06-07 October 2021
Virtual conference via Zoom*

2021 UCD Conway Festival of Research & Innovation

Advance registration not required.

Download the 2021 UCD Conway Festival poster programme
Download the 2021 UCD Conway Festival schedule with Zoom links 

*Some sessions have limited in-person presentation and attendance. Please see schedule for details.

Kindly supported by BioSciences and Cruinn Diagnostics 

2021/2022 CLASS sponsors

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10am: Welcome 

Opening remarks from Professor Helen Roche, Director
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10.05am: Plenary 1: 'Transforming healthcare with artificial intelligence - lessons from ophthalmology'

Guest speaker: Professor Pearse A Keane, Consultant Ophthalmologist, Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, UKRI Future Leaders Fellow, University College London

Chair: Dr Maria Prencipe
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11.30am: General Research Review

Research presentations by early career researchers
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2pm: Moderated Research Sessions

Shortlisted research presentations by early career researchers
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3pm: In Conversation: ‘Navigating scientific storytelling in the digital age’

Panel discussion chaired by Claire O'Connell
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Professor Jane Suiter, School of Communications & Director, Institute for Future Media, Democracy and Society, , Dublin City University
Mark Little, CEO, Kinsen - former journalist, broadcaster and founder of social news agency, Storyful
Dr Megan Hanlon, Research Fellow, Trinity College Dublin & host of ‘Unravelling Science’ podcast
Dr Susan Heavey, Research Fellow, University College London & cohost of Cancer Research Demystified on YouTube

10am: Plenary 2: 'Navigating the ERK pathway'

Guest speaker: Professor Manuela Baccarini, Vienna BioCenter & Max Perutz Labs, University of Vienna

Chair: Professor Walter Kolch
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11.30am: Invited Short Talks 

‘Addressing Unmet Needs in Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA)’
Professor Oliver Fitzgerald, UCD Newman Clinical Research Professor, School of Medicine & Fellow, UCD Conway Institute; Co-lead, HIPPOCRATES, a new EU and industry funded psoriatic arthritis research project

‘Translational Cancer Epigenomics via Liquid Biopsies’ 
Assoc. Professor Antoinette Perry, UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science & Fellow, UCD Conway Institute
2020 Start-Up of the Year award for UCD spin-out, epiCaPture

‘Seeing Like A Virus - Bacteriophage-Typing and the origins of global microbial surveillance’
Dr Claas Kirchhelle, UCD School of History & UCD Centre for the History of Medicine
Wellcome Trust University awardee for 'Seeing like a Virus'

Chairs: Professor Helen Roche, Director & Dr Fiona McGillicuddy
Click https://bit.ly/CFinvited to join or attend in-person in UCD Conway Institute lecture theatre

2pm: Festival Gold Medal Showcase 

Presentations of research by moderated poster category winners. Sponsored by Cruinn Diagnostics.

Chair: Dr Stephen Thorpe
Click https://bit.ly/CFGoldMedal to join or attend in-person in UCD Conway Institute lecture theatre.

3pm: Plenary 3: 'Can memories be inherited?'

Guest speaker: Professor Oded Rechavi, Wise Faculty of Life Sciences & Sagol School of Neuroscience,
Tel Aviv University

Chair: Professor Liam Gallagher
Click https://bit.ly/CFPlen3 to join.

4pm: Awards Ceremony

Awards ceremony and closing remarks from Professor Orla Feely, VP Research, Innovation & Impact
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Prof. Pearse Keane

Prof. Pearse KeaneDr Pearse Keane is an NIHR Clinician Scientist, based at the Institute of Ophthalmology, and an honorary consultant ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital. He leads a programme of applied clinical research in artificial intelligence (AI) at Moorfields Eye Hospital and UCL IoO. As part of this, he initiated the long-term collaboration between Moorfields NHS Foundation Trust and DeepMind. He works closely with the Moorfields Image Reading Centre on this and a number of other independent research projects. He is funded as a UK Research and Innovation's Future Leader Fellow for work involving the development and application of AI in the NHS.

