First awardees of the DOROTHY MSCA COFUND programme showcase innovative research to tackle public health crises

Posted: 16 November, 2023

The DOROTHY MSCA COFUND programme, launched in 2021 by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, has confirmed its first cohort of fellows.

Six awardees have embarked on 36-month postdoctoral fellowships with a focus on public health crises.  Tackling social isolation of people affected by dementia, investigating bat immune response in order to prevent the spread of diseases and drug resistance, and developing measures in building design that can be employed to manage indoor air quality to deal with threats like a pandemic or nearby wildfire, are some of the innovative projects the fellows are undertaking.

DOROTHY COFUND is a postdoctoral research programme co-funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA). Three Irish funding agencies, the Irish Research Council (IRC), the Health Research Board (HRB) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have collaborated to create this interdisciplinary fellowship programme on the topic of public health crises and their legacies. The complementary expertise of the three agencies – namely funding excellence in pan-disciplinary research (IRC), health perspectives (HRB) and environmental policies (EPA) – is key to DOROTHY’s scope and ambitions.

Challenges to public health can include economic crises, inequalities, ageing populations, increasing levels of infectious and noncommunicable diseases and mental health problems, migration and urbanisation, and environmental damage and climate change. As the COVID 19 pandemic showed, a situation becomes a public health crisis or emergency when its scale, timing, or unpredictability lead to health consequences which have the potential to overwhelm society and our health system. To this end, research is key to finding solutions to public health crises. These new DOROTHY fellows, along with future cohorts, will examine ways we can address these complex challenges from a variety of perspectives.

Fellowships will have an international outgoing phase of 18 months, hosted at a Higher Education Institution (HEI) or Research Performing Organisation (RPO)outside Ireland, followed by a return phase of 18 months to a HEI within Ireland. A second cohort of fellows will be awarded fellowships in 2024.

During their fellowships, fellows will conduct innovative, cross-disciplinary research, as well as participating in programme-wide training events. Reaching out beyond traditional disciplinary lines, allowing for an effective approach to the multifaceted nature of public health crises, DOROTHY will be underpinned by multidisciplinary cooperation leading to development of a cohort of experts able to tackle public health crises from multiple perspectives.

Welcoming the announcement, Director of the Irish Research Council, Peter Brown, said: “MSCA COFUND fellowships are highly prestigious postdoctoral awards that greatly help to establish the research careers of the fellows who obtain them. I have no doubt that not only will these fellows produce top class research to tackle the many public health crises that impact on us all, but that their fellowships will support them to success in further opportunities in the future.”

Dr Mairéad O’Driscoll, Chief Executive of the Health Research Board said;

“These co-funded awards will build research capacity to address public health crises that will make a real difference to people’s lives. As well as supporting HRB goals to develop future research leaders and create solutions to societal challenges, this scheme meets wider government objectives to deliver research that will inform future policy decisions”.

EPA Director of the Office of Evidence and Assessment, Dr Eimear Cotter said: “The link between the quality of our environment and human health risks is now well established. It is clear that we need to adopt a more holistic approach to protecting human and environmental health. Through this partnership, the EPA is delighted to support promising talent to pursue innovative, transdisciplinary research across diverse research areas to tackle public health challenges”.


New projects awarded funding:

Among the successful projects awarded funding in the first DOROTHY COFUND cohort are:

  • ‘Ultrasensitive simultaneous detection of multiple Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers by a miniaturized on-chip silicon ultra-micro-device based on a universal antifouling interface (ADBs-on-a-chip)’

Dr. Vuslat Juska, University College Cork and Northwestern University, USA.

  • ‘WildHealth: from wildlife monitoring to preventing and mitigating the spread of zoonotic diseases and drug resistance’

Dr. Frédéric Touzalin, University College Dublin and University of Glasgow, UK.

  • ‘Digital training with motor-cognitive strategies to improve movement in Parkinson’s disease’

Dr. Judith Bek, University College Dublin and University of Toronto, Canada.

  • ‘Innovative Solutions for Indoor Air Exposure: Agile, Lean, and Resilient’

Dr. Asit Kumar Mishra, University College Cork

  • ‘ENGAGE (dEvelopiNG A neiGhbourhood model for dEmentia)’

Dr. Purity Mwendwa, Trinity College Dublin and University of Salford, UK.

  • ‘Design and Synthesis of M(O,S)y Heterostructures and Nanocomposites for Photocatalytic Degradation of Contaminants of Emerging Concern and Industrial Waste Chemicals’

Dr. Misganaw Zeleke, University of Limerick and University of Ljubljana, Slovenia.


MSCA COFUND Dorothy Awardees 2023

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