Prof Carel Le Roux named IRC Researcher of the Year 2023


Prof Emma Teeling highly commended and 5 Research Allies from UCD announced.

Professor Carel Le Roux, an expert on how the gut 'talks' to the brain to inform safer and more effective treatments of obesity, has won the prestigious Irish Research Council (IRC) Researcher of the Year Award for 2023.  

The IRC’s Researcher of the Year Awards celebrate the very best IRC-funded researchers who are making highly significant and valuable contributions to knowledge, society, culture and innovation. The winners were announced at a ceremony yesterday evening (20.11.23), having been selected by an independent expert panel, chaired by Professor Emeritus Áine Hyland.

Winner of the overall Researcher of the Year Award, Carel Le Roux, is Professor of Chemical Pathology at UCD School of Medicine and Fellow, UCD Conway Institute. In his work as a leading clinical scientist, he investigates how the brain controls hunger and satiety, while studying signals from the gut sent via hormones or neurons after a meal.

Professor Emma Teeling, UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science and Fellow, UCD Conway Institute was highly commended in the Researcher of the Year category, for her research exploring the development of bats as new models for healthy ageing and disease tolerance. 

An image of Prof Carel Le Roux receiving his IRC Researcher of the Year award
Professor Carel Le Roux (centre) with his award for IRC Researcher of the Year 2023

Five UCD supervisors, mentors and research officers were awarded the IRC’s ‘Research Ally’ prize, in recognition of the important work of supervising academics and research support staff behind the scenes.

Professor Helen Roche, UCD Interim Vice President for Research, Innovation and Impact said: "I am delighted to see the outstanding contributions of UCD researchers recognised by the Irish Research Council. I congratulate the award winners, the highly commended researchers, and the mentors, supervisors and research officers for their commitment to research and their impact both within and beyond academia.” 

Director of the Irish Research Council, Peter Brown, congratulated the awardees, saying, “It’s important to shine a light on the remarkable achievements of our top researchers and on the leading-edge work they are spearheading at national, community, European and international level. Their work reflects the exceptional contributions they make in their respective fields, and in finding innovative solutions and ways of improving the world and people’s lives. The Irish Research Council Researcher of the Year winners demonstrate why research matters, and of the vital need for continued support in all fields of research, from science and technology to social sciences and the humanities.”

UCD Awardees

Professor Carel Le Roux is Director of the Metabolic Medicine Group affiliated with the UCD Diabetes Complications Research Centre (DCRC) in the UCD Conway Institute. His studies have focused on the impact of diet, exercise, medication and surgery, including bariatric surgery, on enhancing gut-brain signalling for the management and treatment of the disease of obesity. 

He was the recipient of a €600,000 IRC Laureate funding award in 2018, which he credits with having enabled him to go on to lead the development of a €16 million European project titled SOPHIA (Stratification of Obesity Phenotypes to Optimise Future Obesity Therapy). This project is addressing obesity and its complications such as type 2 diabetes and chronic kidney disease.

Professor Le Roux has also studied unintentional weight loss in patients who have had surgical treatments that have placed their oesophageal cancer into remission. In this instance, his work has focused on ways of controlling signals from the gut to the brain to allow patients to increase their hunger and food intake, thus improving their health and quality of life.

He said: “Treating obesity as a disease and achieving substantial health benefits are now possible in part because of the grant support provided by the IRC, SFI, and the HRB. This research area has also been prioritised by UCD, and the results are that we now better understand the science behind the cure.” 

Professor Emma Teeling, UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science and Fellow, UCD Conway Institute was highly commended in the Researcher of the Year category. Full Professor of Zoology at UCD and co-founding director of the Bat1K project, her integrative research in the fields of zoology, phylogenetics, genomics and conservation biology uncovers the genetic signatures of survival that enables species to adapt to an ever-changing environment. 

She recently received a European Research Council Synergy grant for her project, ’BATPROTECT’, which will advance our understanding of the specific genetic and biochemical factors within bats that are responsible for their ability to live longer, healthier lives and resist diseases. 

She said: "Nature has the solutions to all of our problems. I am privileged to be able to study wild bats using molecular biology, ecology, immunology and genomics to understand how bats can slow down ageing and resist disease. My research will allow us to uncover how we can live longer healthier lives by learning from bats.”

Five IRC Research Ally prizes were awarded to UCD education personnel to mark their crucial role in supporting the academic research community across all career levels. Postgraduate students, postdoctoral fellows, academic and research-active staff were invited to nominate the mentors, supervisors, research officers and technical support staff who have supported their work and careers and improved the Irish research ecosystem. 

The UCD awardees are:

Dr Aideen Quilty, Associate Professor, UCD School of Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice

Dr Declan Fahie, Assistant Professor, UCD School of Education

Dr Krishna Vadlamannati, Associate Professor, UCD School of Politics and International Relations

Dr Madhusanka Liyanage, Associate Professor and Ad Astra Fellow, UCD School of Computer Science

Dr Jenny Knell, Research Manager, UCD School of Philosophy

Further information on all on awardees from all categories is available on the IRC website