Irish Research Council Researcher of the Year 2023 and Commended researchers highlight the quality of people in the research eco-system



Posted: 19 December, 2023

Peter Brown, Director of the Irish Research Council, Professor Carel le Roux (2023 Irish Research Council, Researcher of the Year), Professor Daniel Carey, Chair of the Irish Research Council

Metabolic medicine expert, Professor Carel le Roux, was announced as the 2023 winner of the Irish Research Council Researcher of the Year Award in late November 2023.

Professor le Roux’s area of expertise is the management of the disease of obesity. He is a Professor of Chemical Pathology in University College Dublin (UCD) and is also a Director of the Metabolic Medicine Group affiliated with the UCD Diabetes Complications Research Centre (DCRC) in the UCD Conway Institute for Biomolecular and Biomedical Research. Professor le Roux received IRC funding under the Consolidated Laureate grant in 2018, ‘Manipulating how the gut talks to the brain’. Along with this, he is the co-ordinator of the €16 million EU Innovative Medicine Initiative research consortium SOPHIA (Stratification of Obesity Phenotypes to Optimize Future Obesity Therapy).

He has published widely in his field and is widely recognised for his translational research on the understanding of the physiological role and pathological changes in appetite control, and the impact of obesity drug therapy and weight loss surgery on diabetes.

The Researcher of the Year Awards recognise the very best of the IRC’s awardees and alumni working in academia, industry, civic society and the public sector. The Researcher of the Year category recognises a current or former awardee who has made an exceptional contribution to research in their field and their scholarly community.

Professor le Roux’s principal area of interest is primarily concerned with increasing understanding of how the “gut talks to the brain” to inform safer and more effective treatments of obesity. He has also studied unintentional weight loss in patients with surgical treatments, which has placed their oesophageal cancer into remission.

When asked what drives him to do work in this area, Professor le Roux said: “I have been fascinated and wanted to solve the problem of how the gut talks to the brain. This led me to study the disease of obesity. It is tremendously satisfying now to be able to help people with the disease with new treatments based on scientific breakthroughs by us and many other colleagues over the last 20 years. We have been part of unravelling the science behind the cure.”

Several high impact papers led by Professor le Roux have been published recently in The Lancet. He is recognised as a top clinician scientist internationally for bariatric surgery, as well as morbid obesity. This has enhanced his leading role as he has translated his research findings to impact other scientific groups but also wider society.

Equally, he is an engaged researcher, lending his expertise to effect international policy change and improved approaches to obesity treatment, and is contributing significantly to a change in public perception of the disease.

Prior to becoming Professor of Chemical Pathology at UCD, Professor le Roux was a Senior Lecturer at Imperial College London, a Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists and a Fellow of the Royal College of Medicine in London.

Commended in this category
The standard of entries this year was so high that the judges made two commendations in this category. They were awarded to: Professor David Stifter, Maynooth University and Professor Emma Teeling, University College Dublin.

Professor David Stifter is Professor of Old and Middle Irish at Maynooth University. He was admitted to the Royal Irish Academy in 2022. Professor Stifter also sits on the Governing Board of the Dublin In­sti­tute for Advanced Studies’ School of Celtic Studies. He is primarily focused on Digital Humanities, their appli­ca­tion and stand­ardisation across the sub-disciplines of Celtic Studies. Professor Stifter’s main areas of research and teaching are Old Irish language and literature; Continental Celtic; and historical linguis­tics of Celtic. Professor Stifter was awarded an UK-Ireland Collaboration in the Digital Humanities Research Grant in 2020 and a Ulysses networking grant in 2022 and recently awarded an Advanced Laureate Award by the IRC in 2023.

When asked what drives him to do work in this area, Professor Stifter said: “My research on medieval, ancient and prehistoric languages gives me insights into the lives of people hundreds and thousands of years ago, and about the world in which they lived. Historical languages can tell us things about the past that other sources of historical information are silent about.”

Professor Emma Teeling is a Full Professor of Zoology at UCD, where she has founded two scientific centres: the Laboratory of Molecular Evolution and Mammalian Phylogenetics (also known as the “BatLab”), along with the Centre for Irish Bat Research. She is also the co-founding director of Bat1K, a global genome sequencing consortium, established to sequence the genome of all living bats to reference quality assembly.

Professor Teeling has developed a world-leading research programme in Ireland where she integrates cutting-edge molecular technology with whole animal wildlife studies to uncover the molecular basis of evolutionary novelty and biodiversity, developing bats as unique model species. She is playfully referred to as “Bat Woman” given her relentless advocacy and energy for the development of bats as model study systems for healthy ageing, disease tolerance and sensory perception.

Professor Teeling is widely cited and globally recognised in her areas of study and is an elected member of Ireland’s national academy, the Royal Irish Academy. Professor Teeling received IRC funding through a Ulysses grant in 2016 and a Consolidator Laureate grant in 2018.

When asked what drives her to do work in this area of research, Professor Teeling said: “Nature has the solutions to all of our problems. I am privileged to be able to study wild bats using molecular biology, ecology, immunology and genomics to understand how bats can slow down ageing and resist disease. My research will allow us to uncover how we can live longer healthier lives by learning from bats.”

 

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