Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

President Higgins Presents Future Research Leaders Award to RCSI’s Dr Claire McCoy

25 January 2018

President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, honoured the recipients of the SFI President of Ireland Future Research Leaders Award at a special ceremony in Áras an Uachtaráin today. Dr Claire McCoy, lecturer in Immunology and head of the microRNA Inflammation Research Group at RCSI, is one of five recipients of this prestigious award.

Dr McCoy's research is focused on significantly advancing current therapeutic strategies for the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS), where Ireland has the highest global incidence. Her research has identified a small RNA molecule, miR-155, as a novel drug target for the treatment of MS. She has devised an innovative strategy that acts to limit inflammation whilst promote tissue repair, a method that will significantly advance current therapeutic strategies for the treatment of MS.

Dr Claire McCoy
Dr Claire McCoy 

Dr McCoy has been the recipient of major national and international awards including this current SFI Future Research Leader Award, a Marie Curie Fellowship and an Australian NHMRC project grant. She has published more than 21 highly-cited and seminal publications in Nature Immunology, Nucleic Acid Research, Journal of Leukocyte Biology and Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Speaking of her award, she said "Obtaining this SFI Future Research Leaders award is the highlight of my career to-date. Not only does it enable me to lead a growing research team, it will also significantly contribute to the cutting-edge research being conducted at RCSI. Most importantly, it helps to place Ireland at the forefront of multiple sclerosis research worldwide."

Prof Cathal Kelly, CEO at RCSI, said: "We are immensely proud that Dr McCoy has been honoured by President Higgins with this award, and that she has chosen to continue her pioneering research at RCSI. Our aim is to improve human health by promoting innovative research that leads to better diagnostics, therapeutics and devices, tackles important healthcare delivery issues, informs policy and clinical practice and enhances the quality of education of healthcare professionals".

President Higgins has been a long-standing advocate of inclusive citizenship and creativity, highlighting not only the positive contribution of science to society, but also the links between the creativity of artists and the innovation of scientists. Equally, the President has stressed the importance of placing scientific research in a clear social, cultural and ethical context, saying that the benefits of scientific advances should be spread as widely as possible.

SFI Future Research Leaders Award
Pictured (l-r): Professor John Laffey; Dr Claire McCoy; Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland; President Michael D. Higgins; Dr Christina Kiel; Dr Tomás Ryan; and Dr Lydia Lynch. 

The five awards, representing a €7 million investment, will support the additional recruitment of 15 research positions. Congratulating the awardees, Prof Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said "The President of Ireland Future Research Leaders Award is designed to attract to Ireland outstanding new and emerging research talent. In supporting these talented and innovative individuals, we are delighted to recognise early career researchers who have already displayed exceptional leadership potential at the frontiers of knowledge. The development of leadership skills in these researchers early in their careers is vital to ensure research and innovation in Ireland continues to progress. Our investment highlights the importance that Science Foundation Ireland places on supporting all stages of academic careers, and on the attraction and retention of star researchers."