A PhD student from NUI Galway has been selected as a prize winner from 1,100 submission worldwide to win the ‘Go Mini Scientific Challenge Program.’ Úna McVeigh was awarded cutting edge technology to the value of $4,500 to further support her research in the genetics of breast cancer. The announcement was made at a reception at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) annual meeting in New Orleans in Louisiana. 

The Scientific Challenge Program was launched to highlight the range of applications that can be performed using Illumina’s MiniSeq system. The MiniSeq was unveiled earlier this year and is Illumina’s smallest and simplest next-generation sequencing (NGS) system which is ideally suited for research and industrial applications in many segments including cancer, infectious diseases, inherited disease and reproductive health.


Úna is originally from Tourlestrane in Sligo. She will receive three sequencing runs on a MiniSeq system facilitated by Illumina. She will study the genetics of breast cancer in the population of the West of Ireland, specifically in women with a strong family history of the disease, to understand the role of genes other than BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 in cancer susceptibility.

Ms McVeigh’s translational research study, which leverages samples from a large biobank at NUI Galway’s department of surgery, aims to identify the frequency of genetic variants, their effects on breast cancer risk, and the clinical utility of testing for them. She hopes to be able to validate new clinically-relevant variants that are potentially applicable in broader populations.

Speaking about her research, Úna said that:

“Next-generation sequencing is an invaluable tool for identifying new cancer susceptibility genes. Despite the discovery of BRCA 1 and BRCA 2, the majority of inherited predisposition to breast cancer remains unexplained. We hope our research can begin to identify new genetic drivers of breast cancer, so that one day better patient screening can improve health outcomes for populations with a genetic predisposition to the disease.”

Michael Kerin, Professor of Surgery at NUI Galway and Research Director of Breast Cancer Research commented:

“This is a wonderful opportunity for a young researcher starting out on her PhD studies to undertake, being invited to attend one of the most important Cancer Research conferences in the world. Úna is working in the exciting area of breast cancer genomics and with support from Breast Cancer Research she is investigating a panel of genes of interest that will add to the growing knowledge around inherited breast cancer risk.”

The research was funded by Breast Cancer Research, a national charity that raises funds in support of world-class breast cancer research at NUI Galway. Commenting on the MiniSeq award, Helen Ryan, Board Chairperson of Breast Cancer Research said:

“We are delighted for Úna on winning this much sought after award for her research on the genetics of breast cancer. Innovative research like Una’s is advancing Breast Cancer Research’s vision of having a real and measurable impact on outcomes for breast cancer patients.”

Finally, Sam Raha, Vice President of Global Marketing for Illumina said:

“The diversity and creativity of the scientific challenge applications that we received is a testament to the versatility of the MiniSeq. We’re excited that MiniSeq will be used to advance scientific understanding in entomology, virology, and oncology, through the work of these researchers and look forward to seeing our other customers use the system on a myriad of applications critical to improving human health.”

For further information about the winners announced at the first Illumina MiniSeq Scientific Challenge visit the following link:


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