MS Researcher Receives Major Science Foundation Ireland Award

Last week, President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, honoured the recipients of the 'Science Foundation Ireland President of Ireland Future Research Leaders Award' at a special ceremony in Áras an Uachtaráin in Dublin. Five awards, representing a €7 million investment, will also support the additional recruitment of 15 research positions. Research supported by the awards will examine novel drug targeting for the treatment of various diseases.

One of the awardees is Dr Claire McCoy from the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland. Dr McCoy’s research is focused on significantly advancing current therapeutic strategies for the treatment of multiple sclerosis. 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.”

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Dr Claire McCoy (second from left) with other SFI awardees and President Michael D Higgins

Congratulating the awardees at the event in Áras an Uachtaráin today President Michael D. Higgins said, “I am delighted to receive the wonderful scientists who have been granted SFI Future Research Leaders Awards. This award celebrates their scientific achievements and significant dedication. Their work is evidence of the ongoing world-class research being carried out in Ireland, positioning us as a global leader for scientific excellence.”

A summary of Dr McCoy’s research is below. MS Ireland will follow Dr McCoy’s research closely and will share information and updates in our bi-annual research eZine, MS Research:

Dr Claire McCoy, Royal College of Surgeons Ireland, (award value €1.54m)

Title of research: microRNA-155 as a master regulator of macrophage plasticity in multiple sclerosis.

Summary: The prevalence of multiple sclerosis is rapidly increasing, particularly in Ireland where we have the highest global incidence. It is a degenerative disease, characterised by excessive inflammation and neurological damage to the brain, resulting in eventual paralysis. There is no known cause or cure for MS and targeted treatment strategies are currently lacking. Dr McCoy 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.

Other partner institutions: Beaumont Hospital (IRE), Monash University (AUS), Hudson Institute of Medical Research (AUS).


Dr Claire McCoy is a lecturer in Immunology and leads the microRNA Inflammation Research Group at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI). Her research team is focused on understanding how the immune system and small molecules such as microRNAs contribute to the development of multiple sclerosis, where the ultimate aim is to design novel therapeutics to halt disease progression.

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.