Winner of ICO - Novartis Eye Research Bursary 2014 Announced

The Irish College of Ophthalmologists (ICO) is delighted to announce the recipient of the ICO Eye Research Bursary is Dr Maedbh Rhatigan, a medical graduate of Trinity College who has just completed her intern year at St. James Hospital, Dublin.   The annual bursary is supported by Novartis.

Dr Rhatigan was announced as the winner of the research award at the 6th Annual Retinal Meeting in Adare, coordinated by Miss Marie Hickey-Dwyer, President of the ICO and Eye Surgeon at the University Hospital Limerick, for her project entitled ‘Negative Regulators of Inflammation and AMD in a cohort of The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing’.   The study is being carried out under the supervision of Mr Mark Cahill, Consultant Ophthalmologist and Vitreoretinal Surgeon at the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital and Dr Sarah Doyle, Assistant Professor in Immunology at the Department of Clinical Medicine, Trinity College Dublin, and is being undertaken as part of an MSc by research in Clinical Medicine.

Explaining the project rationale, Dr Rhatigan said, “Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of central vision loss worldwide. The estimated prevalence of AMD in Ireland is 7% with an annual cost over €130 million. The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) is a unique population based study on the over 50s in Ireland with a focus on measures of vision as one research theme.   Inflammation is known to play a role in the development of AMD however the exact mechanisms remain unresolved.   In collaboration with TILDA we plan to look at levels of negative regulators or ‘off switches” of three key inflammatory mediators, elevated in the blood of people with AMD. “ 

Dr Rhatigan continued, “This study will help to further understand the role of inflammation in AMD.   It is our understanding these pathways may aid in identification of patients at increased risk of progression to more severe forms of AMD and may provide novel targets for therapeutic intervention”.

Commenting on the how the burary will aid the continuation of the project, Dr Rhatigan said, “The Novartis bursary will allow us to screen these “off swtiches”  in an unbiased manner using cutting edge technology without which we would have been more restricted in our project design.”

Speaking with Dr Rhatigan at the Adare Retinal Meeting on Thursday, 2nd October, Loretto Callaghan, Managing Director, Novartis Ireland said,

“Novartis Ireland is pleased to support such an important research bursary as part of our ongoing commitment to ophthalmology. Dr Rattigan’s research is another excellent example of Irish doctors’ dedication to finding solutions for their patients.  At Novartis Ireland, our research is driven by a clear scientific strategy where we focus on unmet medical needs. We are dedicated to helping patients in Ireland gain access to innovative treatments to help their condition.”

Speaking on the significance of the award, Miss Marie Hickey-Dwyer, President of the ICO said, “We are delighted to present Dr Rhatigan with this Eye Research Fellowship for her project on AMD. As always, the standard of appilications for this year were exceptional high and the Annual Retinal Meeting in Adare is a fitting occasion to acknowledge and support the significant research being undertaken in the area of Ophthalmology in Ireland.  On behalf of the ICO, I thank Novartis for their continued support and recognition of the important contribution this award makes in facilitating doctors to undertake a period of research or specific training in an eye care centre of excellence. “

Description: Description: Rhatigan will present an update on the research project at the Irish College of Ophthalmologists 2015 Annual Conference.



Ciara Keenan, Communications Manager, Irish College of Ophthalmologists

Tel: 01 402 2777 / 086 369 4427


3rd November 2014