President Higgins recognises scientists for PIYRA research

15 Jan 2013

(From left) Prof Mark Ferguson, director-general, SFI; President of Ireland Michael D Higgins; Dr Patrick Walsh; and Prof Mark Little

Two scientists based at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) who have received the Science Foundation Ireland, President of Ireland Young Researcher Award (PIYRA) have been commended for their research by Ireland’s President Michael D Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin yesterday.

Prof Mark Little is a professor of nephrology at TCD and a consultant nephrologist in both Tallaght Hospital and Beaumont Hospital.

He has been recognised with a SFI PIYRA award for his research into the rare kidney disease ANCA vasculitis. His research will aim to design and test potential cures.

“The award has given me the opportunity to establish a credible research programme, one which has numerous knock-on effects, from being able to obtain research nurse support to attracting the highest-calibre scientists to work within my research group,” said Little.

Dr Patrick Walsh, meanwhile, is a lecturer in paediatric immunology at TCD. He is also a principal investigator in the Paediatric Research in Translational Immunology programme at the National Children’s Research Centre at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin.

Walsh has set up a research group to investigate autoimmune diseases of children, including rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

He said receiving the PIYRA was central to his ambition to return to Ireland to develop the independent research programme focused on autoimmune disease.

“It is a privilege to be awarded the PIYRA in the area of immunology, an area where Ireland ranks third in the world,” said Walsh.

Before returning to Ireland, Walsh was principal scientist in drug discovery at GlaxoSmithKline in Philadelphia.

Ireland’s research base

Speaking yesterday, Higgins said Little and Walsh are two examples of groundbreaking research happening in Ireland right now.

“This award recognises the continued hard work and dedication of the winning scientists into fighting debilitating and potentially fatal diseases. It is the talent and pioneering results of researchers like Prof Little and Dr Walsh that continue to position Ireland as a leader in scientific research,” Higgins said.

SFI’s PIYRA award is now in its eighth year and has supported 21 researchers in that timeframe. Its role is to recruit young researchers who are working overseas to carry out their research in third-level institutions in Ireland.

Awardees are selected based on their accomplishments in areas covering biotechnology, ICT and energy. The award is also given to researchers on the basis of creative research plans that are built on work that has attracted international attention.

Funding in the region of €1m over five years is typically given to researchers. According to SFI, the PIYRA programme is now accepting new applications.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic