May 5, 2006
CSCB awards €960,000 in PhD studentships to UCD researchers

The CSCB has awarded PhD studentships to fund the work of 12 UCD PhD students. Projects were chosen by an external panel of academics in a process chaired by Dr Janet Allen, Director of the UCD Conway Institute.

The projects align closely to the research goals of the CSCB, which include discovering and developing novel therapeutic agents for medicine and improving our understanding of the chemical-biological processes of life and the environment.

The postgraduates will work for the following CSCB Principal Investigators: Dr Hasim Ibrahim, Professor Pat Guiry, Professor Michael McGlinchey, Dr Paul Murphy, Dr Donal O'Shea, Dr Matthias Tacke and Dr Xiangming Zhu from the UCD School of Chemistry and Chemical Biology; Dr Patrick Caffrey, Professor Paul Engel and Dr Jens Nielsen from the UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science; Dr Cosima Stubenrauch from the UCD School of Chemical and Bioprocess Engineering; a joint PhD studentship with Dr Eoin Casey (UCD School of Chemical and Bioprocess Engineering) and Dr Cormac Murphy (UCD School of  Biomolecular and Biomedical Science).

Promoting collaboration between CSCB researchers is key and a joint PhD studentship with Dr Eoin Casey and Dr Cormac Murphy will allow a postgraduate to examine the removal of toxic compounds from waste streams using a Pseudomonas biofilm. "The clean up of waste streams that contain halogenated xenobiotics is of major environmental and industrial concern, and we propose to use microbial biofilms, which is an emerging technology to remove such toxic compounds," explains Dr Murphy.

Many of the principal investigators are carrying out research in the hope of discovering new therapeutic agents for a range of diseases. Malaria, one of the world's main killer diseases, was seen as on the way out 30 to 40 years ago. However, after DDT was banned and in view of the increasing resistance to the current anti-malarials, there is a desperate need for new drugs. Professor Paul Engel has outlined a project to study Glutamate Dehydrogenase as a potential anti-malarial target.

Amphotericin B is an effective but highly toxic antifungal antibiotic that is also active against Leishmania parasites, prion diseases and enveloped viruses. However, over a number of decades medicinal chemistry has not produced a safe semi-synthetic derivative that is economically viable. Dr Patrick Caffrey's research project will use synthetic biology to produce non-toxic amphotericin derivatives in large quantities. "Genetic engineering can be used to manipulate the biosynthesis of complex natural products in bacteria. This approach promises to yield new bioactive compounds for the treatment of disease. The CSCB grant will allow us to extend our contributions to this area," says Dr Caffrey.

Dr Cosima Stubenrauch's postgraduate student will work on microemulsions as templates for new materials. "The aim of this research is to "initiate" a new research area at UCD leading to high surface area materials which are suitable for a range of applications, including new biomimetic materials," explains Dr Stubenrauch.

As examples of proposals from the UCD School of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Professor Pat Guiry aims to synthesise potential anti-inflammatory agents from synthetic analogues of lipoxins. "There is a real need to prepare a range of lipoxin analogues that are designed to resist, or more slowly undergo metabolism and therefore have longer pharmacological activity and enhanced potential clinical use,"says Professor Guiry. Dr Matthias Tacke will continue his ongoing work into novel Titanocene anti-cancer drugs with the aim of synthesising substituted titanocenes with improved cytotoxicity for treating renal cell cancer and progressing to Phase 1 clinical trials.

Professor Michael McGlinchey, Head of the UCD School of Chemistry and Chemical Biology says that "On behalf of the School of Chemistry & Chemical Biology, I want to acknowledge the generous financial support from the CSCB for incoming PhD students. This not only demonstrates the CSCB's commitment to scientific excellence in pursuit of Ireland's strategic goals, but also sends a clear message to our young people that a scientific career is available to all with the talent and determination to bring their novel ideas to fruition. On a more personal level, this award will allow my own research group to broaden our research on natural products that could lead to molecules with novel therapeutic properties."

For information on how to apply for the available PhD studentships, please go to the CSCB Careers page


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