Skip to main content

Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin

Menu Search

Trinity College Dublin By using this website you consent to the use of cookies in accordance with the Trinity cookie policy. For more information on cookies see our cookie policy.

Profile Photo

Professor Orla Sheils

Vice Provost - Chief Academic Officer (Office of Chief Academic Officer)


Professor in Molecular Diagnostics (Histopathology)

Vice-Provost/Chief Academic Officer. Professor Sheils has a ScD and PhD in Molecular Pathology from Trinity College Dublin and a MA in Medical Law and Ethics from Kings College London. She is Professor of Molecular Diagnostics, and the underlying theme of her research is to understand the causes and molecular basis of the development of disease, with particular reference to cancer, and to apply this knowledge to improving disease prevention, detection, diagnosis, and treatment. She has a particular interest in developing novel molecular diagnostics. Translational research is the common theme throughout Prof Sheils' research, linking identification of disease processes with targets for early disease detection or classification. She works closely with industry bringing novel technologies and applications to the translational research setting. She is a leader in multidisciplinary molecular pathology, who has championed a niche area facilitating interaction between basic science, translational research, clinical service provision and biotechnology. In this regard she has built an independent, globally recognised research group focused on molecular diagnostics and identification of molecular features of disease progression. Through her research, she has uncovered pivotal mutations descriptive of several solid tumours including thyroid, cervix, ovary, colon, head & neck and lung. These discoveries form peer- reviewed publications, populate pathology textbooks and are the basis for the translation of assays that she designed to transform clinical diagnostics. In research, her commitment to translational medicine is underpinned by the singular objective of using clinical research to advance human health. The underlying theme of her research is to understand the causes and molecular basis of the development of disease, with particular reference to cancer, and to apply this knowledge to improving disease prevention, detection, diagnosis, and treatment. She has a strong track record in developing novel molecular diagnostics and translating this research into clinical service. As a teacher, Prof Sheils has embraced curricular reform and has introduced a variety of innovations into undergraduate and postgraduate teaching. Her commitment to students was recognized when she was invited to become President of the 134th session of the Biological Society of Dublin University in 2008. Her qualifications in science, medicine, law and ethics enable her to work and communicate effectively across and between a wide range of disciplines and in 2012 she was awarded as Provost's Teaching Award in recognition of her pioneering approach to teaching medical science and ethics. In 2012, Prof Sheils was appointed Chair of College's Research Ethics Policy Committee (REPC) having chaired the Faculty of Health Sciences Research Ethics Committee (REC) for the previous 7 years. In this role, she developed policy documents on the criteria for RECs within College, Good Research Practice, Procedures for Ethical Review, External Access and she was responsible for aligning Research Ethics Committees across College. In 2016 Professor Sheils was appointed as founding Director of the Trinity Translational Medicine Institute where she leads an exclusively health sciences- focused educational and research institution, embedded within the acute hospital setting. TTMI's strategy of improving human health through translational research is predicated on clinical, laboratory-based and health service research informed by real world clinical bedside problems, and societal and global health challenges. She became Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences in 2019 and was appointed Vice-Provost/Chief Academic Officer in 2021
  Autoimmunity   Bioinformatics   Biomedical ethics   Cancer genetics and cell biology including metastasis   Cervical cancer   Commercialisation of scientific research   Diagnostics   Endocrine function and disease   Environmental Carcinogenesis   Foetal, maternal and neonatal physiology   Gene transcription in human cancer   Gynaecology oncology   HASHIMOTO THYROIDITIS   Immunochemistry and immunogenetics   Inflammatory bowel disease   Intra and intercellular signalling   Medical Law   Medical Sciences, Research   Membrane and protein trafficking   Oncogenes, apoptosis and tumour development   Oral diseases and Oral medicine   Oral pathology   Pathophysiology   Prostate cancer   Quantitative and molecular genetics   Regulatory methods of gene expression   RET ONCOGENE ACTIVATION   RNA processing, stability and degradation   Role of oestrogens in age related urogenital diseases   SIGNAL TRANSDUCTION   TAQMAN RT-PCR   Thyroid Cancer   Tumour immunology and immunotherapy   TYROSINE PHOSPHORYLATION   Virology and viral pathogenesis
 Current Projects
 Molecular Pathology of Thyroid Disease
 Head and Neck Oncology
 Molecular Markers in Cervical Cancer
 Molecular Profiling in Prostate Cancer

