25 Sept 2022

€420,000 grant a 30th birthday present for Kildare's Dr Joe Byrne

Newbridge man’s cutting-edge research

€420,000 grant a birthday present for Kildare's Dr Joe Byrne

Dr Joe Byrne

Newbridge man Dr Joe Byrne is one of 20 Irish researchers who will receive a significant grant from Science Foundation Ireland to pursue cutting-edge research.

The grants, made through SFI’s Starting Investigator Research Fund, total €10.8 million over four years.

Dr Byrne was awarded €419,585 for a research project to develop new diagnostic devices to help identify bacterial infections — which, hopefully, will give doctors fast answers on how to treat infections and minimise the use of broad spectrum antibiotics

“I will be starting my research in the School of Chemistry in NUI Galway in April. The grant will support my work and that of a PhD student for four years,” said Dr Byrne.

The Moorefield Drive man is a former student of the Patrician Brothers in Newbridge and Maynooth University, who completed his PhD in supramolecular chemistry at Trinity College Dublin. For the last number of years he has worked as a research fellow at the University of Bern in Switzerland.

The official awarding of the grant was made on Dr Byrne’s 30th birthday last Tuesday, January 15 — and will enable him to return home to continue his research work.

“This award allows me to return to Ireland and make a contribution to Irish society through scientific research, building upon my experience abroad in Switzerland and the UK. The Starting Investigator Research Grant scheme has given me a fantastic opportunity to begin my independent research programme at a relatively young age in NUI Galway School of Chemistry, and also to work closely with the CÚRAM SFI Centre for Medical Device Research, a hub of expertise in this sector,” he said.

“Maynooth University and Trinity provided me with excellent training, working alongside supportive researchers, and I now look forward to expanding my network of colleagues in both academia and the medical devices industry, and forging new productive partnerships in the years to come.”

Dr Byrne’s research will not only use colour changing chemistry to identify the presence of bacteria, but will develop compact diagnostic devices using 3D printing — which will benefit patient outcomes and quality of life.

“My new project aims to bring together the skills I have learned through my research training to address practical problems that affect peoples’ lives,” he said.

Dr Byrne said his work will help to rapidly diagnose infections, including one which has a devastating effect on people with Cystic Fibrosis.

“By providing a new methodology for rapid diagnosis of bacterial infection, my work will facilitate quicker decision-making on targeted medical treatment strategies for patients. In Ireland this would be particularly valuable for rapid diagnosis of Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections, a significant risk factor for Cystic Fibrosis patients, as well as others with compromised immune systems. More generally, helping clinicians avoid the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics would help combat the global challenge of increased antibiotic resistance.

“This new technology could also be deployed in other scenarios such as detecting bacterial contamination of water supplies.”

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