May 2016 | Bealtaine 2016

2015/2016 Newman Fellowships

Mon, 9 May 16 12:59

The annual Newman Fellowship Dinner was held on Tuesday, 26th April 2016 with UCD President Professor Andrew J. Deeks welcoming Donors, Fellows and their Academic Mentors to celebrate UCD’s pioneering postdoctoral research initiative, the Newman Fellowship Programme. The President was delighted to welcome back UCD President Emeritus, Dr Paddy Masterson, who established the Programme during his Presidency of UCD back in 1989.

The School was strongly represented with 16 of the 17 awardees mentored by members of staff or our adjunct clinical faculty.  During the dinner, Dr Derek Hayden, the Bayer Newman Fellow in Stroke Prevention in Atrial Fibrillation and Dr Elisa Magri, the Catechetics Trust Newman Fellow in the Philosophy of Religion, presented their research to representatives from industry and academia.

A summary of the 2015/2016 Newman Fellows and their research projects is presented below.

Dr Richard Conway, CARD Newman Fellow in Giant Cell Arteritis

Giant cell arteritis is the most common type of vasculitis, a group of conditions characterised by inflammation of and damage to blood vessels. It may affect up to 1 in a hundred Irish people causing headaches, blindness, stroke and aneurysms. High-dose steroids are the only effective treatment although they can only partially control the blood vessel inflammation and cause significant side effects in 85% of treated patients. There is a major need for new, effective and safe treatments. Dr Conway’s study is designed to examine the potential of blocking toll-like receptor 2 to treat giant cell arteritis. This inflammatory pathway may play a role in many diseases, including giant cell arteritis. He will assess the levels of toll-like receptors and other important factors in patients with giant cell arteritis and compare these to how active the disease is in the patients and in their biopsy samples. He will then use a toll-like receptor 2 blocking drug on samples in the laboratory to see if it will stop the inflammation and damage that occurs in giant cell arteritis. The aim behind Dr Conway’s fellowship is to assess the possibility that a drug that blocks toll-like receptor 2 could be used in the future to treat giant cell arteritis. Dr Conway is supervised by Professor Eamonn Molloy and will be based at UCD School of Medicine and the Education and Research Centre in St Vincent’s University Hospital.  Dr Conway’s fellowship is supported by the Centre for Arthritis and Rheumatic Diseases (CARD).  CARD is located at Our Lady’s Hospice and Care Services in Harold’s Cross.

Dr Louise Elliott, Merck Serono Newman Fellow in Translational Medicine and Medical Oncology

Colorectal Cancer (CRC) is the second most common cancer in Ireland in both men and women, with approximately 2000 new cases diagnosed each year. CRC remains an important contributor to cancer mortality. Approximately 50% of all patients diagnosed with CRC will die as a result of their cancer. New therapeutic regimens are improving outcomes. But with an array of molecular targeted therapies and immunotherapies in the pipeline (e.g. anti-PD1, Nivolumab), a much deeper understanding of the molecular mutations that underlie cancer pathogenesis and the resulting immune micro-environment of the tumour will greatly help in selecting the right drug combination for the right patient.

In particular a type of tumour (called KRAS mutant) has very few effective drugs available and new drugs urgently need to be found. To help understand important differences between patients’ tumours, Dr Elliott has developed a method to culture small biopsies of patients’ tumours in the lab and profile their molecular composition. She will use this information to classify patients tumours according to their degree of inflammation as this can dictate response to therapy. This research project will particularly focus on why the KRAS mutant tumour type is difficult to treat and her experiments will try and find a way to overcome this by changing the local inflammation levels. Dr Elliott is mentored by Dr David Fennelly and based in the Centre for Colorectal Disease in St Vincent’s University Hospital.

Dr Charlene Foley, Arthritis Ireland & Down Syndrome Ireland Newman Fellowship in Down’s Arthropathy

Trisomy  21  (Down  syndrome)  is  a  common  chromosomal  disorder  that  occurs  in  approximately  1 in 600  live births per year in Ireland. Children with Down syndrome are at increased risk of a number of autoimmune diseases including inflammatory arthritis. However, a delay in diagnosis is a feature consistently reported in the limited literature available. There is a general lack of awareness about the risk of this condition, reflected in the significant paucity of data available for reference. Delayed diagnosis undoubtedly contributes to unnecessary disability and functional impairment in a group of children who are already at significant clinical risk.

Dr Foley will endeavour to conduct the largest study to date on Down’s arthropathy, thus yielding new and informative results that will help to improve the provision of care and quality of life for children with Down’s arthropathy. Dr Foley is mentored by Professor Gerry Wilson and based in St Vincent’s University Hospital. Dr Charlene Foley’s fellowship is made possible through a partnership between Arthritis Ireland, Down Syndrome Ireland and Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin.

