SBI Year-End Highlights
Thursday, 20 December, 2018
It has been a stand-out year at Systems Biology Ireland! But before jumping into 2019, we would be remiss not to highlight just a few of our most significant achievements of the past 12 months.
Professor Jonathan Bond joined SBI this year as the UCD Brendan McGonnell Professor of Paediatric Molecular Haemato-oncology, starting his own group in the centre soon thereafter. Several SBI students and researchers graduated or moved into other realms of academia and industry and there have been many new faces to welcome, too. As of 21 December, SBI has 15 postdoctoral researchers, 14 PhD students, and 14 Principal Investigators and Group Leaders.
In April, SBI was given the distinguished Research Laboratory of the Year Award from the Irish Laboratory Awards. There were more than 250 attendees from Irish academic institutions and industry and there were 22 categories awarded. The centre has been kept on its toes with periodic funding reports, site visits and the biennial meeting of our Scientific Advisory Board. The positive feedback and constructive criticism received during these periods has been invaluable to SBI’s continued research.
PI and Group Leader Distinctions
Dr. Colm Ryan received an Irish Research Council Laureate Award for the contribution of paralog buffering to tumour robustness. This funding is designed to support research that “pushes the boundaries” and was awarded to ten academics at UCD.
Dr. Christina Kiel was honoured with the SFI President of Ireland Future Research Leaders Award at a special ceremony at President Michael D. Higgins’ home in the Phoenix Park in Dublin. Dr. Kiel and other awardees were hosted by President Higgins and his wife, Sabina Coyne.
SBI Deputy Director Prof. Boris Kholodenko was elected to the Royal Irish Academy in May 2018. This is the highest academic honour awarded in Ireland. Prof. Kholodenko joined SBI’s Prof. Walter Kolch and Prof. Cormac Taylor who previously received this honour.
Professor of Bioinformatics, Des Higgins, won the 2018 Benjamin Franklin Award for Open Access in the Life Sciences for the impact of “Clustal” a series of open source computer programmes used to align biological sequences.
In October, Prof. Walter Kolch, Dr. Dirk Fey and Dr. Colm Ryan were guest editors for a special Systems Biology edition of Essays in Biochemistry.
Prof. Walter Kolch was one of the scientists featured in “Superbodies”, one of the popular Science Apprentice STEM books for kids which came out in the Irish Independent over several weeks in November.
Researcher and Student Honours
Dr. Ariane Watson won the Gold Medal at the Conway Festival of Research in October.
PhD student Stephanie McKenna was Chair of the Molecular and Computational Symposium held at the Conway Institute in November.
Group leaders and researchers at SBI published more than 25 peer-reviewed research papers in 2018, in addition to several book chapters and published meeting proceedings. Below are several excellent examples of this year’s work:
- Dissecting RAF Inhibitor Resistance by Structure-based Modeling Reveals Ways to Overcome Oncogenic RAS Signaling, Cell Systems, 11/7/2018. SBI authors include Boris Kholodenko as corresponding author, postdoc Oleksii Rukhlenko as first author, and Aleksandar Krstic, Nora Rauch, David Matallanas, Jens Rauch and Walter Kolch as contributors. This paper was particularly important because it demonstrated a new computational modelling method that can integrate the genetic background of a cell, structural features and dynamic properties of a protein to show that kinases that require dimerization for activity can be efficiently blocked by two inhibitors that target different conformations. This approach can overcome drug resistance to RAF inhibitors in malignant melanoma cells.
- From oncogenic mutation to dynamic code, Science, 31/08/2018. "Perspective" from Walter Kolch and Christina Kiel.
- Polycomb repressive complex 2 haploinsufficiency identifies a high-risk subgroup of pediatric acute myeloid leukemia, Leukemia, 27/6/2018, Jonathan Bond and colleagues.
- Nanoparticles Can Wrap Epithelial Cell Membranes and Relocate Them Across the Epithelial Cell Layer, ACS Nano Letters, 24/7/2018. This Smart NanoTox paper was a collaboration with the Strancar group of Slovenia and SBI authors include group leader David Matallanas and postdoc Hilary Cassidy. [photo]
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