Plenary Lecture: 'Transforming healthcare with artificial intelligence - lessons from ophthalmology'

Ophthalmology is among the most technology-driven of the all the medical specialties, with treatments utilizing high-spec medical lasers and advanced microsurgical techniques, and diagnostics involving ultra-high resolution imaging. Ophthalmology is also at the forefront of many trailblazing research areas in healthcare, such as stem cell therapy, gene therapy, and - most recently - artificial intelligence. In July 2016, Moorfields Eye Hospital announced a formal collaboration with the world’s leading artificial intelligence company, DeepMind. This collaboration involves the sharing of >1,000,000 anonymised retinal scans with DeepMind to allow for the automated diagnosis of diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy (DR). In my presentation, I will describe the motivation - and urgent need - to apply deep learning to ophthalmology, the processes required to establish a research collaboration between the NHS and a company like DeepMind, the initial results of our research, and finally, why I believe that ophthalmology could be first branch of medicine to be fundamentally reinvented through the application of artificial intelligence.

Prof. Manuela Baccarini

Prof. Manuela BaccariniManuela Baccarini is Professor of Cell Signaling at the Max Perutz Labs, University of Vienna. Professor Baccarini is interested in how cells communicate and react to the environment, a process termed signal transduction. In particular, she studies the essential biological functions of signaling pathways implicated in developmental diseases and cancer. Professor Baccarini has published more than 100 scientific papers and is recognized as an expert in her field. She has a keen interest in educating the next generation of scientists, and is the Director of the Vienna BioCenter PhD program – a graduate School of the University and Medical University of Vienna, which comprises more than 80 groups from the University of Vienna, Medical University of Vienna and academic institutes on Campus. Professor Baccarini has been elected corresponding member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in 2010 and member of the European Molecular Biology Organization in 2012.

Plenary Lecture: 'Navigating the ERK pathway'

The Baccarini lab has traditionally focused on understanding the essential functions of RAF and MEK in tissue development, remodeling, and neoplasia, and on determining how the pathway is wired in vivo. The cascade is activated in cancer and its components are attractive therapeutic targets. Surprisingly, however, most essential functions of RAF and MEK paralogs in the whole organism are rooted in the ability to cross-talk with other crucial signaling pathways regulating cell metabolism and fate via protein-protein interaction. These results have changed the way we look at RAF and MEK kinases and have opened new possibilities for molecule-targeted therapy.

Prof. Oded Rechavi

Prof. Oded RechaviOded Rechavi is a Full Professor in the Life Sciences Faculty at Tel Aviv University. His mission is “to challenge fundamental long-held scientific dogmas”. Using C. elegans nematodes he provided direct evidence that an acquired trait can be inherited, worked to elucidate the mechanism and rules of small RNA-mediated transgenerational inheritance, discovered that the nematodes’ brains can control the behavior of their progeny, and identified a simple neuronal circuit-level mechanism that explains economic irrationality. Aside from his work on nematodes, Oded utilized genome sequencing of ancient DNA to “piece together” fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls and demonstrated that Toxoplasma parasites can be genetically engineered to deliver drugs to the nervous system. He is an ERC Fellow, and was awarded many prestigious prizes, including the Polymath prize (Schmidt Futures), the Kadar award, the Blavatnik award, the Krill Wolf award, the Alon, and F.I.R.S.T (Bikura) Prizes, and the Gross Lipper Fellowship. Prof. Rechavi is a member of the young Israeli Academy of Science and the European Molecular Biology Organization and was selected as one of the “10 Most Creative People in Israel Under 40”, and one of the “40 Most Promising People in Israel Under 40”.

Plenary Lecture: 'Can memories be inherited?'

The possibility that parental responses or acquired traits could transmit between generations has been controversial for centuries. Recent discoveries made using simple nematodes (Caenorhabditis elegans) reveal that small RNA molecules enable passing down of epigenetic responses across multiple generations, independently of changes to the DNA sequence. Different environmental challenges generate heritable small RNA responses, that in certain cases could be adaptive. Recently we have shown that neuronal activity can also produce small RNA-mediate heritable responses, and that some decisions that the progeny makes, depend on whether their ancestors experienced stress or not. The precise duration of small RNA-mediated transgenerational responses is governed by a number of feedback interactions, that together establish a “timer” mechanism, and segregation of the epigenetic response between the descendant obeys a few simple inheritance rules. We will discuss the potential of small RNA inheritance to affect the worm’s fate and perhaps even evolution, and the relevance of studies conducted in worms to mammals, and in particular to humans.


Prof. Oliver Fitzgerald

Prof. Oliver FitzGeraldOliver Fitzgerald, MD, Newman Clinical Research Professor, UCD Conway Institute of Biomolecular & Biomedical Research, University College Dublin is co-lead of HIPPOCRATES, a new EU and industry funded psoriatic arthritis research project. 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.

