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Teagasc Researchers receive SFI Research Frontiers funding

The Minister for Research and Innovation, Mr Seán Sherlock T.D., today, Wednesday, 24 August, announced Government funding of €15 million to be provided over the next four years for 79 research projects as part of Science Foundation Ireland’s 2011 Research Frontiers Programme.

Teagasc has two projects to be funded under this programme, from Dr Kieran Meade and Dr Ewen Mullins.

Dr. Kieran Meade, Teagasc Animal Biosciences Centre, Grange, Co Meath, received funding for ‘Distinct Interleukin-8 promoter haplotypes – functional implications for expression, neutrophil recruitment and Staphylococcus aureus survival in cattle’.

“The Interleukin-8 (IL-8) protein is key to mediating successful immunity. It functions by attracting cells and activating them to kill bacteria. We found variants in the gene that encodes this protein which are variable between cattle breeds and could confer immunological differences. We aim to characterise the functional variants of the IL-8 gene. Exploiting these differences will allow us to breed animals with better immunity, thus reducing infectious disease on farms, antibiotic use and contamination of the food chain,” said Dr Meade.

Dr. Ewen Mullins, Teagasc Crops, Environment and Land Use Research Centre, Oak Park, Carlow, received funding for ‘Developing a novel technology platform for the genetic transformation of plant and fungal cells’.

“The bacteria Agrobacterium is the most favoured tool used in biotechnology for genetically improving an organism’s performance. Unfortunately, for end users of Agrobacterium capitalising on outputs from their research is unfeasible due to restrictive licensing conditions. We have developed a novel alternative (EMT) that is as efficient as Agrobacterium and bypasses existing patents. In this project we will test the adaptability of EMT on a wider range of organisms and determine how accurate EMT can be in transferring DNA and further improve the efficacy of EMT, enhancing its potential as a competitive alternative to Agrobacterium,” explains Dr Mullins.