News Archive 2022

UCC Society of Translational Medicine hosts Narrowing the Void - A first Hybrid Conference for UCC

15 Feb 2022
Professor Fergal O Brien, Dr Mark O Sullivan, Mr Sean O'Flaherty, Dr Jane English and Professor Aideen Sullivan

The UCC Society of Translational Medicine hosted their annual ‘Narrowing the Void’ Conference on Thursday January 27th 2022 as a Hybrid conference – in person in the Devere Hall, UCC, and simultaneously streamed live online via Whova™ conferencing software. This was the first Hybrid conference to be held in UCC!

Translational medicine is the process of bringing laboratory discoveries into practical use in a clinical setting. At the ‘Narrowing the Void’ conference, leading industry and academic medical researchers, professionals and innovators were invited to share their expertise, knowledge and experiences, with the objectives of showcasing both the individuals and new emerging therapeutics that are changing the face of healthcare.

The conference took the format of two panel discussion sessions: Session 1: Advances in Medical Technology and Session 2: The Future of Personalised Medicine, as well as a Keynote speech by Professor Walter Kolch, Director of Systems Biology Ireland and Precision Oncology. Topics relevant to developments in the world of Translational Medicine and the realities of life in the world of research were extensively discussed and debated by the invitees, medical and health sciences students and attendees. Q&A features on the conferencing software allowed the direction of the discussions to be driven by the insights which local and online attendees wished to explore.

Professor Aideen Sullivan                                                                                  Photograph Clare Keogh

The Translational Medicine Society committee were honoured to have Professor Aideen Sullivan, Director of the UCC Medical and Health Sciences BSc degree programme, contribute to the event. Professor Sullivan’s innovative approach to advancing the field of neurotrophic factor therapy for Parkinson’s disease served as a fascinating topic of discussion on the day. As a society founded, and largely dominated by BSc Medical and Health Sciences students, Professor Sullivan’s guidance and continued support to her students has been paramount in their drive to bring this conference into fruition.

Professor Sullivan speaking about the success of the student-led conference commented; 

As Academic Director of the BSc in Medical and Health Sciences here in UCC, I am immensely proud of our students in the Society of Translational Medicine who have organised this conference.  

Translational medicine, that is, research aimed at taking laboratory discoveries through to clinical applications, is at the core of our research-led BSc programme in Medical and Health Sciences. Our students study translational medicine as a major theme running through the four years of the degree.

It is fantastic to see their enthusiasm for this topic, in the many events and activities organised by this dynamic student-led Society.

Ms Emma O’Donovan opening the conference, Ms Ava O’Flynn chairing Panel Session 1 with panel members attending onscreen

Opening the conference, Ms Emma O’Donovan, Conference Director, and third year BSc Medical and Health Sciences student, welcomed in-person and remote attendees and spoke about the importance of translational medicine in advancing human health.

The first session ‘Advances in Medical Technology’ included panel members: Dr Siobhan Kelleher, CEO Sision Medical and Principal Investigator National University of Ireland Galway; Dr Andrew Cameron, Founder and CEO FeelTect; Mr Gavin Andrews, Co-Founder Syntropy and Managing Director HeartMath UK; Mr Stefan McDonald, Chief Growth Officer Diaceutics PLC and Mr David van Zuydam, CEO Head Diagnostics. All panelists offered fascinating insights into the technology and business side of medicine through discussions on the future of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning in healthcare, pathways to the medical technology field, and the importance of open communication with the public in the research process. The discussion was moderated from the stage at the venue by Ms Ava O’Flynn, a fourth year BSc Medical and Health Sciences student and UCC Society of Translational Medicine Co-founder, with panel members contributing remotely via live stream which was projected simultaneously onto the main screen in Devere Hall.

Professor Walter Kolch delivering the Keynote speech

This session was followed by the central event of the conference the keynote speech by Professor Walter Kolch, Director of Systems Biology Ireland and Precision Oncology.  In his presentation entitled ‘Digital Twins for precision stratification and treatment of neuroblastoma’, Professor Kolch enthralled the audience with insights into the advances that he and his team are making in personalising cancer diagnosis and treatment. Professor Kolch is ranked No 2 in world in precision oncology by citations. His current research interest focuses on understanding molecular mechanisms of malignant transformation, network mediated drug resistance in cancer, and the construction of Digital Twins for personalized cancer diagnosis and therapy.

Photo top left to right Ms Chelsey Minehane Conference chair person and Mr Sean O'Flaherty Conference Co-organiser speaking at the conference 

The afternoon panel session The Future of Personalised Medicine was a very interesting and enlightening discussion. Topics such as the realities of life in the world of research, and academic and research career paths were also explored with panel members: Dr Jane English, Principal Investigator INFANT Research Centre, University College Cork; Professor Fergal O’Brien, Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation, Royal College of Surgeons Ireland; Dr Mark O’Sullivan, Postdoctoral Researcher INFANT Research Centre, University College Cork; and Professor Aideen Sullivan, Head of Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience, Director of the Medical and Health Science BSc Degree and Principal Investigator, University College Cork.  This panel discussion moderated by Sean O’Flaherty, Conference Co-organiser and a third year BSc Medical and Health Sciences student, saw all panel members on stage in Devere Hall with online contributions from remote attendees.

UCC Society of Translational Medicine Chairperson Ms Chelsey Minehane closed the conference, thanking all attendees and panel contributors and the especially the keynote speaker Professor Walter Kolch.


UCC Society of Translational Medicine Committee 2022

L-R Back: Maedbh Heaney, Emma Walsh, Emma O’Donovan, Ciara O’Kane, Paddy O’Brien 

Front: Brian Curtin, Caoimhe Foster, Ellena O’Keeffe, Chelsey Minehane, Sacha Moore, Sean O Flaherty, Ava OFlynn. Missing: Caoimhe Reid, Eden GelgootMark Vesey, Mollie Garvan.

The UCC Society of Translational Medicine was set up in 2020 by students of the new Medical and Health Sciences BSc degree programme in UCC. It is an exciting student-led opportunity focused on encouraging students to actualise their potential in creating change in the world of human health through translational medicine, with a principal objective of sparking interest and supporting the next generation of students in bridging the gap between medical science and clinical needs. 

To achieve this objective, the Society of Translational Medicine operates various initiatives including Reading Research Workshops, Translational Medicine (TM)Talks on topics ranging from meditation to the gut microbiome. There is also a weekly ‘Narrowing the Void’ podcast hosted by society Education Officers, Brian Curtin and Mark Vesey, which invites a range of people working at the heart of translational medicine to discuss their insights and share their wisdom.

The ‘Narrowing the Void’ conference serves as the society’s flagship event and this is the second conference hosted by the society. The very successful inaugural conference in 2021 heard 16 international speakers including Dr Dan Barouch of Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical, Professor Luke O' Neill of Trinity College Dublin and Dr Robert O’ Connor, Irish Cancer Society, present their work. The conference was held online due to Covid-19 restrictions and attracted over 500 attendees.

Running UCC’s first hybrid conference would not have been possible without the support and guidance of the staff of UCC Audio Visual Media Services, Conference UCC, Student Centre and Societies Office UCC. The society would also like to thank the British Pharmacological Society for sponsoring the event.

Photographs by Alana Daly Mulligan

Conference programme and speaker profile links: 

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News item B. Riedewald

Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience

Anatamaíocht agus Néareolaíocht

Room 2.33, 2nd Floor, Western Gateway Building, University College, Cork, Ireland