Irish motor neurone disease expert honoured by Trinity

8 Nov 2022

Prof Orla Hardiman with Dr Linda Doyle. Image: Paul Sharp

The 2022 Trinity Innovation Awards saw Trinity College Dublin celebrate its network of researchers, entrepreneurs and inventors.

Prof Orla Hardiman has scooped the top prize at this year’s Trinity Innovation Awards.

Hardiman is professor of neurology at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and leads the university’s academic unit of neurology. She won the Provost Innovation Award at the annual ceremony this evening (8 November).

Hardiman is an internationally respected authority on the causes, diagnosis and treatment of motor neurone disease (also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS).

She established a long-running ALS register in TCD and co-founded an initiative called Tricals, which brings together 48 research centres in 16 countries to improve clinical trial design. These centres work on increasing the medical sector’s understanding of the genetic causes of ALS, as well as innovations in digital healthcare.

Hardiman serves as the HSE’s national clinical lead for neurology and is a principal investigator at the Science Foundation Ireland research centres FutureNeuro and Adapt.

Presenting her with the award, TCD provost and president Dr Linda Doyle said that Hardiman has “an outstanding record of clinical and academic achievement, coupled with significant international and interdisciplinary collaborations.”

“As the HSE’s national clinical lead for neurology, as a consultant neurologist at Beaumont Hospital and as Trinity’s first professor of neurology, she strives to improve the lives of people living with motor neurone disease by developing highly innovative approaches in her research and in her collaborative partnerships.”

The Trinity Innovation Awards take place each year, recognising the research and entrepreneurship activity of the university community.

Hardiman was not the only award winner last night. Doyle congratulated all the recipients, adding that “it is striking to see such a wide range of disciplines – from history to zoology – represented among this year’s winners”.

“These innovations are addressing a wide range of issues such as the need for more reliable broadband, a diagnosis for Parkinson’s disease and a better understanding of ageing in people with intellectual disabilities.”

Prof Werner Blau, fellow emeritus in the TCD School of Physics, won this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award for his pioneering work in nanotechnology.

He joined TCD in 1983 and from 1992 to 2007 he was research director of the Materials Ireland Polymer Research Centre. His work involved close collaboration with indigenous Irish plastic industries for all sectors, including electronics, medical devices and materials processing.

Blau’s work on the interaction of carbon nanotubes with polymers opened a new field within physics and led to patented technology that was subsequently licensed to US companies Unidym and Ensyse.

Here is the full list of the 2022 winners at the Trinity Innovation Awards:

  • Provost Innovation Award – Prof Orla Hardiman
  • Lifetime Achievement Award – Prof Werner Blau
  • Campus Company Founders – Dr Conor McGinn, who founded Akara Robotics; and Dr Gerard Boyle, who founded Head Diagnostics
  • Inventors – Dr Marco Ruffini, associate professor in the School of Computer Science and Statistics; and Prof Ed Lavelle from the School of Biochemistry and Immunology
  • Ones to Watch – Dr Lewys Jones, Ussher assistant professor in the School of Physics; Dr Ian Donohue of the School of Natural Sciences; and Prof Triona Lally of the School of Engineering
  • Societal Impact – Prof Mary McCarron from the School of Nursing and Midwifery; and Dr Peter Crooks, associate professor in the School of Histories and Humanities
  • Industry Engagement Award – Prof Jacintha O’Sullivan from the School of Medicine; and Dr Stephen Dooley, associate professor in the School of Physics
  • Consultancy – Prof Anne Marie Healy from the School of Pharmacy; and Nessa McEniff, director of Learnovate, and Dr Ann Devitt, associate professor in the School of Education
  • Campus Companies ­– Altach Biomedical, Starling Surgical, Swan and VoiceTune

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Blathnaid O’Dea was a Careers reporter at Silicon Republic until 2024.