Minister Harris announces SFI Frontiers for the Future Programme for TU Dublin Projects

Published: 30 May, 2023

On Tuesday, 30 May, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, TD, announced Science Foundation Ireland’s Frontiers for the Future Programme funding for two TU Dublin projects.

Minister Harris commented on the programme: “These awards, supported under the SFI Frontiers for the Future programme, will enable research ideas to contribute new knowledge, solving problems faced by our society, while also providing a continuum of support from early career to established researchers, thus growing and retaining top talent in Ireland. The SFI Frontiers for the Future programme takes important steps to address gender imbalance and to provide support and opportunity for emerging investigators who are returning to their research after a period of leave.”

The TU Dublin projects that received funding are:

Green Chemistry Biocatalysis (GENESIS) 

Green Chemistry Biocatalysis (GENESIS) is a collaboration between the Applied Enzymology Group (Prof. Gary Henehan, Dr Gemma Kinsella, Dr Barry Ryan) at TU Dublin and a group led by  Dr Kieran Nolan at the School of Chemical Sciences at Dublin City University. 

Green Chemistry Biocatalysis is a rapidly growing field, and recent biotechnology advances allow the tailoring and stabilization of biocatalysts so that using enzymes in manufacturing has become a realizable goal. Recently, this laboratory discovered highly stable glucosidases and lipases for bioprocessing. This proposal builds on these advances bringing together; (i) Biocatalysis in non-conventional media, (ii) robust enzymes (iii) Flow Chemistry platforms, to generate useful materials, therapeutics and fine chemicals. This combined approach is unique. Flow Chemistry allows for the scaling of novel processes without certain drawbacks (mass transfer, thermal transfer etc.). This work will seed a centre of Biocatalysis expertise to underpin an emerging bio-based economy.

Raman spectroscopy for monitoring of oral pre-malignant lesions for improved prognosis and management 

This project is a collaboration between Prof. Fiona Lyng and Dr Isha Behl of the RESC laboratory in the FOCAS Research Institute, with the Dublin Dental University Hospital (Dr Claire Healy, Dr Sheila Galvin), University Hospital Antwerp (Prof Senada Koljenović) and D Y Patil University (Dr Atul Deshmukh). 

Oral cancer mostly develops from pre-malignant lesions (white and red patches). Early detection and treatment can provide a better prognosis for the patient. Currently, diagnosis and monitoring of lesions are based on invasive tissue biopsies, and there is no test currently available which can predict treatment outcomes. In this study, biochemical fingerprinting using Raman spectroscopy will be carried out on minimally invasive brush biopsy and saliva samples. This data, together with clinical data, will be used to predict progression and/or treatment response. Overall, this study will deliver a new minimally invasive test to aid in the management of oral pre-malignant lesions.

Professor Philip Nolan, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland, said: “I am delighted that we are funding 62 new research grants through the SFI Frontiers for the Future programme. A key action of SFI’s strategy is to deliver 140 investigator grants every year to support excellent research and to attract top talent. The Frontiers for the Future programme is the primary mechanism to achieve this goal. It is vital that we invest in excellent and innovative research in Ireland. I would like to thank the Children’s Health Foundation and Geological Survey Ireland for collaborating on this programme with SFI, allowing us to fund projects which will have a significant impact in key areas.”

Read the full announcement here.