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Conway Fellows receive SFI Research Frontiers Programme funding

Conway Fellows, Dr Francesca Paradisi of the UCD School of Chemistry & Chemical Biology and Centre for Synthesis & Chemical Biology and Dr Margaret Mc Gee of UCD School of Biomolecular & Biomedical Science have recently been awarded SFI Reseach Frontiers Programme funding.

The Minister for Research & Innovation, Mr Seán Sherlock T.D announced the Government funded awards to 79 research projects earlier this month. Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) will administer the scheme, which amounts to €15 million over the next four years.

“A significant number of the awards announced provide support to early-career researchers with the aim of helping our most promising minds to build their research careers here in Ireland and contribute their ideas and talent to the economy,” said Dr Graham Love, Director of Policy & Communications, SFI.

The award to Dr Francesca Paradisi will support a full time PhD student to work on the design of robust biocatalysts required to make optically pure profenic alcohols involved in the manufacture of painkillers such as ibuprofen and ketoprofen.  

“It’s an ongoing challenge to make robust biocatalysts suitable for industrial applications. We focus alcohol dehydrogenases (ADHs) and their application in the efficient reduction of ketones and aldehydes to alcohols. We have cloned, expressed, purified and characterised several ADHs from halophilic organisms, which have shown different substrate specificities and optimal working conditions. This funding will allow us to develop the project further towards optimising selected ADHs”, said Dr Paradisi. 

Dr Margaret McGee will also fund a full time PhD student through her award. Her research group focus on what is believed to be the first vital step in the process of cancer development.

“Cytokinesis is the final stage of mitotic cell division that results in a physical separation of two daughter cells. Current scientific thinking favours the idea that the failure to complete cytokinesis is the first step in tumourigenesis as it promotes tetraploidy and genome instability. The way in which cytokinesis is regulated is poorly understood but we have recently shown that a particular reaction called prolyl isomerisation is essential for the completion of cytokinesis. If we can understand the precise role of prolyl isomerisation in this process, we may find a way to target cytokinesis to prevent the growth of cancer cells”, said Dr McGee.
 
In total, SFI received 291 proposals under this call, which then were subject to rigorous scientific review by international experts. University College Dublin was represented in thirteen successful project proposals.

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