Dr Karen Hartery, Boston Scientific Newman Fellow in Colorectal Disease

Crohn’s Disease (CD) and Ulcerative Colitis (UC) are chronic inflammatory diseases of the gut, which affect over 18,000 people in Ireland. They most often affect young adults and may lead to considerable physical and psychosocial disability in addition to economic stress. There are a growing number of treatments available for patients with active disease, but treatment is costly and has potentially dangerous side-effects. Differentiating patients who will respond to treatment from those who will fail is not currently possible, as little is known about mechanisms of response to treatment. In addition, there is little research available to help predict which patients will develop chronic psychosocial disability as a result of their disease. Dr Hartery aims to study the effects of medical interventions, including biologic therapies, on the psychosocial and biological aspects of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in a longitudinal study of patients with the disease. Dr Hartery is mentored by Professor Hugh Mulcahy and based in the Centre for Colorectal Disease in St Vincent’s University Hospital.  Dr Hartery’s fellowship is supported by Boston Scientific Ireland Ltd. Boston Scientific is a leading innovator of medical solutions that improve the health of patients around the world.

Dr Derek Hayden Bayer Newman Fellowship in Stroke Prevention in Atrial Fibrillation

Stroke is the 3rd leading cause of death and leading cause of neurological disability in the developed world.  Survivors of transient ischemic attack (TIA, or brief stroke-like symptoms which quickly resolve) and minor stroke are at high risk of a disabling 2nd stroke. Similarly, atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat) is linked with a 5-fold increase in stroke risk and higher risk of second stroke. Improved methods to identify patients at high risk for second strokes are needed, both to improve daily medical care, and to improve the design of medical trials which aim to evaluate new treatments to prevent stroke.  Using advanced scanning techniques (such as MRI) it may be possible to identify patients at high risk. MRI might identify changes in their brains which place them at higher risk of future stroke and heart attack. Dr Hayden aims to evaluate the potential use of these techniques to identify patients at high risk of a second disabling stroke, who in turn can be targeted for more intensive prevention measures. Dr Hayden will be mentored by Professor Peter Kelly and will be based in the Neurovascular Unit for Translational and Therapeutics Research at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital.  Bayer is among the world’s foremost innovators of pharmaceutical and medical products. The company develops, manufactures and markets innovative therapies that improve the lives of humans and animals throughout the world.

Dr Zaid Shah Heetun, Abbvie Newman Fellow in Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Crohn’s Disease (CD) and Ulcerative Colitis (UC) are long term illnesses where inflammation in the bowel lining leads to symptoms such as diarrhoea, pain and weight loss. There is no known cure for these diseases and they can persist for years, often requiring surgery to remove parts of the intestine. Sometimes these diseases can burn themselves out over many years, but these changes take place over time are not well understood. The inflammation of the gut associated with these illnesses is caused by an overactive gut immune system. In many cases, these illnesses can be controlled with use of medication. Some patients fail to get better with medication and in other cases medication can lose effect over time. This may be caused by changes in cells of the gut immune system which develop over time, particularly a failure to establish a proper ‘memory’ of what has happened before. Targeted molecular anti-inflammatory therapy has shown considerable promise in the treatment of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD) such as CD and UC. Dr Heetun will study cells in the immune system taken from patients with these diseases to understand how they change over the course of the illness and to better understand why some medications work better earlier or later in the course of illness. Dr Heetun will be mentored by Dr Glen Doherty and will be based at the Centre for Colorectal Disease in St Vincent’s University Hospital.  Dr Heetun’s fellowship is supported by AbbVie Ltd. AbbVie is a global biopharmaceutical company with the focus and capabilities to address some of the world's greatest health challenges.

Dr Anna Malara, Novartis Newman Fellow in Dermatology

Psoriasis is a chronic cutaneous disease that causes rapid multiplication of skin cells, characterised by the formation of inflammatory plaques. The disease currently affects over 100,000 people in Ireland. Dr Anna Malara’s fellowship will focus on understanding the impact of obesity in patients with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis through clinical and translational research. Dr Malara will study the effect of anti-IL-17 therapy on the microenvironment of psoriasis. The project will address how anti-IL-17 therapies regulate inflammation in psoriasis. The skin is one of the most active immune organs, and understanding IL-17 signalling is key to the design of more individualised inflammation therapies. Dr Malara will be mentored by Professor Brian Kirby, Consultant Dermatologist, and will be based in the Education Research Centre in St Vincent’s University Hospital.  Dr Malara’s fellowship will be supported by Novartis. Novartis provides healthcare solutions that address the evolving needs of patients and societies.

