New SALI appointed UCC and APC academic innovating with genome sequencing to establish new antibiotic alternatives
- Prof Massey is researching new and innovative approaches to solving Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) which claims approximately 50,000 lives each year across Europe and the US alone, and will be responsible for up to 10 million deaths per annum by 2050.
- Prof Massey was recruited through the Senior Academic Leadership Initiative (SALI) programme.
- She joins the School of Microbiology and School of Medicine, University College Cork (UCC) and APC Microbiome Ireland, a world leading SFI Research Centre.
Professor Ruth Massey has secured a highly competitive SALI Professorship in Microbiome and Health Sciences, bringing her globally-recognised Microbial Pathogenicity expertise to Ireland, funded by the Irish Higher Education Authority. Her revolutionary functional genomic approaches have generated data of such novelty, quality and relevance that they are now being used in multiple laboratories around the world.
As we live through the unprecedented times of a global pandemic, understanding how pathogenic microorganisms cause disease has never been more important. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR), often referred to as the Silent Pandemic claims approximately 50,000 lives each year across Europe and the US alone, and will be responsible for up to 10 million deaths per annum by 2050 if new approaches to prevention and treatment are not developed. In addition to this human cost, there are severe financial implications with an estimated reduction of 2.0-3.5% in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), costing the global economy in excess of €80 trillion per annum. With a dwindling pool of effective antibiotics, and many pharmaceutical companies shutting down their antibiotic development facilities, new and innovative approaches to infection management and treatment regimens are desperately needed. But without a greater understanding of how pathogens cause disease, we are effectively working in the dark.
To tackle this problem Professor Massey’s team have developed a new use of the genome sequence (complete set of genetic instructions) of pathogens/microorganisms to define their activity with respect to how they cause disease, and resist the effects of antibiotics. Armed with this information, ways to block these microbial activities can be developed, with a view to producing novel therapeutics and disease intervention strategies. Her vision is to combine her current experimental approach with that underway in the APC which will enable her team to characterise the impact the human microbiome makes to these disease processes.
University College Cork’s School of Microbiology and School of Medicine were privileged to recruit an academic with Professor Massey’s credentials through the Senior Academic Leadership Initiative (SALI) programme. Professor Massey has also joined as a Principal Investigator in APC Microbiome Ireland, a world-leading SFI Research Centre headquartered at UCC.
Professor Ruth Massey has a B.A. in Natural Sciences and a Ph.D. in Molecular Microbiology from Trinity College Dublin. She gained experience as a postdoctoral researcher in the UK at both the Universities of Oxford and Bath, and in Oxford she developed her interest in Gram positive bacterial pathogens. Her first independent position was in the Zoology Department in Oxford, where Wellcome Trust funding allowed her to set up her first lab, and she subsequently moved to Bath in 2007. In 2017 she was appointed to the University of Bristol, and in 2019 was awarded a Wellcome Trust Investigator Award and promoted to Professor of Microbial Pathogenicity. In 2021 Professor Massey became the SALI Professor for Microbiome and Health Sciences at UCC.
On announcing the ten posts approved under the Senior Academic Leadership Initiative Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD said “Championing equality and diversity is one of the key goals of my department. The Senior Academic Leadership Initiative (SALI) is an important initiative aimed at advancing gender equality and the representation of women at the highest levels in our higher education institutions.”
Prof Ruth Massey commented: “I’m very excited to have the opportunity to bring my family and work back to Ireland. There’s nothing quite like a pandemic to raise awareness of the importance of preparedness in the understanding microbial pathogenicity, and working within UCC and the APC will turbocharge my research as it opens up the opportunity to bring the microbiome into our understanding of infectious disease and antimicrobial resistance development.”
Dr Brendan Curran, Interim General Manager of APC Microbiome Ireland SFI Centre commented: “The APC is privileged and delighted to welcome Prof Massey to our team. Her research on infectious microbes is very important, particularly in the context of a global pandemic, and aligns perfectly with the activities and objectives of the APC’s antimicrobial research and infectious disease programme. The fact that her research output has been so well cited by researchers worldwide is a testament to the importance and excellence of her research”.
Prof Paul O’Toole, Head of School of Microbiology, UCC commented: “The recruitment of Prof. Massey to the School is a key element in our strategic plan to maintain cutting edge basic and translational research across the spectrum of microbiology, in this case in molecular pathogenesis and human microbiome science”.
Professor Sarah Culloty, Head, College of Science, Engineering and Food Science commented: “We are delighted to welcome Professor Massey to the College of Science, Engineering and Food Science, UCC. Her ground-breaking work in functional genomics will complement our existing research activities and enrich our internationally recognised programmes in Microbiology”.
Professor Paula O'Leary, Dean, School of Medicine, UCC commented: "The appointment of Professor Massey to this pivotal role crosses the boundaries of traditional research, advancing a field of expertise that has become one of the fastest moving areas of biology, relevant to all branches of human medicine and veterinary science".