World-leading academic joins UCC to lead €3.7m research programme

World-leading academic joins UCC to lead €3.7m research programme

Professor Jens Walter at University College Corks’ APC Microbiome Ireland has been awarded a prestigious Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Research Professorship to investigate the impact of a modern lifestyle on the gut microbiome and its relationship to increased incidence of chronic diseases. Picture: Clare Keogh.

A world-leading academic professor is set to join UCC from the University of Alberta in Canada in leading a €3.7 million research programme.

Professor Jens Walter will lead the research programme at APC Microbiome Ireland (APC) through a prestigious Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Research Professorship award announced on Tuesday.

His research will investigate the impact of a modern lifestyle on the gut microbiome and its relationship to increased chronic diseases, with research already showing that modern diets and medical practices may play a role in diseases such as obesity, multiple sclerosis and allergies by disrupting our microbiome.

Professor Walter, who was recently listed as one of the world’s most influential scientists in the recent global 2020 Highly Cited Researchers List, said the increase seen in chronic disease may be explained by how modern lifestyle has disrupted peoples’ microbiome.

“Through this funding we will explore nutritional and therapeutic strategies to restore gut microbiome metabolism and functionality to re-align it with human biology.

“We will tackle some of the central challenges in human nutrition and medicine, offering tremendous potential to improve human health through the prevention of chronic disease,” he said.

Professor Walter is the third successful SFI Research Professor appointment at UCC.

Speaking about Professor Walter’s appointment, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, Professor Mark Ferguson, said that it represents “a significant investment by Science Foundation Ireland to further strengthen Ireland’s research reputation”.

“Understanding the role of the gut microbiome in chronic diseases is of profound scientific interest and clinical significance. Recruiting world-class research leaders of this calibre is a priority for the Irish government. I am delighted to extend a very warm welcome to Professor Jens Walter, whose funding award will also support a further nine research positions, as well as fostering partnerships with both national and global institutions,” he said.

Vice-President for Research and Innovation at UCC, Professor Anita Maguire, said that the university is “delighted” to welcome Professor Walter to Cork and anticipates “exciting outcomes from this programme of research”.

“This SFI Research Professor award provides an exciting opportunity for Prof Jens Walter to drive an ambitious research programme in microbiome science within APC in University College Cork, complementing and expanding the world leading research underway within APC,” she said.

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