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World-leading academic to head €3.7 million SFI chronic disease programme at UCC

1 Dec 2020
“Modern lifestyle has disrupted our microbiome, which might explain the increase in chronic diseases”


World-leading academic Professor Jens Walter will lead a €3.7 million research programme at APC Microbiome Ireland (APC) through a prestigious Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Research Professorship award announced today.

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

Restoring our gut microbiome to resemble that of our ancestors

The gut microbiome (community of microbes, bacteria, fungi and viruses, which colonise our digestive tracts) is central to human health and the prevention of chronic diseases. Through this SFI funding, Professor Walter will establish a team of Irish and international collaborators from his research base at APC, to determine whether chronic diseases can be prevented through a restoration of the gut microbiome resembling that of our ancestors.

“Modern lifestyle has disrupted our microbiome, which might explain the increase in chronic disease. 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” commented Professor Walter who joins UCC from the University of Alberta in Canada. Professor Walter was recently listed as one of the world’s most influential scientists in the recent global 2020 Highly Cited Researchers List.

Attracting outstanding research talent to Ireland

The SFI Research Professorship programme was established to attract outstanding research talent to Ireland and to enhance the country’s reputation as a location to conduct high-impact and high-quality research. Professor Walter is the third successful SFI Research Professor appointment at UCC.

Prof Walter is a graduate of the University of Hohenheim in Germany. Prior to his tenure in Alberta, he worked at the University of Nebraska, USA, the University of Otago, New Zealand and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA.

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, welcomed the appointment, saying: “The appointment of Professor Jens Walter 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.”

Professor Anita Maguire, Vice-President for Research and Innovation at UCC commented “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. We are delighted to welcome Jens to Cork and anticipate exciting outcomes from this programme of research.”

APC Microbiome Ireland is a leading SFI Research Centre based in University College Cork and Teagasc Food Research Centre and NUI Galway and is the largest and oldest microbiome research institute in the world.

University College Cork

Coláiste na hOllscoile Corcaigh

College Road, Cork T12 K8AF

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