Immunology researcher Kingston Mills named as SFI Researcher of the Year

Irish research ‘continues to be impactful, inspirational and world-leading’

Kevin O’Sullivan

Environment & Science Editor

The virologist Prof Kingston Mills, who is based at Trinity College Dublin (TCD), has received the prestigious Science Foundation Ireland Researcher of the Year Award for 2020.

Prof Kingston specialises in immunology, inflammation and infection research and co-leads TCD’s Covid-19 research hub.


He heads a research team focusing on T cells in infection, and has published more 300 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters that have been cited over 31,000 times.

He is also a member of a number of international scientific advisory panels on vaccines and immunotherapeutics, including two at the World Health Organisation.

Prof Mills said: “I am absolutely delighted to receive this prestigious award... I have been committed to the fascinating field of immunology for nearly 40 years, but my research achievements would not have been possible without the financial support from SFI, the commitment and dedication of my research team and the support of colleagues, especially those at Trinity College Dublin.”

The winners were announced by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris at the annual SFI Science Summit on Thursday.

SFI director Prof Mark Ferguson commended this year's award winners for their inspiring success and dedication in an eventful and challenging year for Ireland's research community.

He paid tribute to the level of collaboration within the Irish research community which “continues to be impactful, inspirational and world-leading”.

The Early Career Researcher of the Year Award was won jointly by Dr Matthew Campbell of TCD neurovascular genetics laboratory and Dr Lorna Lopez of Maynooth University department of biology, a leading researcher on using genetic technologies to understand the genetic basis of mental illness.

The Industry Partnership Award went to Prof Fergal O'Brien of RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, AMBER SFI Research Centre and Integra LifeSciences. He specialises in bioengineering and regenerative medicine including nerve repair treatments.

UCC chair of energy engineering Prof Brian O'Gallachoir, who is also director of MaREI SFI Centre for Energy, Climate and Marine, won the Best International Engagement Award. An adviser to the International Energy Agency, he has also presented at the annual UN climate talks.

The SFI Entrepreneurship Award was awarded jointly to Prof Fergal McCaffery of Dundalk IT, founder and director of the Regulated Software Research Centre, and to Dr Anita Finnegan, chief executive and founder of Nova Leah, a world leader in the provision of cybersecurity risk management solutions for connected medical devices.

The immunologist and noted science communicator Prof Luke O’Neill of TCD school of biochemistry and immunology, who has been prominent in media coverage during the Covid-19 pandemic, won the SFI Outstanding Contribution to Stem Communication Award.

Joint winners of the SFI Mentorship Award were Prof Pat Guiry director of UCD Centre for Synthesis and Chemical Biology and Prof Patricia Maguire of UCD director of UCD Institute for Discovery.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times