News & Events

Irish Research Council funding for research on hemp

Published: Wednesday, 19 October, 2022

Congratulations to Dr Rainer Melzer from the School of Biology & Environmental Science on his Irish Research Council Laureate Award.  Dr Melzer’s project is called ‘The XY-files - Unravelling the sex determination system in Cannabis sativa’.


Unlike many other plants, Cannabis sativa (hemp) produces male and female individuals. It is established that sex determination is genetic, but the exact molecular pathways involved remain elusive. In this project, the team will use genomics and transcriptomics to identify genes controlling sex determination in Cannabis. As hemp is a high-value crop from which mainly the female flowers are used for medicinal purposes and health benefits the results will also be valuable for targeted breeding approaches.

Dr Melzer said, “I’m super excited about this project. We have a fantastic team working on hemp, and the funding will allow us to consolidate our research and to gain further insights into the genetics of this multipurpose crop, which is an important plant for the European Green Deal. There is a lot of enthusiasm for hemp in Ireland also in the agricultural sector and among farmers, and it is great that we get the opportunity to deepen our understanding of this fascinating plant.”

The project will help to develop the aims of the Earth Institute Strategic Priority project Hemp Hub which Dr Melzer established with Dr Antoinette Perry in 2019. Hemp Hub is a knowledge hub focused on hemp research at UCD and other Irish institutions. It was set up to establish a cross-disciplinary group of researchers that jointly focus on investigating the environmental, genetic,  pharmacological and engineering properties of hemp as well as the societal implications of its use.

The Laureate scheme provided €24 million to researchers in Ireland for ‘curiosity-driven’ frontier research to carry out ground-breaking research projects under the Starting and Consolidator Laureate Awards Programme. Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris, TD announced the 48 awardees this week, 10 of which will be based at UCD.

The ‘starting’ funding is for early-career researchers and provides €400,000, the ‘consolidator’ funding is for mid-career researchers who receive €600,000 per project. Researchers from across all disciplines are eligible to apply.