Speaker Profiles

Prof Ijeoma F. Uchegbu

Professor of Pharmaceutical Nanoscience at University College London (UK) and Chief Scientific Officer of Nanomerics.

Ijeoma Uchegbu FMedSci is UCL’s Professor of Pharmaceutical Nanoscience, a fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, an honorary fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, a governor on the Wellcome board (one of the largest biomedical sciences research charities in the world) and Chief Scientific Officer of Nanomerics Ltd, a UCL spin out company. She has served as Chair of the Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences and chaired EPSRC and Science Foundation Ireland grant prioritisation panels. Uchegbu is the immediate past UCL Provost’s Envoy for Race Equality, a role in which she led on race equality work at UCL.

Her initiatives (e.g. Dean’s Pledges on Race Equality) were instrumental in achieving UCL’s Bronze Race Charter in 2020. Uchegbu has also presented to the UK House of Commons on the educational racial disparities that lead to a lack of ethnic minority representation in scientific research.

She has studied the mechanisms of drug transport across biological barriers and created transformational drug transport nanoparticles. She was the first to show that peptides could be delivered across the blood brain barrier to elicit a pharmacological response, when presented as peptide drug nanofibers and the first to demonstrate, via definitive pharmacology and pharmacokinetics evidence, peptide transport into the brain, using peptide nanoparticles delivered via the nose to brain route. These findings led to the enkephalin pain medicine candidate Envelta™, which was designed to address the opioid crisis. In preclinical studies, Envelta™ showed no analgesic tolerance, reward seeking behaviour or potential to cause significant constipation. Envelta has been out licensed to Virpax Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:VRPX) and is currently being developed by the US National Center for Advancing Translational Studies. If successful, this will be the first neuropeptide medicine approval and it will have been made possible by the innovation originating in Uchegbu’s group.

The technology underpinning Envelta™ won first prize in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Emerging Technologies competition in 2017 and the Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences Science Innovation Award in 2016.

Three other medicine candidates based on this nanotechnology have been out-licensed to pharmaceutical companies in the US. Uchegbu’s work has been funded continuously for 21 years by the EPSRC and she serves on the BBSRC Council. Uchegbu is the immediate past Pro Vice Provost for Africa and the Middle East and in this role Uchegbu led on the international research and teaching engagement strategy in this region.

Prof Séamus Davis

Emeritus Professor of Physics, Cornell University (USA), Professor of Quantum Physics at University College Cork, and Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford, UK.

Séamus Davis hails from Skibbereen, Co Cork. He received his B.Sc from University College Cork, Ireland in 1983 and his Ph.D. from the University of California – Berkeley, CA, USA in 1989. He was appointed Professor of Physics at the University of California – Berkeley and a Faculty Physicist at Berkeley National Laboratory between 1993 and 2003. He became Professor of Physics at Cornell University, New York, in 2003 and a Senior Physicist at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York in 2006. In 2007 he was appointed SUPA Distinguished Professor of Physics at St. Andrews University, Scotland, and in 2008 the J.G. White Distinguished Professor of Physical Sciences at Cornell University, USA. He has served as Director of the Center for Emergent Superconductivity for the US Department of Energy (2009-2014). In 2019 he became J.G. White Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Cornell University, USA; Senior Fellow of Wadham College, University of Oxford, UK; Professor of Physics, University of Oxford, UK; and Professor of Quantum Physics, University College Cork, Ireland.

Davis’ active research interests are in the macroscopic quantum physics of emergent quantum matter including studies of superconductors, superfluids and supersolids; Kondo, Weyl and Hund metals; magnetic and Kondo topological condensates; spin & monopole liquids.

Davis’ physics research has been recognized by the Outstanding Performance Award of Berkeley National Lab. (2001), the Science and Technology Award of Brookhaven National Lab. (2013), the Fritz London Memorial Prize (2005), the H. Kamerlingh-Onnes Memorial Prize (2009), Science Foundation Ireland – Medal of Science (2016), Science Foundation Ireland Research Professorship (2019), O.V. Lounasmaa Memorial Prize (2020), and UK Royal Society Research Professorship (2020). Davis is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics (UK), the American Physical Society (USA), the Max Planck Gesellschaft (Germany), the Royal Irish Academy (IE), the America Assoc. for Advancement of Science (USA), and of the US National Academy of Sciences (USA).

Dr Patrick Kavanagh

Astrophysics Researcher/MIRI software developer

Dr Patrick Kavanagh is an astrophysicist based at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. He is an expert in studies of supernova remnants, superbubbles and the hot interstellar medium. Since moving to DIAS he has worked on the development of calibration and software tools for the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) on the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), and on the Supernovae and Protostars science working groups.

He recently returned from supporting MIRI commissioning at the Webb Mission Operations Center at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, US, and now holds an SFI-IRC Pathway Fellowship to study the iconic supernova SN1987A and star formation in the low-metallicity Large Magellanic Cloud using JWST observations.

Dr. Deirdre Lillis

Assistant Secretary General in the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science in Ireland

Dr. Deirdre Lillis is Assistant Secretary General in the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science in Ireland, with responsibility for the Research, Innovation, Evidence for Policy and EU/International Division.  A proven senior executive, her prior experience includes university leadership roles in university-enterprise engagement in TU Dublin and as Head of Computer Science in Dublin Institute of Technology. She has a track record of research capacity building and transformation in higher education including principal investigator for an unprecedented national investment of €17.5m in university-enterprise engagement (www.convene.ie), the €4m global HubLinked Knowledge Alliance (www.hublinked.eu) and Marie-Curie RISE GETM3 Global Entrepreneurial Talent Management programme.

She is a Chartered Director and has served on the Board of the Higher Education Authority in Ireland, the Senate of the National University of Ireland and the Board of the Irish Writers Centre. Her research interests include national research and innovation systems, higher education policy, university-industry innovations and young talent management. She has won European awards for her sustained commitment to developing the careers of female academic staff and for increasing the participation of females in technological higher education programmes.

Prof Patricia Maguire

Professor of Biochemistry at University College Dublin (UCD) and Director of the UCD Institute for Discovery

Professor Patricia Maguire is a biomedical scientist focused on the important cargo that platelets sequester, store and release upon activation. Her current work is in translational diagnostics research, developing a novel non-invasive blood-based diagnostics platform PALADIN (PlAteLetbAsed DIagNostics) that harnesses the power of circulating platelets combined with AI to uncover secrets of health and disease.

She is Professor of Biochemistry at University College Dublin (UCD), Ireland and Director of the UCD Institute for Discovery, a major transdisciplinary research institute within this university, which cultivates interdisciplinary connections aligned to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. She is also Scientific Director the UCD Conway SPHERE research group and author on over 60 peer-reviewed publications in journals, including Nature Communications and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.