Top Immunologist Wins Boyle Medal

Luke O'Neill

Wednesday, October 7 – Luke O’Neill, Professor of Biochemistry, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, has won the prestigious RDS Irish Times Boyle Medal for Scientific Excellence for his pioneering work on the molecular understanding of innate immunity and inflammatory diseases such asrheumatoid arthritis.

Inaugurated in 1899, the Boyle Medal continues to recognise scientific research of exceptional merit and since its inception has been awarded to 37 distinguished scientists, including George Johnstone Stoney (1899), John Joly (1911), Patrick Cunningham (1996) and Garret A. FitzGerald (2005). In 1999 the awarding of the Boyle Medal became a joint venture between the Royal Dublin Society and The Irish Times. It is now awarded biennially – alternating between a scientist based in Ireland and an Irish scientist based abroad. This year’s award celebrates the work of a researcher working in Ireland and carries with it a cash prize of €20,000.

Professor O’Neill’s distinguished work has focused on “Toll-like receptors”, a family of proteins which respond to infection and trigger inflammation and are required to eliminate invading microbes. He has gained worldwide recognition for his contribution to this field of research and is therefore a very worthy Boyle Medal Laureate.

Upon hearing the news that he had won, Professor O’Neill said “I am extremely honoured to have my research recognised in this way. The Boyle Medal is an award of international importance and I am truly delighted”.

The 2009 Boyle Medal International Judging Panel was unanimous in its decision to award the Medal to Professor O’Neill, who along with three other world-class scientists was short-listed back in May. The members of the 2009 International Judging Panel included Professor Enric Banda (Chair, Spain), Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz (UK), University Professor Dr Günther Bonn (Austria), Professor Dorothy Guy-Ohlson (Sweden), Professor Peter Jeavons (UK) Professor Dervilla Donnelly (Ireland) and Professor Sir John Savill (UK).

Speaking following their deliberations, the judges said that “In Luke O’Neill you have an individual who has made a significant contribution to international research into the immune system.” They praised his involvement in both education and industry and also for his participation in international research meetings. “Luke is a fantastic ambassador for Irish science,” the judges said.

Professor O’Neill will be conferred with his Medal and give a public lecture at the RDS on Monday, November 16 at 7.00 pm. The lecture is free of charge and open to the general public.

The RDS, founded in 1731, continues to fulfill its commitment to advancing agriculture, arts, industry and science. The awarding of the Boyle Medal for Scientific Excellence is an integral part of the RDS Foundation’s Science programme which aims to support excellence in scientific endeavour and communication, to emphasise the importance of science and technology in economic and social development and to encourage people to see science as provoking, challenging and fun.


For further information, please contact:
JP Montgomery,  Marketing Department, RDS   01 240 7222