A leading Irish scientist has been praised for attempting to recover lost memories as part of an ambitious project that has been described as a “sci-fi novel”.
An event at Trinity College Dublin celebrated Dr. Tomás Ryan, who was awarded the prestigious £250,000 (€287,000) Lister Institute Research Prize in 2020, but the award ceremony was postponed by two years due to the pandemic.
The science award is unique in that it does not impose any conditions or goals on its awardees. dr Ryan said this means the institute is really encouraging innovation and “blue sky research” where real-world applications might not be immediately obvious.
dr Ryan’s lab in Trinity’s biomedical science building is researching if and how it might be possible to regain memories lost before the age of three, also known as infantile amnesia. If successful, the research could bring important advances in the study of dementia and autism.
The project was described by the institute as evidence of “truly remarkable things that can be achieved through science”.
“I’m really over the moon with the sheer quality and sheer precocity of Tomás’s science,” said Alex Markham, Chair of the Lister Institute, adding that it was one of the most exciting projects the Institute has been committed to.
The Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine is recognized as one of the cornerstones of medical research in the UK and Ireland.
dr Ryan is the first Irish scholar at an Irish university to receive this award. This is despite the fact that the Lister Institute arguably owes its very existence to a famous Irish family with an unlikely connection to science.
A significant donation from the Guinness family in the late 19th century enabled the newly formed Lister Institute to fund its building, staff and initial research grants.
Edward Cecil Guinness, once the richest man in Ireland, owned the Guinness brewery at the time the Lister Institute was founded.
One morning in 1896, a rabid dog bit Jim Jackson, one of the Guinness stablehands on the family estate in Suffolk. Guinness was frustrated that Jackson had to travel as far as Paris for a rabies vaccine as there was no treatment on the islands of Ireland or Britain.
The Guinness Empire was already interested in science and was the first brewery in the world to hire a chemist. In 1896, Guinness had hired a scientist at an experimental brewery, sparked by family fears of protecting and perfecting the formula for its now strong beer. Around the same time, Guinness also bought its first microscope.
Guinness had already donated to a Lister Institute appeal, but shocked at not having access to a rabies vaccine, in 1898 he sent a check from his personal fortune to the Lister Institute for the current equivalent of €35 million, which helped to get the young project off the ground.
The only condition attached to the donation was that a member of the Guinness family would have a seat on the Lister board. Rory Guinness, the fifth in the Guinness generation to hold the position, said he believes his family’s investment in the Lister Institute was “one of the most inspirational acts of corporate social responsibility unparalleled in the 19th century.” something had been heard”.
The Lister Institute, which has produced a number of Nobel Prize-winning scientists, has a long history of innovative biomedical developments. Its scientists helped develop new ways to treat tetanus and gangrene in World War I soldiers, and it led the way in research into safe blood transfusions.
It conducted pioneering immunological research, and the institute’s pioneering development of the smallpox vaccine directly led to the near-worldwide eradication of the disease. His fellowship program, established in 1982, contributed to the discovery of DNA fingerprinting – a development that dramatically changed forensics for the better.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/like-a-science-fiction-novel-irish-scientist-praised-for-project-on-restoring-lost-memories-41602207.html ‘Like a sci-fi novel’ – Irish scientist honored for project to restore lost memories