Dr Eavan McGovern, Merrion Neuroscience Foundation Newman Fellow in Neurology

Cervical dystonia is a movement disorder characterised by neck muscles contracting involuntarily, causing abnormal movements and posture of the head and neck. This condition is treated with injections of botulinum toxin (Botox) every three months. The cause of cervical dystonia remains unknown. The Irish Dystonia research group are working to discover the cause of this disorder, which is presumed to be genetic in origin with a number of environmental precipitants, including injury. Dr McGovern will study Adult Onset Idiopathic Isolated Focal Dystonia (AOIFD), in patients with the condition and their relatives. Dr McGovern will be supervised by Professor Michael Hutchinson and will be based at the Education and Research Centre in St Vincent’s University Hospital.  Dr McGovern’s fellowship is sponsored by the Merrion Neuroscience Foundation.

Dr Seamus McGuinness, Craig Dobbin Newman Fellowship in Mental Health

Ireland has the fourth highest youth suicide rate in the EU and ranks as the leading cause of death in those under the age of 25. Considering that 25% of major mental illness presents before this age, mental illness remains a significant risk factor for suicidal acts. It is recognised that there is a dearth of studies internationally that can address and examine suicidality in psychiatric patients. Dr Seamus McGuinness has undertaken an active inter-disciplinary research programme in the field of suicide studies and will lead quantitative clinical data analysis of carefully defined clinical psychiatric groups and a unique inter-disciplinary qualitative community study with one at-risk group. During his Fellowship, Dr McGuinness will have opportunities to interface with local and national policy makers in suicide prevention. Dr McGuinness’ research project will develop a science/art research collaboration with minority and at-risk groups. Dr McGuinness will be mentored by Prof Kevin Malone and will be based in St Vincent’s University Hospital and the UCD School of Medicine.  Dr McGuinness’ fellowship was established with the support of the Craig Dobbin Endowment Fund.

Dr Nonnie McNicolas, Biogen Idec Newman Fellow in Neurology

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease of the central nervous system characterised by inflammation and neurodegeneration. MS is the most common disabling, non-traumatic, neurological condition affecting young adults. The cause of multiple sclerosis remains unknown. It is widely assumed that there is interplay between genetic and environmental factors combining to result in the development of MS, although the relative importance of each of these factors continues to generate debate.  Dr McNicolas’ work is a case-control observational study on new MS cases recruited from the MS clinic in St. Vincent’s University Hospital. The MS clinic in St. Vincent’s is the largest MS specialist clinic in Ireland. A primary aim of this study is to examine the potential impact of smoking history, body mass index, previous Epstein-Barr virus exposure, preceding Herpes Zoster infection and serum vitamin D levels on the risk of developing MS in a case-control population of 100 new cases of clinically definite MS against age sex matched controls. Dr Mc Nicholas will measure Brief International Cognitive Assessment for MS (BICAMS) cognitive screen in the study and control populations to identify early differences in cognitive processing in MS patients versus controls.  Due to the complexity of MS, Dr Mc Nicholas’ study of predisposing factors for the development of MS requires a stable population with a high prevalence of the disease. Ireland is recognised internationally as a high risk area for the development of MS with specific geographical regions having been studied in Ireland previously. The high rates of MS in Ireland make it an ideal place for Dr Mc Nicholas to carry out research into the potential environmental agents implicated in the development of the disease.  Dr McNicholas is mentored by Dr Chris McGuigan and based in the Department of Neurology at St Vincent’s University Hospital. Dr McNicholas’s Newman Fellowship is supported by Biogen Idec Ireland Ltd. Biogen Idec is the oldest independent biotechnology company in the world.

Dr Parthiban Nadarjan, Baraka Iftekhar Khan Newman Fellow in Lung Cancer

About 2,200 cases of lung cancer are diagnosed in Ireland each year and it ranks as the fourth most common cancer. Unfortunately, more Irish men and women die from lung cancer than any other type of cancer. Lung cancer cases can be divided into two types; small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Most lung cancers are of the non-small cell type. NSCLC’s can be further divided into Adenocarcinoma, Squamous cell carcinoma and Large cell carcinoma. There are many mutations that happen in lung cells that are currently being examined by scientific researchers. These mutations can contribute to the development of lung cancer. Two proteins can become involved in cancerous mutations, Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and anaplastic lymphoma kinase (Alk). Dr Nadarajan aims to determine the frequency of EGFR and Alk mutations in an Irish population, and correlate this with clinical outcome, cancer stage and smoking status. This translational medicine project aims to use exosome biology to identify potential biomarkers to allow the potential development of targeted therapies defined by the patient’s tumour profile. The ultimate aim is to improve patient care. Dr Nadarajan is mentored by Professor Michael Keane and based at the UCD Conway Institute of Bimolecular and Biomedical Research.

