Caption: Prof Mark Ferguson, Director General SFI and Vice President for Research UCD, Professor Orla Feely congratulate Professor Kevin O’Connor, Beacon SFI Bioeconomy Research Centre, UCD recipient of the SFI Researcher of the Year 2019 and Professor William Gallagher, UCD, recipient of the SFI Entrepreneurship Award for 2019

Two UCD researchers were winners at the 2019 Science Foundation Ireland (SFI). Professor Kevin O’Connor won SFI Researcher of the Year for his innovative work in the bioeconomy. He is from the UCD School  of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science and Director of Beacon, a bioeconomy research centre, while director of the Conway Institute, Professor William Gallagher attained the SFI Entrepreneurship award. 

Professor O’Connor has developed a way of transforming dairy byproduct into organic acid. His technology is being applied in the industry as the world’s first “second generation dairy biorefinery.” He has received EU and industry funding of €30 million.

Professor O’Connor said: “I am delighted and honoured to receive this prestigious SFI award,” he said. “It is a recognition of the dedication of the many researchers and industry partners with whom I work and collaborate with, across multiple scientific fields and sectors, at UCD, across Ireland and internationally Through these collaborations we are creating knowledge and translating this knowledge into innovative technological solutions to address global and societal bioeconomy challenges.” 

“I would especially like to acknowledge and thank SFI for their funding, and UCD, BEACON Centre members and my wife and family for all their support,” he said. 

While Director of the UCD Conway Institute, Professor William Gallagher, has developed the OncoMasTR test kit, a prognostic test for early stages of breast cancer. This test can aid in reducing the number of cancer patients undergoing unnecessary chemotherapy. 

His research established OncoMark, a UCD spin-out company and is currently situated in NovaUCD. The company was able to raise €2.7m through the Horizon 2020 SME Instrument Programme Phase 2. In 2017, it raised another €2.1m. This funding has been used to clinically approve the OncoMasTR and get the CE-marking before its commercial launch. 

Professor Orla Feely,  UCD Vice-President for Research, Innovation and Impact , was “delighted that two leading members of UCD’s research and innovation community, Professor Kevin O’Connor and Professor William Gallagher, have been recognised by SFI through the Researcher of the Year Award and the Entrepreneurship Award, respectively.”

She said: “The presentation of these prestigious awards reflects the strength and impact of research and commercialisation activities taking place across UCD.” 

John Halligan, Minister for Training, Skills, Innovation and Research and Development, congratulated the two winners and said that the award “recognise the breadth and depth that research encompasses from industry collaborations to public engagement and the innovative breakthroughs that are leading research globally in the areas of Immunology, Biomaterials, cancer research and much more.”

“I would like to congratulate each awardee on their achievements, which illustrate the invaluable knowledge and resource that Ireland’s research community offers.”