Cas9. They make up the 50 new Fellows and 10 new Foreign Members announced by the Royal Society.

Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society, says: “Science is a way of understanding both the world around us and ourselves. It is one of the great triumphs of human achievement and has contributed hugely to our prosperity and health. Science will continue to play a crucial role as we tackle some of the great challenges of our time including food, energy, health and the environment.  The scientists elected to the Fellowship are leaders who have advanced their fields through their ground breaking work. We are delighted to welcome them to the Royal Society.”

The newly elected Fellows include a strong representation of scientists in business and industry. They  comprise Vinton Cerf, Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google; Simon Peyton Jones, Principal Researcher, Microsoft Research Cambridge; David Hight, forensic engineering specialist and Founding Director of the Geotechnical Consulting Group; and Professor Christopher Abell, University of Cambridge, whose work has changed the face of drug discovery.

Professor Dame Anne Glover has held roles in the political arena, including as Chief Scientific Adviser to the President of the European Commission (2012-2015). Her research at the University of Aberdeen is focused on soil microbiology and she has developed techniques to clean up polluted land.

Professor Brian Cox, University of Manchester, is notable for his contributions to particle physics and is one of the UK’s most effective science communicators, reaching audiences of many millions through his landmark TV shows. Dr Marcus du Sautoy, the Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford, and presenter of the BBC series The Story of Maths is also a face familiar to the UK public.

Professor Sarah Cleaveland, University of Glasgow, is the driving force into researching rabies elimination in the developing world. Her work has made this a realistic outcome by 2030. Professor Maria Fitzgerald at UCL is a world leader in the science of pain and her research has had a major impact on the treatment of pain in infants.

Professor Jennifer Doudna has been made a Foreign Member for her work on CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology that is revolutionising the fields of genetics, molecular biology and medicine. Also joining the list of Foreign Members is Dr Svante Pääbo who explores human genetic evolution by analysis of DNA extracted from ancient sources, including mummies and the bone fragments of Neanderthals.

For more details on the Royal Society and the announcement click here:

The Fellowship of the Royal Society is made up of the most eminent scientists, engineers and technologists from or living and working in the UK and the Commonwealth. Past Fellows and Foreign Members have included Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking.


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