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WIT’s Macular Pigment Research Group scoops honours at Lab Awards

Following nominations in two categories, the Macular Pigment Research Group (MPRG) rose above strong competition to secure the award of ‘Bio Science Laboratory of the Year’

Members of the MPRG team attended the awards ceremony on 25 May in Dublin when the announcement was made.

This award represents another notable achievement for the research group. The MPRG was selected as winner based on its unique infrastructure, blue sky research ideas, a multidisciplinary research community, and its impact on science and human health.

Speaking about receiving the award Prof John Nolan (Howard Chair in Human Nutrition, WIT), said, “We are very proud to receive this award on behalf of our research group and Waterford Institute of Technology. This award reflects the day to day work and cumulative effort of our research members. I am particularly delighted that this is a national award, as it is important to be recognised by and within the Irish research community.

Prof Nolan went on to say he is also pleased for MPRG’s stakeholders and supporters including Enterprise Ireland, European Research Council, and the Howard Foundation UK.

“We now hope to build on this success as we continue to develop and enhance our research laboratories at WIT and in a time, when we are positioned uniquely to compete for international research grants and funding,” he added.

The Irish Laboratory Awards recognises excellence, best practice, and innovation in Ireland’s lab industry. In turn, recognising the efforts and achievements of Ireland’s renowned scientists for their work both nationally and internationally. The MPRG, within the Nutrition Research Centre Ireland (NRCI), was shortlisted in two categories for this year’s awards amongst the co-competitors from the Royal College of Surgeons, Trinity College Dublin, University College Cork, and from multinational pharmaceutical companies.

Competition and honours

Winners of the ‘Bio Science Laboratory of the Year 2017’ award following their shortlisting, the MPRG was the only laboratory from the higher education sector to be shortlisted in this category. Other nominees, from industrial and commercial backgrounds, included BioClin Research Laboratories and Alexion Quality Control.

At the presentation of the awards, the judging panel announced the major importance of the group’s work into the role of nutrition for vision, cognitive function, and prevention of age-related conditions such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Present at the event were team members from the MPRG representing its vision, cognitive function, analytical biochemistry, and research management strands.

MPRG background

The MPRG recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary (established 2006) and is a multidisciplinary research group that studies the impact of optimised nutritional intervention on human function (e.g. cognitive function and visual function).

The MPRG studies a range of nutrition-related themes including the role of nutrition and lifestyle for human wellbeing and provides a bespoke infrastructure that is highly specialised and capable of delivering research projects to the highest possible standard. To date, the MPRG has secured €5.7 million worth of research funds in this respect including notable successes such as the €1.5m CREST project funded by the European Research Council.

Delivering high quality research outputs, the MPRG has successfully supervised 17 postgraduate students to MD, MSc, and PhD qualifications and has published 90 peer-reviewed scientific papers in high-impact journals. The success of the group has also led to the creation of the Nutrition Research Centre Ireland (NRCI), within the School of Health Sciences at WIT, the appointment of Professor Nolan as Howard Chair in Nutrition, and the establishment of the Howard Foundation Postdoctoral Research Programme.

More details of the MPRG and its history, research team, and activities can be found on the group’s website.