Research Seminars: a busy start to the year!

POI hosted seminars by a number of prestigious international speakers in the early months of 2020, kicking off with Dr. Paul Brennan, Head of the Genetics Section and the Genetic Epidemiology group at the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon. Dr. Brennan’s research applies genetics to understand more about environmental, lifestyle and infectious causes of cancer, with a particular focus on cancers of the upper-digestive tract, kidney and pancreatic cancers. His talk was entitled: ‘What can whole genome sequences of tumours tell us about the causes of cancer?’.

On Tuesday 11th February, POI collaborated with the regular POI CLASS Seminar Series at the UCD Conway Institute to host Dr. Aedín Culhane, Senior Research Scientist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. Dr. Culhane develops computational approaches to integrate and analyse large scale genomics data to discover cross-talk between tumours and their microenvironment, and she spoke about ‘Mapping the Tumor-immune landscape with multiple layers of data’.

On Monday 24th February, we were privileged with the company of Dr. David Lynn, Professor of Medical Informatics at Flinders University in South Australia. Prof. Lynn leads a multidisciplinary group of computational and experimental researchers who apply advanced systems biology and experimental immunology approaches to investigate the immune system and cancer. His talk focused on how ‘The gut microbiota influences immune responses systemically in a broad range of contexts – from infant vaccination to cancer immunotherapy’, and was very well received.

Unfortunately, following a busy start to the year, early March marked the beginning of a long period of uncertainty, and in-person seminars became an impossibility. Nevertheless, we quickly adapted, and held our first virtual research seminar in conjunction with the UCD Conway Institute CLASS seminar series, on Tuesday 7th April. The speaker was Dr. Liam Faller, Group Leader at the Netherlands Cancer Institute, and himself a former alumni of the UCD Conway Institute. Dr. Faller’s research group studies the role that RNA translation plays in cancer, with a particular focus on colorectal cancer. His talk was entitled ’Regulation of gene expression by RNA translation in the intestinal epithelium’.

The transition to an online platform went smoothly, and we had an impressive turnout with great engagement from attendees over the Q&A session. We also found that there are some advantages to holding these talks online, particularly for a national research programme like POI, as they are more accessible to our research team, based all over the country, and even to collaborators worldwide. This format will certainly be the ‘new normal’ for the foreseeable future, and we look forward to hearing from further talented researchers over the coming months.