Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

RCSI Professor receives prestigious national award from France

15 December 2006

The prestigious award was given by decree from President Jacques Chirac and was presented by His Excellency Monsieur Frederic Grasset, French Ambassador to Ireland. It was awarded in recognition of Professor Harvey's work in promoting scientific collaboration between France and Ireland over the past 25 years.

Pictured from L to R are Mr. Michael Horgan, CEO of RCSI; Professor Brian Harvey, Professor of Molecular Medicine and Director of Research, RCSI and His Excellency Frédéric Grasset, French Ambassador to Ireland.

Brian Harvey, Professor of Molecular Medicine and Director of Research at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) was presented with the award of "Chevalier de l'Ordre National du Merite", or "Knight of the Order of Merit" from the French Government today.

Since joining RCSI in 2002, Professor Harvey has maintained a close relationship with France, which he established during his twelve years working in the country.

There are currently a number of young French PhD students and post-doctoral fellows training in his laboratories in Beaumont and recently, his research group in RCSI has developed close collaborative links with the CNRS (National Council for Scientific Research) endocrinology research institute at Montpellier led by Professor Patrice Mollard and the INSERM laboratory of Dr. Valerie Urbach. Their research on steroids in human lung with the Montpellier INSERM laboratory was rewarded last year by the Servier Ireland Fund of France award.

His Excellency Frédéric Grasset, French Ambassador to Ireland presents Professor Brian Harvey, Professor of Molecular Medicine and Director of Research at RCSI with the award of "Chevalier de l'Ordre National du Merité".

During his years spent in France, Professor Harvey attended the University of Nice in 1981 and held a post with the Atomic Energy Commission or Commissariat á l'Énergie Atomique (CEA), before becoming Chargé de Recherche of the CNRS and group leader in the new CEA Jean Maetz Institute in Villefranche-sur-mer in the south of France. In Villefranche, he built up a network of collaborators in France working in CNRS and INSERM (French National Institute for Health and Medical Research) labs in Montpellier, Paris, Brest and Roscoff.

Thanks to his work with fellow researchers Jordi Ehrenfeld and Federico Garcia Romeu, Professor Harvey published the first explanation for the cellular mechanisms of electrical coupling between proton pumping and sodium absorption. The group was at the forefront internationally in the area of epithelial ion transport and in collaboration with Randall Thomas from Paris they provided the first description of the phenomenon of "cross-talk" in epithelia.

Pictured from L to R are Professor Cathal Kelly, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, RCSI; Dr. Terry McWade, Deputy Chief Executive of RCSI and Professor Jochen H. M. Prehn, Science Foundation Ireland Research Professor, RCSI.

Professor Harvey returned to Ireland in 1993 to take up a professorship in physiology at the University College Cork (UCC) and established the Wellcome Trust Cellular Physiology Research Unit. It became home to many young French PhD students and post-docs from all over France from Bordeaux, Montpellier, Nice, Paris, Rennes, Brest and Roscoff, many of whom returned to France to become professors and directors of research.

In 1999, along with his colleagues Serge Thomas and Claude Ferec from the CNRS at Brest, Professor Harvey established a collaborative network in cystic fibrosis research between clinicians and scientists in Munster and Brittany. As well as becoming an important fund-raiser for CF research, the network also provided a valuable genetic screening resource for CF children and parents in Munster with blood samples from Cork and Limerick hospitals sent over to Claude Ferec's laboratories for genotyping.

Commenting on being presented with the award, Professor Harvey said "I am extremely honoured to receive this most prestigious award. For over 25 years, I have been collaborating with French colleagues and scientific organisations. The strength of this relationship built up over 25 years serves to act as a continuum of enhancing collaborative scientific research between both countries."