Rheumatology Research Group

Group Overview

The research team have specific expertise in a wide range of musculoskeletal diseases including inflammatory arthritis, osteoarthritis, crystal-induced disease, vasculitis, connective tissue disease and sports and exercise medicine.

With more than €20 million secured since 2006 the centre is the highest funded clinical research programme in UCD, integrating clinical and basic research and engaging with pharmaceutical industry partners to create an innovative, globally-competitive translational research facility attracting early stage clinical trials to Ireland. This research Centre provides an integrated, multidisciplinary multi-institutional environment to coordinate clinical and basic research activities in the only IMB-certified CRC facilities in Ireland linked directly to the UCD Conway Institute.

Our centre has proven highly successful in developing translational experimental approaches including training and performance of mini-arthroscopy and tissue biopsy. The programme based across the UCD Clinical Research Centre, provides whole tissue biopsy explant cultures for research that is an entirely unique resource. Our teams’ ability to perform this research has led to both academic and industry collaborations attracting significant non-exchequer funding from both the EU and the US.

The expertise for this highly developed research programme has led to novel translational research outputs including presentations at the highest quality international research meetings and publication in high impact factor peer-review journals.

For information on DAMC Rheumatology meetings, please refer to this link.

More Information About the Rheumatology Research Group

The rheumatology research group at the Education and Research Centre, St Vincent’s University Hopspital, has a primary clinical focus on early, inflammatory arthritis and a scientific focus on mechanisms of angiogenesis, inflammation, Giant Cell Arteritis, Metabolic Turnover and joint damage. The main aim of the group is to:

(i) identify biomarkers that may (a) predict disease outcome, (b) disease response and (c) remission,

(ii) using novel models of arthritis, in vitro, ex vivo and in vivo, to identify mechanisms involved in the pathogenic process of inflammatory arthritis, with particular emphasis on (a) angiogenesis, (b) hypoxi- induced mitochondrial pathways, (c) novel mediators/cytokines involved in cartilage destruction,

(iii) pre-clinical proof of concept studies in collaboration with industry partners, using novel ex-vivo synovial explants model  and transcriptomics to identify potential new therapeutic targets,

(iv) develop new imagining techniques. The importance of PET/CT imaging to health care and research is increasingly recognized. Acquisition and visualisation MRI protocols have been successfully standardised. We are developing innovative software in collaboration with the radiological group in UCD to analyse hybrid PET/CT images fused with MRI to quantify metabolic activity and blood flow for direct comparison to clinical status, tpO2 and molecular outputs in arthritis patients.

Arthritis is a leading cause of joint deformity and disability that affects up to 15% of the population, 2% suffering from inflammatory forms such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis. Arthritis is the most common cause of pain in our society especially in the elderly, a section of the population expanding rapidly in the next decade. Arthritis reduces mobility and therefore increases social isolation, furthermore it is associated with significant co-morbidities including psoriasis, diabetes and obesity also increasing in prevalence.

Over the years major advances in the understanding of the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis at a cellular level have been made. This has seen the advent of the biologic therapies including anti-cytokine agents such as anti-TNF-alpha therapy. However, these novel treatments are expensive, placing further strain on an already over-stretched health budget, are partially effective with efficacy in 30% of patients and may be associated with serious and unacceptably high rates of adverse effects such as tuberculosis and other opportunistic infections.

The costs of arthritis to both the individual and society are high, both direct and indirect. These include the economic and social costs, drugs, hospitalisations, lost workdays and the costs to family and carers too. The cost to patients is very high in terms of reduced quality of life. Therefore new treatment strategies are required to improve outcome in unresponsive patients and reduce toxicity. Development of more targeted and effective therapies for the treatment of arthritis will have considerable benefit for the individual in terms of quality of life and for society as a whole in terms of economic and social benefits.

Director Biography

Professor Gerry Wilson

SMMS Professor of Rheumatology & Consultant Rheumatologist


Professor Gerry Wilson graduated in Medicine from Queen's University Belfast . He was awarded an ARC Clinical Fellowship for a PhD thesis which he undertook at the University of Sheffield and successfully completed. He was subsequently awarded an ARC Copeman Fellowship for research at Stanford University. He was appointed Professor in Rheumatology and Honorary Consultant Rheumatologist at the University of Sheffield Medical School and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust where he was Head of the Sheffield EULAR Centre of Excellence for Rheumatology.

Prof Wilson was appointed to the Arthritis Ireland/UCD Chair of Rheumatology in 2013. He joins Ireland's leading rheumatology group based Mater Misericordiae University Hospital and St Vincent's University Hospital as Consultant Rheumatologist and Professor of Rheumatology.

Research interest: the genetic background of rheumatoid arthritis. Pharmacogenetics, specifically the identification of biomarkers predictive of response to Methotrexate and anti-TNF.

