Thursday, 25 March 2021: RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences has received a nearly €1.2 million SFI infrastructure award to develop a high-resolution imaging system, with an automatic microdissection and single-cell sequencing facility.

The research infrastructure will provide new information on the molecular makeup of individual cells in complex tissues and structures, enable research towards personalised medicine and help in the development of novel diagnostics, therapeutics and biomaterials.

In addition to the SFI infrastructure award, the project is being established and co-funded by RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences.

“We would like to thank Science Foundation Ireland and all supporters of the application for marking this milestone for future single-cell analysis in Ireland,” said Professor Jochen Prehn, Head of the Department of Physiology and Medical Physics at RCSI and principal investigator for this award.

“Without the right instruments, conducting cellular research can be like trying to perform surgery while blindfolded. The new equipment will allow us to see cells in real-time and then analyse these through next-generation sequencing, which will help us increase our understanding of biological mechanisms at both cellular and tissue level.”

Using the new system, cells and tissues labelled with fluorescent markers will be scanned, and objects of interest identified by real-time image processing to trigger super- resolution imaging or laser microdissection and capture.

“This project will make more scientific discoveries possible for researchers in RCSI and in other institutions throughout Ireland. I would like to congratulate Professor Prehn and everyone involved for securing this important funding from Science Foundation Ireland,” said Professor Fergal O’Brien, RCSI Director of Research and Innovation.

“The funding will make it possible for researchers to image any biological sample of interest in 3D, which will be hugely beneficial in developing new biomaterials and therapeutics. I am confident that this fundamental science will lead to a variety of discoveries that will ultimately benefit the health of patients.”

Welcoming the award announcement, Dr Ruth Freeman, Director of Science for Society at Science Foundation Ireland said: “The SFI Research Infrastructure Call aims to build and sustain Ireland’s research infrastructure capacity. It is essential to support the high-quality, high-impact research that can significantly enhance our public services and enterprise competitiveness. As well as helping to attract, train and retain top research talent,  improving such research assets will also lead to positive societal impacts and improved health outcomes in Ireland.”

Professor Jochen Prehn and Dr Heiko Düssmann led the application from RCSI, which was widely supported by researchers across the country from UCD, TCD, UCC, DCU and NUIG, as well as the pharmaceutical industry involved in the FutureNeuro Centre at RCSI.

The award will be embedded in the research infrastructure of the SFI Future Neuro Centre, and it will be used by researchers in other centres and networks, such as the AMBER SFI Centre and Precision Oncology Ireland.  

This instrumentation is a further high-end equipment in RCSI’s portfolio to serve the Irish research community, help leverage funding and attract highly qualified researchers.