Page 1 of 2
Details Date
Member of the Advisory Committee - Societal Challenge 1, Health & Demographic Change. European Commission 2013
Board Member - European Institute of Women's Health 2017
Associate Editor Irish Journal of Medical Science 2017
National workgroup on Bio-banking 2012
Member, MMI Cancer Principal Investigators, Trans-institutional grouping of Principal Investigators leading research on Cancer themes 2010
Associate Editor BMC Cancer 2010
Member, Core Technology PI's, DMMC Principal Investigators leading the development of core technology platforms. 2006
Wellcome Trust - Reviewer 2005
Reviewer for South African Medical Research Council 2004
Scientific Advisor - I act in an advisory capacity for ThermoFisher, offering insight into planning and development of molecular diagnostic tools, ensuring the internationally renowned profiles of the Discipline of Histopathology and of College are maintained and positioning us to have early access to novel products and have input into their construction. 2010
Reviewer for Hong Kong Earmarked Research Grants (ERG) [administered by the Research Grants Council (RGC) ] 2005
Member of Editorial Board of Journal of Endocrine Pathology 2009
Advisor to the National Council with expertise in Medical Teaching -USI Academic Affairs Advisory Panel. 2015
Reviewer for journals including: Oncogene, Nature Biotechnology, Nature Medicine, Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, Molecular Cancer, Molecular Endocrinology, Journal of Pathology, Modern Pathology, International Journal of Surgical Pathology, DU Law Review 2003
Language Skill Reading Skill Writing Skill Speaking
English Fluent Fluent Fluent
Details Date From Date To
Member of the Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland 2001 present
Member of Medico-legal Society of Ireland 2006 present
Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists 2007 present
Fellow of the Institute of Biomedical Sciences 2016 present
Darker CD, Mullin M, Doyle L, Tanner M, McGrath D, Doherty L, Dreyer-Gibney K, Barrett EM, Flynn D, Murphy P, Ivers JH, Burke E, Ryan M, McCarron M, Murphy P, Sheils O, Hevey D, Leen A, Keogh L, Walls B, Bennett AE, Petersen F, Nolan A, Barry JM., Developing a health promoting university in Trinity College Dublin-overview and outline process evaluation, Health Promotion International, 38, (4), 2023, p1 - 14, p1-14 , Journal Article, PUBLISHED  DOI
Kate Dinneen, Anne-Marie Baird, Ciara Ryan, Orla Sheils, The Role of Cancer Stem Cells in Drug Resistance in Gastroesophageal Junction Adenocarcinoma, Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences, 2021, Notes: [ 10.3389/fmolb.2021.600373 ], Journal Article, PUBLISHED
John Greene, Anne-Marie Baird, Marvin Lim, Joshua Flynn, Ciara McNevin, Lauren Brady, Orla Sheils, Steven G Gray, Raymond McDermott, Stephen P Finn, Differential CircRNA Expression Signatures May Serve as Potential Novel Biomarkers in Prostate Cancer, Frontiers in cell and developmental biology, 9, 2021, p334-, Notes: [], Journal Article, PUBLISHED
McNevin CS, Cadoo K, Baird AM, Murchan P, Sheils O, McDermott R, Finn S., Pathogenic BRCA Variants as Biomarkers for Risk in Prostate Cancer., Cancers, 13, (22), 2021, Journal Article, PUBLISHED  DOI
Flynn L*, Barr MP*, Baird AM*, Smyth P, Casey OM, Blackshields G, Greene J, Pennington SR, Hams E, Fallon PG, O'Leary JJ, Sheils O, Finn SP. , Prostate cancer-derived holoclones: a novel and effective model for evaluating cancer stemness., Scientific Reports, 10, (1), 2020, p11329-, Journal Article, PUBLISHED
, Influence of platelets and neutrophils on circulating tumour cells, 2020, Journal Article, PUBLISHED
Sadlier C, Lynam A, Kerr C, Sheils O, Bergin C, Anal cancer in people living with HIV: A case series., International journal of STD & AIDS, 2019, Journal Article, PUBLISHED
, A randomized trial of exercise on quality of life in men with metastatic prostate cancer: The ExPeCT Trial., 2019, Journal Article, PUBLISHED
, The effect of a structured exercise intervention on CTCs and platelet cloaking in patients with metastatic prostate cancer., 2019, Journal Article, PUBLISHED
Devenney K, Murphy N, Ryan R, Grant C, Kennedy J, Manecksha RP, Sheils O, McNeely ML, Hussey J, Sheill G, The feasibility of implementing an exercise programme for deconditioned cancer survivors in a national cancer centre: FIXCAS Study, 2019, Journal Article, PUBLISHED

