Kick Off meeting held in Galway Nov 2017

The PATHSENSE European Training Network met in Galway last week (27-30th Novembers) to kick-off this 4-year, €3.4M project, which is funded by the EU under Horizon 2020. The project is led by Dr Conor O’Byrne and managed by Dr Nina Tuite from Microbiology in the School of Natural Sciences at NUI Galway. The Network has recruited 13 Early Stage Researchers from 11 different countries to work on doctoral research projects that are collectively aimed at preventing bacterial pathogens from surviving in the food chain and causing infections in humans.

The PATHSENSE project involves 8 different universities, 1 research institute and 4 companies that are spread across seven different EU countries. During the project the early stage researchers will be based primarily in one of these locations but will move between laboratories for training and research secondments. During the kick-off meeting the doctoral students received training on all aspects of research commercialisation through a workshop organised by Dr Marta Utratna from Aquila Bioscience Ltd., a startup biotechnology company that spun out from NUI Galway. This included a welcome address from the VP for Research at NUI Galway, Prof Lokesh Joshi, as well as talks form a number of spin-out and spin-in companies based on the NUI Galway campus.

Dr O’Byrne said that “communicating the goals of the PATHSENSE research project to the public is really important objective for the consortium”. To help achieve this the doctoral students received training in outreach and communication from Dr Jessamyn Fairfield of the School of Physics at NUI Galway. They prepared short talks explaining their projects in lay terms and then delivered these by the Spanish Arch in Galway in a “Science on the Streets” event. Afterwards they visited the recording studio in Flirt FM, the NUIG campus radio station, and recorded podcasts which will be made available soon via the project website.

The project is aimed at preventing the survival of bacterial pathogens in food and within the human host. To do this the research projects are trying to understand how certain bacterial species sense and respond to their environments. The focus is on a structure present in these bacteria called a stressosome, which allows the pathogens to sense different stresses in their surroundings, such as temperature, acidity or light intensity. Dr O’Byrne said that “the stressosome is analogous to a brain insofar as it allows bacteria to interpret the conditions of their environment and then respond in a way that protects them. If we could deprive them of their senses we could dramatically improve our ability to kill them. Imagine if you deprived somebody of all their senses and then released them into a dangerous environment – a busy motorway for example – their chances of survival would be pretty slim!”

The next meeting of the Network will be in Kinsale, Co Cork in April 2018 for an international conference being organised by Dr O’Byrne. This will be a chance to showcase some of the progress being made on the project while allowing the early stage researchers to make new connections and develop their professional networks.

 

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 721456