Dr Karen Lange awarded SFI-IRC funding to help diagnose and treat ciliopathies


Dr Karen Lange, SFI-IRC Pathway Fellow in UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science and UCD Conway Institute has been awarded €566,749.67 in funding as part of the SFI-IRC Pathway Programme for emerging talent development. 

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD, announced an investment of €24 million across 43 research projects to support Ireland’s blossoming research talent.

Marking the new investment, the Minister said: “I am pleased to announce funding for critical research projects spanning a broad range of areas across science, technology, engineering, maths, arts, humanities and social sciences. 

Profile photo of Dr Karen Lange from UCD against a plain background
Dr Karen Lange, UCD SFI-IRC Pathway Fellow in UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science and UCD Conway Institute

Dr Lange's project is entitled 'Rare Disease Modelling and Drug Discovery in C. elegans: using CRISPR genome editing in worms to help diagnose and treat ciliopathies'

Ciliopathies are rare conditions caused when antenna-like projections on cells do not function properly. These ‘antennae’ or cilia are found on almost every human cell. When they are defective, it can causes symptoms that affect the entire body including the brain, eyes, kidneys, and liver.

This project aims to use a small worm called Caenorhabditis elegans to help diagnose and find treatments for ciliopathies. These worms do not have a brain, eyes, kidneys, or liver but they do have cilia that are similar to humans. This shared biology will be used to identify disease causing mutations and find drugs that fix defective cilia.

The projects funded through the SFI-IRC Pathway programme, a collaborative initiative between Science Foundation Ireland and the Irish Research Council support early-career research across all disciplines and to encourage interdisciplinary approaches.

Commenting on the awards, Prof. Philip Nolan, Director General, Science Foundation Ireland said: “The SFI-IRC Pathway programme supports researchers at a comparatively early stage in their career to pursue independent research and discovery. In partnership with the Irish Research Council, we are nurturing and developing really promising talent across diverse research areas. Their work will give us new insights and knowledge, and drive innovation, across the full spectrum from humanities to science, engineering and technology.”

Director of the Irish Research Council, Peter Brown, said: “Bridging the gap between postdoctoral stage and that of independent principal investigator is a key milestone in the development of a researcher, and the Pathway programme is making an important contribution in this regard in the Irish research ecosystem. It also supports the retention of excellent researchers with cutting-edge ideas within our research system, and I have no doubt that this will support further success and new opportunities in the years ahead.”

Since launched, the SFI-IRC Pathway programme has focused on increasing the representation of female researchers in the higher education system.