Research Team

Dr Suzanne Donnelly

Consultant Rheumatologist & Director of Clinical Education


Dr Suzanne Donnelly graduated from Trinity College Dublin and trained in both Ireland and the University of Oxford before being appointed consultant rheumatologist at St George's Hospital and Medical School, University of London in 2002.  Suzanne is a part time Consultant Rheumatologist in the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital and Director of Clinical Education in SMMS. Her clinical and research interests in rheumatology include systemic autoimmune disease and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.

In medical & rheumatology education, Suzanne delivered a National Curriculum for Undergraduate Rheumatology on behalf of the Irish Society for Rheumatology in 2009 and, in partnership with Arthritis Ireland, developed a highly successful Patient Educator programme to promote undergraduate learning about the rheumatic diseases.  Suzanne has contributed to a number of undergraduate and specialist textbooks including the core text Medicine at A Glance, and The Rheumatology Handbook (2011). She has presented papers in medical education internationally; her educational research interests are in the area of student and doctor assessment, empathy and care, the role of the patient educator in medical education and design of assessment to promote learning in Problem Based Learning. She has recently contributed to an ICGP e-learning rheumatology course to be launched in October 2014.

In 2014 Suzanne was awarded a Fellowship in Teaching and Academic Development by the University to carry out research into the linkages between research and teaching across the institution. Suzanne is an ISR Board member. She is a medical patron of the Lupus Ireland Group and previously served two terms as ISR nominee to the board of Arthritis Ireland and also served on the board of Raynaud’s and Scleroderma Ireland.

Dr Ursula Fearon

SMMS Senior Research Fellow


Dr Ursula Fearon graduated with a BSc from University College Dublin, followed by successful completion of a PhD which examined the mechanisms by which adrenal steroidogenesis is controlled. She continued her research as a Post-Doctoral fellow at the University of Leeds, The Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Disease Unit and subsequently joined the Rheumatology team at SVUH and the Conway Institute, UCD where she has been a senior scientist and PI since 2005. Dr Fearon has established an international reputation in the areas of angiogenesis, metabolism and synovial fibroblast invasion. She has developed a number in- situ, in-vitro and ex-vivo models of arthritis using human tissue from patients with inflammatory arthritis. These models closely reflect the in-vivo joint environment and are utilized in collaboration with several industry partnerships to examine potential new therapeutic targets. Using these ‘pre-clinical proof of concept models’ it is possible to dissect the complex signaling pathways involved in inflammation including blood vessel dysfunction, metabolism and synovial invasion. Dr Fearon is a member of several international research consortia, has established a strong research team funded from National and International agencies (HRB, IRCSET, SFI, EU FP6, EU-IMI), in addition to industry collaborative partnerships and received the European ASPIRE award in 2014.

Research interest: rheumatoid arthritis

Professor Oliver FitzGerald

SMMS Newman Clinical Professor & Consultant Rheumatologist


Oliver FitzGerald is a consultant rheumatologist and Newman Clinical Research Professor at St Vincent's University Hospital. He qualified from UCD in 1978 and completed his postgraduate training both in Dublin and at the University of Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. He is a principal Investigator at The Conway Institute for Biomedical and Biomolecular Research, University College Dublin (UCD). He is  also a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland (1987) and the Royal College of Physicians, UK (1990).  He has been HSE National Lead in Rheumatology since 2010.

He has published more than 240 peer reviewed papers, many on the subject of inflammatory arthritis, in particular psoriatic arthritis. His main research interests in psoriatic arthritis include clinical and therapeutic studies; the development of novel imaging techniques for measuring synovial or entheseal inflammation, including ultrasound and MRI; analysis of synovial and skin cellular and cytokine profiles; and, more recently, studies of gene and protein expression in diseased tissue.

Research interests: psoriatic arthritis and spondylarthropathies

Dr Conor McCarthy

SMMS Consultant Rheumatologist


Dr. Conor McCarthy, MD, FRCPI, FFSEM has been a Consultant Rheumatologist at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital since 1996.  Prior to this he completed his rheumatology Fellowship at the University of Michigan Medical Centre, Ann Arbor and graduated from NUI Galway (1986).  He has been a member of a number of Rheumatology Committees to include the Irish Society for Rheumatology (Honorary Treasurer and Chair of the Bernard Connor Committee), Arthritis Ireland and the Ankylosing Spondylitis Association of Ireland.   He was on the inaugural board of the Faculty of Sports and Exercise Medicine and Chaired the organising committee for their Annual Scientific Conference for the first 3 years.  He sat on the Irish Sports Councils High Performance Committee and the Irish Heart Foundation Subcommittee on Sudden Cardiac Death.  He also sits on the board of the Institute of Sport and Health in UCD and is a Senior Clinical Lecturer, School of Medicine and Medical Sciences at UCD.  He is a member of the UCD Medical School admissions committee and has been a medical student mentor over the last year.  In the Mater Hospital he is a member of the GP liaison committee, the Outpatient validation committee and the GP Electronic referrals committee.

He has developed an outpatient based programme for the treatment of Ankylosing Spondylitis (MASTER programme).

