National University of Ireland, Galway (Ireland) University of Galway Investigator awarded European Research Council Starting Grant
Dr Andrew Daly, Assistant Professor in Biomedical Engineering and CÚRAM Funded Investigator, will develop new bioinks for organ bioprinting
University of Galway Investigator Dr Andrew Daly has today been named a recipient of a European Research Council Starting Grant Award of €1.49m.
morphoPRINT will focus on creating dynamic bioinks that can program morphogenetic behaviours in bioprinted organs to enhance their physiological relevance.
Three-dimensional bioprinting, where bioprinters are used to position cells into organ-shaped constructs, holds great promise for tissue and organ engineering. Although remarkable progress has been made in recent years, it remains challenging to bioprint organs with suitable functionality for implantation. For example, in the case of the heart, bioprinted heart cells (termed cardiomyocytes) do not beat with sufficient intensity or force to pump blood around the body. This is largely because bioprinted cardiomyocytes, now typically derived from induced pluripotent stem cells, are immature, with properties more similar to juvenile rather than adult cardiomyocytes.
In the body, as our heart develops, cardiomyocytes are exposed to mechanical and electrical stimuli that ‘train’ and ‘shape’ the cells into a more mature form. Integrating these behaviours into bioprinted organs that initially exist outside of the body has been challenging.
Dr Daly explains: “The morphoPRINT project will develop a new range of programmable bioinks that will allow us to ‘sculpt’ heart cell maturation using mechanical stimuli. I am delighted to accept this funding award which will enable our lab to develop cutting edge technology that brings us closer to the reality of bioprinted organ replacements.”
Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM, said: “This European Research Council Starting Grant Award is an exciting opportunity for Dr Daly and speaks to the calibre of his research career to date. I welcome the opportunity for Dr Daly to continue to develop this ground breaking and promising research and the impact it will have to enhance and grow his professional reputation and profile.”
Dr Andrew Daly was awarded a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Trinity College Dublin in 2018, where he developed bioprinted implants for cartilage and bone regeneration. For this work, he was awarded the Engineer’s Ireland Biomedical Engineering Research Medal. Following this, he moved to the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania for his postdoctoral training. In 2020, he was awarded an American Heart Association Postdoctoral Fellowship to develop bioprinted cardiac disease models for screening of miRNA therapeutics. In January 2021, he started his research group at the University of Galway.
To date, his work has been published in the top journals in the field, including Nature Communications, Nature Reviews Materials, Cell, Biomaterials, Advanced Science, Acta Biomaterialia, Advanced Healthcare Materials, and Biofabrication.
Dr Daly is one of 408 researchers to have won this year’s European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grants. The funding is worth in total €636 million and is part of the Horizon Europe programme. It will help excellent younger scientists, who have 2 to 7 years’ experience after their PhDs, to launch their own projects, form their teams and pursue their most promising ideas.
Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said: “We are proud to empower younger researchers to follow their curiosity. These new ERC laureates bring a remarkable wealth of scientific ideas, they will further our knowledge and some already have practical applications in sight. I wish them all the best of luck with their explorations.”
President of the European Research Council Professor Maria Leptin said: “It is a pleasure to see this new group of bright minds at the start of their careers, set to take their research to new heights. I cannot emphasize enough that Europe as a whole – both at national and at EU level – has to continue to back and empower its promising talent. We must encourage young researchers who are led by sheer curiosity to go after their most ambitious scientific ideas. Investing in them and their frontier research is investing in our future.”
The grants will be invested in scientific projects spanning all disciplines of research from engineering to life sciences to humanities.