The Howard Foundation in the UK and Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) have recently signed an agreement worth €750,000, establishing Prof John Nolan, Principal Investigator of the Macular Pigment Research Group (MPRG) as the Howard Chair in Human Nutrition. Dr Alan Howard, Chair of the board of the Howard Foundation commented, “We have worked with the MPRG for over six years, and have been impressed by the novelty and importance of their research involving macular carotenoids, and particularly the lead shown by their Chief Investigator, Prof John Nolan. We wish to ensure that this work continues on a permanent basis and that WIT continues to develop as a leading scientific and academic centre in the South East of Ireland.” Professor John Nolan, Principal Investigator of the MPRG and Howard Chair recipient said “I am honoured to be supported by theHoward Foundation as a Howard Chair in Human Nutrition Research. Dr Alan Howard has himself achieved so much in science, and has been a fantastic mentor for me. “This Chair empowers me to continue working in the area of nutrition for human health and will allow me to continue to conduct research with my specialised team at the very highest level. We have a lot of exciting projects planned for the future, and securing the Howard Chair is essential to realising these projects. I look forward to representing the MPRG, WIT and the Howard Foundation in this unique position”. According to Dr Ruaidhrí Neavyn, President of WIT, “The establishment of the Howard Chair is a very important development for WIT, and particularly for its research community. This Chair strengthens further the very fruitful relationship in place between WIT and the Howard Foundation in Cambridge and clearly reflects on the positive research achievements to date in this important area of research.” As part of the agreement, the Foundation is also funding a two year Howard Fellowship for Dr. Alfonso Prado-Cabrero who will study the origins of the nutrients in the human eye which make up the protective eye pigments, which are known the macular carotenoids.The MPRG, led by Prof Nolan, is based at the Vision Research Centre, Carriganore House at WIT’s West Campus and studies the role of nutrition for human health. To date, Professor Nolan has secured over €5 million in research funding, including a €1.5 million grant from the prestigious European Research Council (ERC), in support of these studies and he is currently managing several projects in the area of human nutrition.
The research group has contributed greatly to ways to prevent blindness and enhance visual performance for the general population. While they continue to study and publish data on the link between nutrition and eye health, their work has now evolved to study the link between human nutrition and brain health and function. Prof Nolan has successfully supervised 11 students to MSc, PhD and MD level, and is currently supervising six PhD candidates as part of ongoing projects at the MPRG. He has presented at over 70 international scientific conferences and has published over 70 peer-reviewed scientific papers on his area of research (1731 citations, H index 25). Prof Nolan is also Chair of the international Macular Carotenoids Conference, which is held at Downing College, Cambridge University, UK. www.macularcarotenoids.org.