Between 2004 and 2013 he worked as Medical Director to the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) coordinating all medical activities the IRFU which included developing policy and protocols for injury prevention, First Aid (SAFE –Rugby), injury reporting, concussion, nutrition, and sports medicine education.  He appointed all of the doctors and physiotherpists for the national teams.  He developed a number of educational iniatives to include a bi-annual sports medicine conference, workshops, newsletters and a programme of injury prevention in schools rugby.  He was a member on a number of working groups/committees of the International Rugby Board (IRB) to include the Concussion, Pre-participation and conference working groups.  He is a reviewer for the American Journal of Sports Medicine.

Research interests: arthritis and injury prevention, concussion, exercise interventions in the prevention and treatment of musculoskeletal diseases.

Professor Geraldine McCarthy

SMMS Professor of Rheumatology & Consultant Rheumatologist


A graduate of UCD School of Medicine and Medical Science, Professor McCarthy finished her general medical training in Ireland before completing a Fellowship in Rheumatology at the College of Wisconsin where remained on Faculty rising to the rank of Associate Professor of Medicine. Returning to Dublin in 1998, she was appointed as a consultant Rheumatologist at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital and Associate Professor of Molecular and Cellular Therapeutics at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

While at the Medical College of Wisconsin she developed her interest in calcium crystal deposition diseases. Her research has focused on the biological effects of calcium-containing crystals in degenerative joint disease as well as in atherosclerosis and breast cancer and has been funded by many sources including the National Institutes of Health, Arthritis Foundation, American Federation for Aging Research, US Department of Defence, the Health Research Board and the Wellcome Trust. She has also developed research interests in polymyalgia rheumatica/giant cell arteritis and also mechanisms of thrombosis in inflammatory arthritis. She is a member of the international community of experts in gout and crystal deposition diseases. She is the author of over 100 publications and has spoken at many national and international meetings. She has been winner of several research and teaching awards and has mentored medicine and science graduates in clinical practice and in research.

In 2009, she was the first individual to be promoted to Clinical Professor of Medicine through the Clinical Pathways at UCD SMMS. She is chairperson of the UCD Clinic Research Center Advisory Committee and Head of the Department of Rheumatology at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital.

Research interests: osteoarthritis and crystal arthropathies

Dr Eamonn Molloy

SMMS Consultant Rheumatologist


Eamonn Molloy graduated from University College Dublin (1997) and completed rheumatology and internal medicine training in Ireland. He obtained an MD at RCSI (2006), which focused on calcium crystal induced inflammation. From 2005, he underwent subspecialty fellowship training in vasculitis at the Cleveland Clinic, completed a MS (Clinical Research) at CaseWestern Reserve University and then joined the staff at the Vasculitis Center and RJ Fasenmeyer Center for Clinical Immunology at the Cleveland Clinic. In 2010, he was appointed as a consultant rheumatologist at St Vincent’s UniversityHospital and is a UCD Senior Clinical Lecturer. He is the author of approximately 50 publications largely pertaining to vasculitis, complications of biologic therapy and crystal induced arthritis. Currently, his primary research focus is giant cell arteritis.


Research interest: vasculitis

Dr Anne Barbara Mongey

Consultant Rheumatologist & Lecturer


Dr. Mongey graduated from University College Dublin’s School of Medicine in 1981. She obtained her DCH and MD degrees from UCD and completed a 3 year Fellowship in Rheumatology / Immunology at the University of Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A. She was Professor of Internal Medicine and Director of the Rheumatology Fellowship program in the Division of Immunology/Rheumatology at the University of Cincinnati and Medical Director of the Arthritis Clinic at the University Hospital, Cincinnati until December 2007 when she returned to Ireland. She currently is a Lecturer at University College Dublin and Consultant Rheumatologist at St. Vincent's University Hospital and the Blackrock Clinic.

Research interests: Rheumatoid Arthritis; Psoriatic Arthritis; Other Inflammatory Arthopathies; Systemic  Lupus  Erythematosus and other Connective Tissue Diseases; Osteoporosis

Professor Doug Veale

SMMS Adjunct Professor of Medicine & Consultant Rheumatologist


Douglas J. Veale is Director of Translational Research of the DAMC, Professor of Medicine and Consultant Rheumatologist at St Vincent’s University Hospital and a Principal Investigator at The Conway Institute for Biomedical and Biomolecular Research, University College Dublin (UCD). He is a Fellow of both the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland (1997) and the Royal College, London (1999).  Professor Veale graduated from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland in 1984 and obtained his MD by thesis from UCD in 1992.

Professor Veale has established an international reputation in translational research in the areas of angiogenesis, early arthritis, biopharmaceutical therapy, biomarkers and scleroderma. He has established an excellent research team including senior scientists, post-doctoral scientists, clinical research fellows and PhD students funded by peer-reviewed grants from The American Federation for Ageing Research, the European Union FP6 programme and Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), The Health Research Board of Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland, the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions and a several of industry partnership programmes.

Research interests: inflammatory arthritis, biopharmaceutical therapy and biomarkers.