NUI Galway Secure SFI Funding to Develop New Therapeutics to Treat Cancer and Asthma and Prevent Infections like Influen

The Quadrangle, NUI Galway. Photo: Aengus McMahon
Sep 22 2017 Posted: 12:51 IST

Two new NUI Galway research projects have been awarded funding under the Science Foundation Ireland Investigators Programme announced this week by Minister for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan, T.D.

A total of €2.6 million has been allocated to NUI Galway, with each project focused on generating new knowledge and improving patient care and outcomes.

Minister John Halligan said: “This funding recognises some of Ireland’s top researchers and enables them to advance vital research areas in Ireland including health and technology. I am confident that the teams being supported will generate important new scientific breakthroughs.”

Professor Paul Murphy from the School of Chemistry at NUI Galway leads one of the research programmes which focuses on ‘Enhancing the scientist’s toolbox using synthetic carbohydrate chemistry for glycomimetic research’. The project involves special sugars that stick to other molecules on our organs and on our immune system, which are called sugar-binding proteins. The sugar-binding proteins cause cancer and inflammation, and can lead to infections as bacteria or viruses stick to our sugars. Professor Murphy’s project aims to develop even stickier molecules called glycomimetics to block them. This research will focus on developing these glycomimetics, which are mimics of the naturally occurring sugars. It is hoped that once the glycomimetics are developed they will be very effective in treating diseases like cancer and asthma, and preventing infections like HIV and influenza which affect millions of people globally.

Commenting on his award, Professor Murphy said: “The development of new therapies or drugs based on sugars found in living organisms is still underexplored and considered difficult.  However progress is being made and some glycomimetics have recently been introduced to the clinical setting. This research funding will enable us to design and synthesise novel mimics of naturally occurring sugars (glycomimetics) that will be evaluated for their potential to block cancer and infection and importantly new design concepts for glycomimetic research will be explored in the project. The work will include collaboration with international experts in drug development based on glycomimetics.”

Professor Corrado Santocanale from the School of Natural Sciences at NUI Galway has been funded to uncover ‘The fundamental roles of the CDC7 kinase and of its regulatory subunits through genome editing technology’. This research will focus on a protein called CDC7, which is essential for cell division. Drugs that block CDC7 are a potential treatment for cancer. However, little is known about how CDC7 works. Using novel genetic technologies this research is now, for the first time, in a position to discover the role that CDC7 plays in several processes important for cell division. The project will greatly contribute to understanding how cells multiply and to the development of new therapeutic strategies for cancer patients.

Commenting on his award, Professor Santocanale said: “This research will expand our knowledge of genome duplication and will inform us on cellular liabilities when specific CDC7 functions are compromised, contributing to the development of CDC7 inhibition as a strategy for the treatment of cancer. The research will not only indirectly contribute to the development of CDC7 inhibition as an anti-cancer strategy, but more importantly will contribute to the advancement of human knowledge on crucial processes leading to cell duplication.”

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said: “The Science Foundation Ireland Investigators Programme funds outstanding individuals performing excellent, impactful research. The standard of applications for the SFI Investigators Programme was exceptionally high. The quality and quantity of excellent projects on the reserve list is clear evidence of the increasingly high standard of research in Ireland. I have the highest expectations for the projects funded today, and look forward to seeing the benefits to Ireland’s society and economy.”


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