ICO/Novartis Eye Research Bursary 2019-20 Recipients Announced at ICO Winter Meeting

The Irish College of Ophthalmologists (ICO) is delighted to announce that Dr. Emily Greenan, PhD and Clinical Tutor in Ophthalmology at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and Dr. Aisling Naylor, Research Fellow at Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital, have been named joint recipients of the ICO/Novartis Eye Research Bursary 2019.

The announcement was made at the ICO Winter Meeting which took place on Friday, November 29th in the Chartered Accountants House, Dublin.   The annual ICO/Novartis research bursary is an unrestricted educational grant awarded to a doctor who wishes to undertake a research project or specific training in the field of ophthalmology. 

Dr. Emily Greenan's project is aimed at establishing a two and three-dimensional model of inflammatory dry eye disease to test novel therapeutics using primary human conjunctival epithelial cells.  Dr. Greenan was the recipient of the Bursary in 2018/19 for her research in the area of targeting ocular inflammation in dry eye disease with novel microRNA-based therapeutics.

The research is being carried out between the facilities at the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, under the supervision of Prof. Conor Murphy, Professor of Ophthalmology, RVEEH and Dr. Joan Ní Gabhann-Dromgoole, Lecturer in Ophthalmology and Immunology, RCSI.

The project forms the basis of Dr. Greenan’s PhD thesis to demonstrate that modulation of the microRNA profile can reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines and restore homeostasis to the ocular surface in a variety of dry eye disease disorders beyond primary Sjogren’s syndrome, which has been the focus of the research to date.

Explaining the rationale of the study and the significance of the being awarded funding for her project, Dr. Emily Greenan said,

“The funding support from the ICO/Novartis Bursary has been instrumental in supporting our focus which is to address the unmet needs in dry eye disease, and specifically to identify novel biomarkers and develop diagnostics.  I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank the ICO and Novartis for their continued support in our exploration of a range of common and rare conditions in which inflammation plays a key role in the development of dry eye disease.”

Dr. Aisling Naylor, joint recipient of the ICO/Novartis Bursary for 2019-20, is undertaking the Irish Retinal Circadian Project entitled “Circadian regulation of the retinal vasculature: A paradigm for geographic atrophy development”.  The study is investigating Dry Age-related Macular Degeneration, one of the leading causes of vision loss in Ireland. 

Dr. Naylor’s research is being carried out between the facilities of the Neurovascular Genetics Laboratory, Smurfit Institute, Trinity College Dublin, the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital and Progressive Vision in Beacon Court, under the supervision of Mr. Mark Cahill, Consultant Vitreoretinal Surgeon, Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital.

Dr. Naylor will be central to the continuation of an on-going clinical research project which has identified that the inner blood retina barrier (iBRB) is highly dynamic and may play an early role in AMD pathobiology.  Specifically related to Dr Naylor’s project is the goal to now assess circadian iBRB regulation in patients with dry age-related macular denegation (AMD) and age-matched controls. 

Commenting on her award, Dr. Naylor said,

“I am delighted to be co-recipient of funding for this year’s ICO/Novartis Eye Research Bursary Award which will enable the continuation of this important clinical research into AMD, the leading cause of central retinal vision loss worldwide.  In gaining an understanding of circadian regulation of the iBRB in a clinical setting in human subjects, our goal is to be positioned to make profound conclusions on its role in AMD pathophysiology, aiding our understanding of GA pathophysiology and potentially, in the future, development of therapeutic strategies to treat the condition

Speaking at the announcement of the Bursary winners at the ICO Winter Winter, President of the College Dr. Patricia Quinlan said,

“We are delighted to congratulate both Dr Greenan and Dr. Naylor on their respective winning research projects. The ICO Winter Meeting is a fitting occasion in providing a platform to acknowledge the significant pioneering research being undertaken in the area of ophthalmology in Ireland.  The ICO thank Novartis for their continued support.  We look forward to hearing updates from Dr Greenan and Dr. Naylor on their exciting research work at ICO Annual Conference in May 2020.”

Dr. Bishember Kathuria, Chief Scientific Officer, Novartis Ireland Ltd said, 

Novartis strongly believes that no one should have to wait for access to better health. In living our mission, we are proud to partner with the Irish College of Ophthalmologists (ICO) to fund this bursary that supports research and education in ophthalmology in Ireland. As in previous years, this year’s entries were again of a very high calibre. I would like to congratulate Dr. Emily Greenan and Dr. Aisling Naylor on winning the 2019 ICO/Novartis Bursary and wish them well in their future careers.”



Ciara Keenan, Communications Manager, Irish College of Ophthalmologists

Tel:  086 369 4427 / 01 402 2777

E: ciara.keenan@eyedoctors.ie 


5th December 2019