Explore UCD

UCD Home >

UCD Conway Institute marks 20 years at the leading edge

Posted 25 October, 2023

Finalists in the Conway Festival Gold Medal competition for research excellence, Mykyta Malkov, Haleema Azam, Ciara Walsh, Sarah Kierans, Yinghao Li pictured with Professor Breandán Kennedy, Director, UCD Conway Institute

Over 500 alumni, staff, students, and guests gathered to celebrate 20 years of research, innovation, and impact at the UCD Conway Institute of Biomolecular and Biomedical Research.

Ireland’s leading biomedical research institute, Conway was established as an interdisciplinary research centre focused on high-quality ‘blue skies’ innovative research in the biosciences, and on developing novel therapies for chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and obesity as well as neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s, depression, and autism. 

Reflecting on this mission, and its exceptional research environment, (opens in a new window)Professor Helen Roche, UCD Vice President for Research, Innovation and Impact said the “greatest achievement of the Institute to date has been in nurturing people and providing a research culture and environment in which they are supported to deliver on their potential and ambitions.”

To celebrate the last 20 years, Conway alumni joined current staff, postgraduate students, and postdoctoral researchers, as well as representatives of industry, charities and the UCD community, to share stories of their career journeys and the impact the Institute had for them.

Among the hundreds that attended the anniversary event to mark the occasion were Maureen and Hilary Daly, the daughter and granddaughter of the late Professor E.J. Conway, FRS who is the Institute namesake and first Professor of Biochemistry and Pharmacology at University College Dublin.

Mrs Maureen Daly, Professor Breandán Kennedy, Director, UCD Conway Institute, Ms Hilary Daly

Other Conway alumni and previous staff who attended included Professor Philip Nolan, Director General, Science Foundation Ireland; Professor Helen Roche, UCD VP Research, Innovation & Impact; Dr Noelle Griffin, Vice-President & Head of Global Medical Affairs, Pfizer; Dr Sarah McLoughlin, Public & Patient Involvement Coordinator, Cancer Trials Ireland; Professor Donal Brennan, UCD Professor of Gynaecological Oncology & Mater Misericordiae University Hospital and Mr Michael O’Sullivan, Director of Operations, UCD Conway (2000-2021).

Delegates were encouraged in a video message from Professor Hugh Brady, President of Imperial College London to “celebrate the Institute and its remarkable achievements over the last two decades.” 

It was the past UCD President who co-authored the original funding proposal to establish the Institute, and he praised the late Chuck Feeney, the Irish American philanthropist, who in partnership with the Irish Government, through The Atlantic Philanthropies under the Programme for Research in Third-Level Institutions (PRTLI), provided the funding for Conway.

Institute Director, Professor Breandán Kennedy acknowledged the vision of Professor Brady and his co-authors, UCD Emeritus Professors Michael Ryan and Paul Engel saying they “imagined the type of environment where research excellence would thrive and convinced their peers, policy makers and funders that this vision could be a reality that would allow Irish science to compete on the global stage”.

The UCD Conway Institute was one of several projects at UCD funded by the Irish American philanthropist that helped transform the face of Irish university research. These included the UCD Institute of Criminology; Michéal O'Cleirigh Institute; Institute for British Irish Studies; UCD Geary Institute, and Chairs in American Studies; Equality Studies and Food Safety.

Professor Helen Roche, UCD Vice President for Research, Innovation & Impact presenting Conway Festival Gold Medal to doctoral candidate, Ciara Walsh

As part of the anniversary event, Professor Roche presented the prestigious Conway Festival Gold Medal for outstanding research to doctoral candidate Ciara Walsh for her work on immunomodulatory.

Findings from Ciara’s research on the potential of GelMA hydrogels as a therapeutic platform for preclinical spinal cord injury were published earlier this year in the scientific journal, Advanced Healthcare Materials. Her PhD supervisor is (opens in a new window)Dr Dearbhaile Dooley, UCD School of Medicine and Fellow, UCD Conway Institute.  

By: David Kearns, Digital Journalist / Media Officer, UCD University Relations

To contact the UCD News & Content Team, email: newsdesk@ucd.ie