“It’s about saving the lives of mothers and their babies: That’s why we get up every morning, that’s why this is so important.” That is how Louise Kenny reacted in 2015 when she learned that the pregnancy research centre she led had won a major international award.
No crowing, no back-slapping, no self-congratulatory tone from the then professor of obstetrics at University College Cork. Just a simple explanation of the work of the Irish Centre for Foetal and Neonatal Translation Research (Infant), based at UCC and the Cork University Maternity Hospital. It had won the award from the American Heart Association, for ground-breaking work on pre-eclampsia, a life-threatening complication of late pregnancy.
Little wonder, then, that Prof Kenny, the founding director of Infant, who is now an adjunct professor at the centre and pro-vice chancellor at the University of Liverpool, pronounced herself “deeply shocked and disappointed” at the decision by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) not to provide a new round of funding to it.
SFI claims to have given the centre a full explanation for the withdrawal of funding, but Prof Kenny disputes this, suggesting that the reason is “because the area we work in may not have been perceived as being that important”.
But what could be more important than the lives of women and children? SFI needs to think again.