Dr Carl Orr, CARD Newman Fellow in Inflammatory Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a chronic rheumatic disease, causing significant ill health, disability and increased mortality in 1-2% of the population. Rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases (RMDs) affect up to 60% of the 120 million European citizens, at an estimated cost of €240 billion, with direct costs of 2% EU GDP. In addition to disability, RA results in reduced quality of life and is associated with co-morbidities including atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. Disability in RA results from structural cartilage and bone damage due to erosions in synovial joints if not treated early and with aggressive treatment. Dr Orr aims to improve early diagnosis and prognostication of inflammatory arthropathy (IA) patients, by identifying biological markers to develop a personalised medicine approach in the management of RA. Dr Orr will be mentored by Dr Ursula Fearon and will be based in the UCD School of Medicine and the Education and Research Centre in St Vincent’s University Hospital.  Dr Orr’s fellowship is supported by the Centre for Arthritis and Rheumatic Diseases (CARD).  CARD is located at Our Lady’s Hospice and Care Services in Harold’s Cross.

Dr Helen Rea, Galderma Newman Fellow in Dermatology

Rosacea is a common, chronic recurrent, cutaneous (skin) disorder. It primarily affects people of northern and western European descent, and is often referred to as the "curse of the Celts” and can be an upsetting and difficult condition to live with.  Indeed, a survey of over 500 people with rosacea performed by the National Rosacea Society, 42% reported feeling sad or depressed by the appearance of their skin. The exact development of rosacea is poorly understood. Dr Helen Rea will use her fellowship to explore the development of E.T.R rosacea, one of four distinct subtypes of rosacea recognized by the National Rosacea Society Expert Committee. Dr Rea is mentored by Professor Martin Steinhoff and based in the UCD Charles Institute of Dermatology.  Dr Helen Rea’s fellowship is supported by Galderma, who specialise in the research, development and marketing of dermatological treatments.

Dr Cathy Rowan, Dansac Laker Newman Fellow in Colorectal Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) affects over 18,000 people in Ireland and most commonly affects young adults, leading to considerable physical and psychosocial disability.  Specifically, Ulcerative colitis (UC), a subset of IBD, has an incidence of approximately 14 per 100,000 patients with peak incidence between 20 and 30 years of age.  With the Dansac Laker Newman Fellowship, Dr Rowan will explore factors associated with quality of life for patients before and after surgical treatment for intractable UC and familial adenomatous polyposis. Dr Rowan is mentored by Dr Glen Doherty and based in the Centre for Colorectal Disease in St Vincent’s University Hospital.  Dr Cathy Rowan’s fellowship is supported by Dansac Ltd and Laker Pharmaceuticals Ltd.

Dr Mimi Tatlow-Golden, Shire Newman Fellowship in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

ADHD is one of the most common psychiatric disorders among school-age children, occurring in up to 5% of this cohort. ADHD is characterised by symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. Despite the high prevalence of ADHD in childhood, and the continuation into adulthood in a significant number (60%), few of those meeting criteria are in fact referred for assessment or engage in treatment. Given the significant morbidity associated with untreated ADHD, identifying factors contributing to this and addressing them is of importance to the individual with ADHD, their family and society at large. Of those children who are identified, they may present and be managed either within private or public Mental Health Services, or within paediatrics or indeed primary care. In a recent survey of Irish paediatricians, more than half of those surveyed were directly involved in the assessment or treatment of ADHD. Furthermore, there was a willingness and expectation from the vast majority to receive additional training in these areas. Dr Tatlow-Golden aims to establish, through a national survey of professionals, the knowledge, attitudes and referral practice for children and adults with possible ADHD in Ireland. Dr Tatlow-Golden will be mentored by Professor Fiona Mc Nicholas and Dr Blanaid Gavin and based at UCD School of Medicine.  Dr Tatlow-Golden’s fellowship is supported by SHIRE, a leading biopharmaceutical company providing treatments in Neuroscience, Rare Diseases, Gastrointestinal, and Internal Medicine.

Other Newman Fellows recognised as part of the 2015/2016 Newman Fellowship awards were:

  • Dr Siew-Mei Yap, Novartis Newman Fellowship in Neurology
  • Dr Elisa Magrì, Catechetics Trust Newman Fellowship in the Philosophy of Religion

Newman Fellows 2015/2016

About the Newman Fellowship Programme

Since 1989, leading Irish and multinational corporations, semi-state bodies, voluntary organisations and individuals have sponsored high-calibre, post-doctoral research across the humanities and sciences through the UCD Newman Fellowship Programme. Each Fellowship offers financial support for a period of two years, allowing the Fellow the freedom to pursue their particular area of research. Working alongside their academic mentors, the Fellows contribute greatly to the academic research agenda of their particular discipline and to university life in general.  The Newman Fellowship Programme’s success depends on the recruitment of highly talented, energetic Fellows and on continued generous financial support from the corporate and philanthropic sectors. [More]