Invited Short Talk: 'Addressing Unmet Needs in Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA).'

PsA complicates cutaneous psoriasis (PsC) in 30% and untreated, frequently results in joint damage and disability. There are several unmet needs in PsA including the inability to recognise which patients with PsC will develop PsA, the absence of a diagnostic test facilitating early treatment, the failure to be able to recognise early and therefore prevent the development of joint damage and the absence of any clinical/molecular markers which would facilitate a precision approach to treatment. This presentation will outline current/planned approaches to addressing these needs in the context of the recently funded IMI HIPPOCRATES consortium which is led by UCD.

Assoc. Prof. Antoinette Perry

Assoc. Prof. Antoinette PerryDr Antoinette Perry is an Associate Professor in Cell and Molecular Biology at the School of Biology and Environmental Science, University College Dublin. She is also a co-director of the Cancer Biology and Therapeutics laboratory at the UCD Conway Institute. Her research group focuses on translational cancer epigenomics; understanding the role of epigenetic aberrations in the pathogenesis of cancer and harnessing these aberrations to develop prognostic and predictive biomarkers. Dr Perry won the 2020 Start-Up of the Year award for UCD spin-out, epiCaPture. 

Invited Short Talk: 'Translational Cancer Epigenomics via Liquid Biopsies' 

Cancer is driven by progressive genetic and epigenetic aberrations. Research by Dr Perry's team and others has highlighted widespread changes in DNA methylation patterns at gene promoters and enhancer regions in prostate cancer. This presentation will describe ongoing work to translate these discoveries from tumour tissue-derived observations into clinically actionable solutions for patients and clinicians using liquid biopsies. A notable example is epiCaPture, a urine DNA test for early detection of aggressive prostate cancer.  

Dr Claas Kirchhelle

Dr Claas KirchhelleDr Claas Kirchhelle is a historian of the biomedical sciences interested in the history of microbes, disease surveillance, and the development, marketing, and regulation of antibiotics and vaccines. Based in UCD School of History & UCD Centre for the History of Medicine, Dr Kirchhelle is a Wellcome Trust University awardee for 'Seeing like a Virus', a project to explore the history and legacies of a key surveillance technology for bacterial pathogen.

Invited Short Talk: 'Seeing Like A Virus - Bacteriophage-Typing and the origins of global microbial surveillance'

Effective public health work depends on the rapid and reliable identification of pathogens. While the COVID-19 pandemic has cast a limelight on genome-based surveillance, many of the laboratory networks underpinning microbial surveillance date back to the 1940s. In my talk, I will focus on the role of a key technology called bacteriophage-typing (using bacteriophages to identify and differentiate between bacteria) in creating these networks. The talk will highlight phages’ importance for the origins of microbial surveillance, discuss blind spots and biases of resulting networks, and explore how microbiologists and historians can work together to unlock archived phage-typing collections.


Mark Little is the CEO and co-founder of Kinzen, an Irish start-up which protects online communities from the threat of disinformation. Mark is a former foreign correspondent and TV anchor. He founded the world’s first social media news agency, Storyful, which pioneered digital verification techniques and developed newswires for YouTube and Facebook. He was also a VP for Media Partnerships at Twitter, and MD of the company’s international HQ.

Dr Megan Hanlon (top right) is a Research Fellow based in Trinity College Dublin focused on researching myeloid cells in Rheumatoid Arthritis. She is the host of the weekly scicomm podcast ‘Unravelling Science’, outgoing Co-Director of the Pint of Science Ireland festival and a member of the Department of Health’s SciComm Collective.

Dr Susan Heavey (on right of pair), a graduate of TCD, is a Research Fellow in University College London. She co-hosts Cancer Research Demystified offering an inside view of cancer research, bringing patients, aspiring researchers & fundraisers on lab tours, hosting interviews with researchers, discussing research basics, the latest hot topics, and busting a few myths along the way. The other half of CRD is Dr Hayley Pye.

Prof. Jane Suiter (bottom right) is Professor of Political Communications and director of the Institute for Future Media, Democracy and Society at Dublin City University. She the RIA nominee on ALLEA's 'Fact or Fake' project on scientific disinformation. She was the joint winner of the Brown Democracy Medal in 2019 and the Irish Research Council’s Researcher of the Year 2020.

‘Navigating scientific storytelling in the digital age’.

