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Prof Anne Parle-McDermott

Director, Life Science Institute, DCU

Dr Paul Leonard

Industry and Commercialisation Liaison, Life Sciences Institute, DCU

Robbie Sinnott

DCU Research Infrastructure Manager

A new life sciences institute at Dublin City University harnesses diverse expertise, cutting-edge facilities and the power of collaboration to tackle global health challenges.

Dublin City University’s (DCU) new Life Sciences Institute (LSI) brings together world-class multi-disciplinary expertise from across eight schools to deliver on its mission to ‘transform challenges into impact.’ The Institute tackles global challenges across health, therapeutics, agriculture, the environment and the bioeconomy.

Collaborative solutions for global challenges

LSI Director Professor Anne Parle-McDermott says the centre is a virtual entity that brings life science research activity together under a single umbrella. LSI researchers work with partners to identify and address “global challenges that really matter and impact all our lives.” It invites partners with scientific or industrial challenges to collaborate on developing solutions.

She explains: “Our approach is to work with industry, charities and state bodies to identify key challenges within health, food and the environment. “We build a team within and beyond LSI to brainstorm and design a solution-focused project. We involve stakeholders from day one to ensure our research is focused on real-world problems.”

Diverse scientific themes

The centre is working, for example, with Science Foundation Ireland and Teagasc on issues such as potato blight monitoring, while specialist cancer experts work with hospitals and pharmaceutical companies to advance knowledge in clinical areas.

Meanwhile, the expertise of immunologists, neuroscientists, biologists, chemists, physicists, psychologists, sports scientists and engineers focus on other challenges, providing a supportive, multi-disciplinary environment that allows innovation and creativity to flourish.

DCU’s LSI has three broad themes of health, biodetection and pure research, along with specific subgroups. “We are diverse and can bring a variety of expertise together to fit each challenge,” adds Prof Parle-McDermott. 

Innovative research for industry impact

LSI Industry and Commercialisation Liaison Lead, Dr Paul Leonard, says industry often has to work at a fast pace and, therefore, does not possess the extra resources or the time required to fully address some of its challenges. “We have a valuable resource in this new research institute and want to harness that to work with industry partners to find solutions that will then be taken into companies and commercialised. Our goal is to have impact via real-world implementation,” he says.

“But we don’t want industry to think they can only come to us when they have a problem; we also work together to enhance current processes or come up with something new.” Recently funded collaborations include nucleic acid therapeutics, novel therapies for chronic pain and improving protein production in cells used by the biopharma industry.

Our approach is to work with industry, charities
and state bodies to identify key challenges
within health, food and the environment.

World-class infrastructure

Dr Leonard emphasises that it is not possible to conduct world-class science without world-class infrastructure. “You can have great ideas,” he continues, “but if you do not have the equipment, facilities, ecosystem and structure around that, you cannot transform those ideas into innovations. That is where DCU Core Technologies comes in.”

It offers the LSI access to state-of-the-art equipment and resources needed to facilitate effective research. Research Infrastructure Manager Robbie Sinnott explains that the Core Technologies are supported by a multidisciplinary team of technical officers with expertise in microscopy, flow cytometry, cell culture, high-throughput screening, genomics, materials analysis and additive manufacturing.

Highest verifiable standards

The unit has over 50 high-end scientific systems to ensure LSI research outputs are of the highest verifiable standards. These instruments are available for use by all national and international academic researchers as well as industry and commercial entities.

One example system is the cutting-edge robotically controlled AUTOPILOT system, which can handle thousands of samples to increase the speed, reproducibility and complexity of the experiments that can be carried out. Sinnott also sees Core Technologies’ role as taking away the responsibility of equipment management from researchers or industry partners, enabling them to fully focus on research.

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