denis sheilds

Originally from south Dublin, Denis lives in Churchtown with his partner Sally. His children have flown the coop so one nice thing about lockdown was when they came back to stay for a longer stretch. His garden is full of wildlife, with birds and foxes coming and going, and regular visits from a neighbouring cat. Denis sings with a choir, Laetare Vocal Ensemble. Denis’s bucket list includes writing a humorous novel for kids, growing fruit and vegetables on a small bit of land, traveling around Indonesia, and generally chilling out.

Denis is a Full Professor of Clinical Bioinformatics in UCD School of Medicine, a Fellow of UCD Conway Institute, and Head of Elixir Ireland, a bioinformatics collaborative network across Europe. His research uses computers to better understand the vast amount of data produced during laboratory experiments. 

Although vaccines offer protection against Covid-19, there is still a need for drugs to treat some people who become very sick from this disease. Fuzeon is a drug that is used in HIV treatment. It was made to be shaped like part of the HIV virus, so that it could attach itself to our cells, and block the HIV virus from getting in. Denis would like to create a similar drug for SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind Covid-19. Using computer programmes, his team identified small structures of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that could work in a similar fashion to Fuzeon, and block SARS-CoV-2 from spreading throughout the body. They then recreated these small structures in the lab and have found that some of them do indeed slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2 among cells in a lab dish. Denis is keen to pursue this research further in order to find a treatment for Covid-19.

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