With the rise in digital media in recent years and the importance of scientific messaging during the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers recognise the need to find better ways to communicate their work. This is a chance to hear digital media experts and scientists reflect on the opportunities, challenges and pitfalls of applying new ways of communicating science. The discussion promises to give invaluable insights to how scientists engage with digital-first audiences. Your host for this session is journalist, Claire O'Connell, PhD.

The 2021 UCD Conway Festival Medal sponsored by Cruinn Diagnostics will be awarded for the best poster and presentation.

The shortlisted authors below will give a 5 minute outline of research work including mention of any innovative potential in  moderated poster sessions on day 1 of the Festival (2pm, Wednesday, 06 Oct).

The winners of each session will move forward to the Festival Gold Medal Showcase on day 2, Thursday, 07 October; 2-3pm where they will give a 5 minute slide presentation and answer further questions on their work. 

Personalised & Translational Medicine I

Reference Surname Forename Abstract Title

Sundaramurthi   Husvinee Evaluating Selective Histone Deacetylase 6 Inhibitors as a Potential Therapeutic Option for Metastatic Uveal Melanoma.

Jones  Luke EZH2 Loss Dysregulates Cellular Metabolism and Sensitizes AML Cells to BCL2 Inhibition.

Hillesheim Elaine Use of metabotypes to deliver personalised dietary advice: preliminary results of a randomized controlled trial.
FRI21_077   Jayant Neve Ashish CRISPR/Cas9-mediated depletion of ARAF kinase regulates cell migration and metabolism in NRAS(Q61L)-driven malignant cutaneous melanomas.

Personalised & Translational Medicine II


Weiss Luisa Comprehensive Multi-Parameter Characterisation of Circulating Extracellular Vesicles from Rivaroxaban-treated VTE Patients Reveals Reduced Inflammation and Ameliorated Endothelial Dysfunction.
FRI21_045  Lange Karen Modelling patient variants in C. elegans to help diagnose rare genetic disorders.
FRI21_056   Stepanova Mariya A2B Adenosine Receptor Signalling Accelerates Wound Healing of the Intestinal Epithelium.
FRI21_067 O'Reilly  Sophie COVID-19: Development of a high-throughput Neutralisation Assay to Monitor Humoral Immunity against SARS-CoV-2 Variants of Concern in Clinical Vaccine Trials

Discovery Research I  

FRI21_003  Leddy  Robert   Investigating the role of the Endocannabinoid System in Intestinal Inflammation. 
FRI21_024   Pouget  Marion   The SUMO pathway targets SARS-CoV-2 replication and is a potential target for antiviral development.  
FRI21_041   O’Donoghue  Lorna   RhoGAP6, a new GTPase-activating protein of RhoA in platelets, interacts with vesicular proteins.  
FRI21_048   Jones  Aimée   The role of Gαq and Gαi in the sex-specific and brain region-specific regulation of serotonin transporter activity.  

Discovery Research II 


Heneghan   Sophia  Investigation of the contribution of neuronal and glial cells to long motor neuron degeneration in a Drosophila model of hereditary spastic paraplegia.
FRI21_070   McDonnell Lisa Exploring the Mechanism of Action of the Novel Remyelinating Agent Nefiracetam.
FRI21_075   de Masson d’Autume Valentin Can we reprogramme T cell metabolism and immune function by controlling pyruvate fate in an ex vivo assay?
FRI21_089  García-Gutiérrez  Lucia Identification and characterization of LATS1/SMAC/XIAP complex formation and its role in apoptosis regulation in melanoma. 

One Health    


Carney  Gillian  Fluoroquinolone resistance is associated with aerobic survival and is found at high levels in Campylobacter strains isolated from supermarket chicken.
FRI21_038   Reid  Cian Bovine innate immune phenotyping via a standardized whole blood stimulation assay.
FRI21_040  Brown   Hannah Novel in vitro and ex vivo models for investigating Hepatitis E Virus infection.
FRI21_047   Howard Jane A Comparative Medicine approach to Extracellular Vesicle Isolation and Characterisation.


Given current restrictions, the research poster exhibition is replaced with 'elevator pitch' style research presentations. These parallel sessions take place on day 1, Wednesday, 06 October; 11.30am via Zoom.

Authors will present a 3-slide (5 minute) presentation outlining their research to a panel of PIs and/or postdoctoral researchers and answer any questions from the panel or audience.

Download the 2021 UCD Conway Festival - Compiled Author Index