SBI Director Walter Kolch Awarded €2.3M for Melanoma Research

Written by: Elaine Quinn
Written on: Wednesday, 29 April, 2015

Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, Damien English TD announced over €30 million of research funding for 23 major research projects, including €2.3 million for a melanoma project led by SBI Director Prof. Walter Kolch.

Prof. Kolch will undertake a research project entitled ‘Overcoming drug resistance in metastatic malignant melanoma by personalising treatment’. Malignant melanoma is a skin cancer that is one of the deadliest cancers because of its tendency to spread rapidly and its resistance to drugs. The recent introduction of new drugs that inhibit Raf and MEK kinases has achieved remarkable treatment successes, which unfortunately are of limited duration. 

Prof. Kolch said, “The aim of this proposal is to investigate the mechanisms of resistance to these drugs and, based on this understanding, to firstly design personalised drug combinations that can avoid or overcome this resistance; and secondly to derive diagnostic biomarkers that predict which drug combinations will be most effective for individual patients”.

The funding will be delivered by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation through the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Investigators Programme. The Programme will provide funding over a four to five year period, for 23 research projects involving over 100 researchers. 

Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, Damien English TD said, “This funding provides assistance to individual researchers to advance their investigations and address key research questions in sectors such as energy, medicine, food and nutrition, technology and agriculture. It allows researchers to further their careers and build partnerships with leading industry partners who also benefit from access to some of the leading academic talent on this island. The Investigators Programme is an important contributor to Ireland’s credentials as a research leader in a number of sectors.

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland added, “The SFI Investigators Programme provides important support to researchers in Ireland, creating employment opportunities and allowing them to leverage State funding to access additional funding streams, such as the EU’s Horizon 2020 Programme. Their research focuses on areas such as Alzheimer’s disease and cancer, animal breeding and disease prevention, ICT and data storage, as well as bioenergy among other topics. These are areas that will make a difference to both Ireland’s economy and society. All of the successful projects have been peer reviewed by international experts to ensure scientific excellence and we have funded every project deemed to be of the highest standard internationally.”

The SFI Investigators Programme supports excellent scientific research that has the potential to impact Ireland’s society and economy. The 23 projects were selected by competitive peer review involving 400 international scientists after a call for proposals across a number of thematic areas of national and international importance. The awards include research in areas such as materials science, data management, medicine and pharmaceuticals, food and nutrition, agriculture and veterinary research and have links to 40 companies.