Meet The Researchers: Dr. Claire Kilty

We recently met some of the researchers working in Dr. Breandán Kennedy’s lab in the Conway Institute, University College Dublin (UCD).

Dr. Claire Kilty told us about her work and why she chose to work in the area of vision research.


Name: Dr. Claire Kilty

Title: IRC Postdoctoral Researcher

Research field: Ocular Pharmacology

Tell us about a current research project you are working on.

In age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy (DR), blindness results from abnormal “leaky” blood vessels in the eye, leading to inflammation and swelling. Current VEGF-based drugs rely on monthly injections into the eye. We seek to overcome the risks and burdens associated with repeat injections by determining if novel drugs can be developed with improved efficacy and delivery. Our solution is to deliver our novel small molecule drugs encapsulated within a sustained release device to the retina.

How will this work benefit people living with sight loss? 

It is hoped that this will provide long-term continuous intravitreal delivery of our small molecule drugs, reducing the symptoms associated with AMD and DR, decreasing injection frequency, reducing the risks associated with repeat intraocular injection and, importantly, reducing patient and clinical burden.

Why did you choose a career in vision research?

I did my degree in genetics in Trinity College Dublin and I became interested in the vision research being undertaken in the genetics department. At that time great strides were being made in ocular research and I felt that, by combining both my genetics background and my interest in translational eye research, I could help make a difference within this area.

Can you describe your typical working day?

Firstly, it would involve carrying out numerous experiments to optimise novel drugs and delivery devices in the retina, followed by data analysis. Secondly, it would involve teaching, either lecturing to undergraduate students or supervising final year undergraduates or postgraduate students with lab-based projects. Finally I would have numerous administrative duties to complete such as grant writing, paper writing, reviewing the literature etc.

What are the key challenges of your role?

The key challenges have been learning how to balance all the different types of tasks involved in postdoctoral research, in addition to determining how to delegate tasks in order to maximise my productivity.

Has the recession impacted on your work?

Yes, when I was finishing my PhD there was a lot of uncertainty about research funding in Ireland. It took a lot of perseverance and grant-writing to gain the funding needed to continue my post-doctoral research here.

Whose career do you most admire (past or present) and why?

I really admire Professor Jean Bennett at the University of Pennsylvania as I think she has been involved in some ground-breaking research in the ocular field. In particular, her work on the Leber congenital amaurosis RPE65 clinical trials, which was the first study to report vision improvement in children.

What is the most valuable career advice you have been given?

That it is important to pursue a career choice that you are passionate about rather than a career motivated solely by financial gain.

What is your ultimate professional goal?

My long-term career aspiration is to take my experience in academia and the skills I have acquired during my PhD and post-doctoral research to significantly contribute to ocular drug development.