Dr Lee Coffey started out his research path as an undergraduate student at WIT; the work he and his team does may lead to cheaper therapeutic drugs
Dr Lee Coffey is a lecturer in Microbiology with Biopharmaceutical Science, Department of Science and also Pharmaceutical Biotechnology and Research Centre. Here he tells about his experience as a researcher.
Hometown I grew up in Waterford City (Fitzgerald Road, Cork Road estate (right next to Kingsmeadow). I’m now living in Kilmacow, about 10km from the city centre.
Funding I’m currently supervising researchers funded by WIT PhD scholarships, Science without Borders/CAPES and Enterprise Ireland.
I am working on The research group that I lead has been active for some years in the area of molecular biotechnology and biocatalysis towards discovering biological solutions to the production of biopharmaceuticals. We have published our research, filed patent applications in this space and secured a biocatalysis technology license deal with a global pharmaceutical company. We have developed a novel biocatalytic system (a rapid process that can enhance biopharmaceutical production) which we now hope to commercialize.
In layman’s terms Enzymes have been employed for many years to catalyse the production of fine chemicals and pharmaceuticals. The challenge is how to harness the power of naturally occurring enzymes to effect chemical reactions that are entirely unnatural. We have used molecular biology techniques to rapidly screen and engineer bacteria derived from soil to produce enzymes that are able to catalyse these reactions - biological solutions to the production of biopharmaceutical drugs.
Career path I did my degree and PhD in WIT and was fortunate to be offered research and lecturing positions here.
My research day For me, research is some reading and planning, and then mainly hands-on molecular biology work in the lab.
Why WIT I was born and raised here, went to WIT and found that the lecturers teaching here at the time were dedicated and made the learning experience personalised. When I fell in love with biology-based research I wanted to help people understand all of the potential in biological applications and to learn all of the things I find interesting (and that I think they will find interesting and also need to understand to hit the scientist workforce), so am delighted to be able to stay here and teach the younger people coming in (about biology and how to do research) like I had been taught.
I #LoveIrishResearch because Research is never mundane - the work you do with your hands might be repetitive on occasion but the purpose is to discover something new or answer a question not yet ever answered.
Now and then Before doing the Degree course here (or even the Leaving Cert) I was always fascinated by Biology, (being an identical twin probably spurred that) loving the notion of DNA/genes as the code for life and the diversity of life on the planet. During the degree course at an early stage I hoped and saw myself as working in a lab doing Biology of any sort and I assumed it would be in industry. Only at later stage in the Degree did I see the excitement in doing research, trying to solve Biology problems and discover new things.
A world of research I have made research visits to and worked in labs in the University of Northumbria, UK and also the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, South Africa.
Making a difference As we are focused on discovering biological solutions to the production of biopharmaceuticals, our work may lead to the production of new therapeutic drugs or at least the cheaper and more efficient production of existing therapeutics – this should see more therapeutics available and hopefully cheaper.
Connect with me
WIT staff profile https://www.wit.ie/about_wit/contact_us/staff_directory/lee_coffey
In light of the Nation’s centenary this year, the Irish Research Council is running the #LoveIrishResearch campaign to celebrate insights into our past and new ideas and innovations for the future. Researchers in Ireland are acknowledged worldwide for their contemporary and historic accomplishments – Robert Boyle, George Boole and Kathleen Lonsdale among them. WIT is fully embracing the campaign with a range of events and highlights to help promote it. Each month, WIT News will be spotlighting one of the Institute’s researchers to demonstrate the breadth and diversity of research at WIT. These snapshots serve as a reminder to all that careers in research are not limited to the select few, but can be accessed by anybody with an interest in discovery.