Speaker Profile: Professor Richard O'Kennedy

27 February 2016 By Richard Myhill

We spoke to LIYSF President, Professor Richard O'Kennedy, who's currently a Professor and Scientific Director at Dublin City University, Ireland.

Where are you from and what do you do?

Professor of Biological Sciences and Scientific Director of the Biomedical Diagnostics Institute, Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland.

When did you realise that science research / your specialty of research was what you wanted to do?

I was interested in science from a very early stage and this was nurtured by excellent teachers at school. Represented Ireland at the I4th London International Youth Science Forum in 1972 and subsequently was a staff member, Host, Lecturer, Advisor and currently President of the Science Forum. This really excited me about science and its global significance and the importance of linking scientists internationally. Was a founding member of CONTACT in Ireland focused on increasing interactions between people from all backgrounds. Was also a founder of the Irish Science and Arts Week based, to a large degree, on the Science Forum.

My current research interests are in diagnostics based on the use of antibodies. These are applied in diseases ( e.g. cancers – colorectal, prostate, ovarian and pancreatic; cardiovascular disease), environmental monitoring, food safety and drug detection. This offers a very powerful way of detecting any target e.g. a disease marker or a food or environmental contaminant.

How is your research helping society and the broader science remit / agenda?

My research is focused on developing diagnostics that can allow early detection of diseases.

Tests developed have been commercialized and are being used to improve health; technologies have been patented and licenced by companies; am directly involved in helping company development and in start-up companies and spin-outs. Have graduated 63 Ph.Ds, and mentored hundreds of Post-doctoral Fellows, Masters students and undergraduates.

What are you most excited about, in terms of your scientific research and why?

The capacity of developing highly specific tests that can detect disease at a very early stage thus greatly improving health outcomes. This is being achieved in colorectal and prostate cancer, in inflammation and cardiovascular disease. It is also very exciting to be able to detect food or environmental contaminants before they can cause diseases such as cancers.

What is the biggest challenge of your research?

Funding is an ongoing issue as it limits our ability to get the requisite results really quickly.

Where do you see your sector of science in 2020, in terms of scientific developments and advances?

A massive improvement in our ability to detect major diseases at a very early stage resulting in much better outcomes, better and more efficient healthcare and greatly improved lifestyles for everyone especially those in less ‘well-off’ countries. Far better methods for detecting contaminants in food thus preventing infections and health problems;

Exciting new ways for detecting many environmental contaminants very effectively.


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