Fighting Blindness podcast interview with Dr. Joanne O'Dwyer, NUI Galway

A key priority for Fighting Blindness is to support the next generation of vision researchers. We recognise that training, networking and developing collaborations are key to the career development of early-stage career researchers and clinicians.

Our Fighting Blindness Emerging Researcher Award supports promising early-stage researchers and clinicians in exploring or developing novel, ambitious ideas, new research directions, or finishing projects with the goal of establishing their own record of independent research.

Following a competitive application process, we awarded an Emerging Researcher Award in 2022, to Dr Joanne O’Dwyer (NUI Galway) for her project ‘A novel formulation for removal of macular oedema.’ The award amount was €10,000.

We spoke to Dr. O’Dwyer and you can listen to our podcast with her below:


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We have also uploaded an mp3 version of the file for you to download directly to your device here:
Joanne O’Dwyer Fighting Blindness Interview.

About Dr. Joanne O’Dwyer:

Joanne completed her Pharmacy degree in the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. Having worked in community and hospital pharmacy, Joanne returned to RCSI to complete a PhD focusing on developing new ways to deliver protein-based therapies to the heart, for use after a heart attack.

Following this, Joanne moved to the University of Galway to work on the development of medical devices for drug and cell delivery for cancer treatment. Joanne then travelled to Boston to work in the lab of Prof. Ellen Roche at MIT, again developing medical devices for drug and cell delivery.

Joanne is currently working in the lab of Prof. Garry Duffy in the Anatomy Department of the School of Medicine at the University of Galway. Her current research interests include improving drug delivery to the retina and working with patients and the public to determine their preferences for new treatments for retinal diseases.

Joanne also has an interest in working to make sure new treatments developed for eye conditions are suitable for use in low- and middle-income countries as well as high-income countries.

You can read the full transcription of the podcast below:

1. What are the overall aims of the project you are working on, including how it could have an impact on those affected by sight loss?

This project focuses on developing better and more acceptable treatments for people with diabetic macular oedema.

Diabetes affects 460 million people worldwide. One in every 15 people with diabetes has diabetic eye disease – diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness in working-age adults worldwide. Diabetic macular oedema is one form of diabetic retinopathy where extra blood vessels form in the retina at the back of the eye. These blood vessels are not correctly formed and leak fluid into the surrounding tissue. This causes swelling in the tissue, affecting vision.

While some excellent therapies are available, these are not completely effective for all patients. This Emerging Researcher Award focuses on developing new therapies for macular oedema, with a different way of working to current treatments, to remove the risk of vision loss for all patients with diabetic macular oedema.

2. Why did you get into research and what do you most enjoy about it?

Working as a pharmacist, I was in direct contact with patients and their family members and this made me acutely aware of how frightening diagnosis of certain conditions can be. I wanted to have a tangible impact on patient care and improve the treatment of medical conditions. Having seen the positive impact pharmacists in research could have, I decided that this was a potential path to achieve my goal of improving the quality of life for people with chronic illnesses. I have been extremely lucky to work with fantastic research teams in RCSI, MIT and the University of Galway. Working with people who are motivated to have a positive impact on society is something that I love.

3. Within the next five years, where do you expect great advances to be made in vision research?

There are so many talented researchers working on vision-related research so I think that the next five years will be a really exciting time for scientific developments. I think gene therapies will have a big impact, particularly for inherited retinal conditions. I also think the way we deliver therapies to the eye will change and more sophisticated therapeutic systems will be developed. As different fields start to work together, I hope this will accelerate the development of therapies and reduce the incidence of vision loss.

4. What are your other research interests?

Having recently travelled to South Africa to understand the healthcare system in low and middle-income countries, I have an interest in developing products that are suitable for use in all healthcare settings. I also have an interest in developing medical devices for precise, site-specific delivery of therapies, particularly for the treatment of chronic diseases.

5. Emerging Researcher Award 2022 Winners Announcement

You can read here about our Emerging Researcher Award 2022 Winners Announcement.

Joanne’s Twitter account: @JoanneODwyer4.