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Posted 20 January 2011

President of Ireland Young Researcher Award for UCD scientist

In recognition of his research into human hepatitis B virus (HBV) biology, Dr Neil Ferguson, UCD, has received a President of Ireland Young Researcher Award (PIYRA). One of Science Foundation Ireland’s most prestigious accolades, the SFI PIYRAs acknowledge young engineers and scientists who have displayed extraordinary ability and leadership in their particular field.

Using genetic engineering with state-of-the-art biophysical techniques to dissect HBV into its component molecules, Dr Ferguson aims to obtain new insights into the mechanism of HBV replication, and to design antivirals that will prevent HBV biomolecules from interacting with partner molecules.

Pictured (top right): The President of Ireland, Mary McAleese and Dr Neil Ferguson, UCD

“My work on HBV has unquestionably been the most challenging and ambitious research of my scientific career and receiving this recognition is the pinnacle of my career to date – but the quest continues unabated,” said Dr Ferguson, a Senior Lecturer at the UCD School of Biomolecular & Biomedical Science, and a Fellow of the UCD Conway Institute.

“We are effectively trying to scale a scientific ‘Everest’, but the vast scale of human suffering caused by HBV provides a strong incentive to continue. The granting of this award provides vital funds for a team resolute on finding a cure for a virus that causes one million deaths annually.”

According to Mr John Travers, Director General, Science Foundation Ireland, the SFI PIYRA awards were established to position Ireland as a prime location from where young scientific and engineering researchers with exceptional ability could work. SFI’s involvement in this programme continues to ensure the recruitment of young influential researchers to research bodies across the country, and serves to highlight the extraordinary scientific work that the younger generation of researchers are immersed in.”

The President of Ireland, Mary McAleese presented Dr Ferguson with the award at an official ceremony in Áras an Uachtaráin last December 2010. At the same ceremony, Dr Nataša Mitić from NUI Maynooth, was also presented with a PIYRA. Dr Mitić’s research will address the emergence of antibiotic resistance, a problem existing in clinical settings, having serious implications on the well-being of post surgery scenarios.

“I am delighted to receive this year’s winners, Dr Ferguson and Dr Mitić. These awards are testament to their dedication to investigating infections which cause countless fatalities across the globe each year,” said President McAleese.

“The work being carried out by Dr Ferguson and Dr Mitić are just two examples of the groundbreaking research that is being conducted in science facilities across the country.

Exceptional talent and pioneering results, such as that of Dr Ferguson and Dr Mitić, continue to position Ireland as a global leader in innovative science research.”

Together, the award recipients will receive a total of €1.9 m funding from Science Foundation Ireland to continue their research.


(Produced by UCD University Relations)


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Pictured (top right): The President of Ireland, Mary McAleese and Dr Neil Ferguson, UCD Conway Institute
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