Page 1 of 36
Jose L Costa, Robbert Weren, Anna Maria Rachiglio, Andrea Mafficini, Henriette Kurth, Anne Reiman, Audrey Didelot, Alexander Boag, Claudia Vollbrecht, Kazuto Nishino, Harriet E Feilotter, Pierre Laurent-Puig, Orla Sheils, Aldo Scarpa, Marjolijn Ligtenberg, Ian A Cree, Michael Hummel, Jose Carlos Machado, Nicola Normanno, Multi institutional evaluation of a new NGS assay for mutation detection from cfDNA in lung cancer, Cancer Research, 13, American Association for Cancer Research, 2017, pp5694 - 5694, Conference Paper, PUBLISHED
M O'Donovan, I Silva, OM Sheils, JJ O'Leary, Molecular Analysis of Primary Effusion Lymphoma, 91st annual meeting USCAP, Chicago, IL, 2002, Conference Paper, PUBLISHED
M O'Donovan, I Silva, C. Martin, SB Lucas, OM Sheils, JJ O'Leary, Expression Profiling of Kaposi's Sarcoma reveals dysregulation of immunomodulatory, pro-inflammatory, connective tissue and vascular/haematological related genes, Annual Meeting of the Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland, Dublin, 2002, Conference Paper, PUBLISHED
P Smyth, S Finn, JJ O'Leary, O Sheils, E-cadherin expression is reduced in ret/PTC-1 but not ret/PTC-3 activated thyroid neoplasms, neoplasms., Dublin, 2002, Conference Paper, PUBLISHED
M O'Donovan, I Silva, C Martin, O Sheils, JJ O'Leary, Molecular Analysis of Primary Effusion Lymphoma using mFISH and CGH analysis demonstrates common molecular genetic pathways, Annual Meeting of the Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland, Dublin, 2002, Conference Paper, PUBLISHED
N Murphy, M Ring, A Killalea, F Mulcahy, E McGuinness, M Griffin, C Martin, O Sheils, JJ O'Leary, p16ink4a, cdc 6, mcm 5 and HPV status: predictive biomarkers of cervical pre-neoplasia?, Annual Meeting of the Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland, Dublin, 2002, Conference Paper, PUBLISHED
C Hughes, C Martin, O Sheils, B Loftus, JJ O'Leary, Development of a detailed molecular profile for prostate cancer, Annual Meeting of the Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland, Dublin, 2002, Conference Paper, PUBLISHED
A Crowley, JJ O'Leary, O Sheils, C Martin, F Taulo, J Anthony, C O'Herlihy, BM Byrne, Quantification of fetal DNA in the peripheral blood of women with pre-eclampsia in South Africa and Ireland -a useful marker of disease severity, Annual Meeting of the Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland, Dublin, 2002, Conference Paper, PUBLISHED
I Silva, M O'Donovan, N Murphy, O Sheils, SB Lucas, JJ O'Leary, Genome wide evaluation of a HHV8 virally transformed co-hybrid cell culture model system, Annual Meeting of the Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland, Dublin, 2002, Conference Paper, PUBLISHED
CM Martin, V Uhlmann, O Sheils, L Pilkington, I Silva, A Killalea, J Walker Smith, SB Murch, M Thompson, A Wakefield, JJ O'Leary, Potential viral pathogenic mechanism for new variant inflammatory bowel disease, Annual Meeting of the Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland, Dublin, 2002, Notes: [ ], Conference Paper, PUBLISHED


Page 1 of 3
Award Date
FTCD 2009
Provost's Teaching Award 2012
MA jure oficii 2007
My research is of international consequence and of consequence to individual patients. I have developed a significant programme concerned with molecular diagnostics and prognostics. I have made seminal discoveries in the areas of thyroid and cervical pathobiology. I have procured grants worth >€35M, I have published >120 peer reviewed journal articles and presented my work on the international stage. I am a leader in multidisciplinary molecular pathology. I have championed a niche area facilitating interaction between basic science, translational research, clinical service provision and biotechnology. The significance and transformational value of my work resides in my international recognition, industry disruptive research and benefit to cancer patients quality of life. I am Director of and a Principal Investigator in the Trinity Translational Medicine Institute and a PI in Biomedical Diagnostics Institute at DCU. I work closely with several biotech companies and have procured European Reference Lab status from ThermoFisher. This industry recognition of my research ensures we have pre-commercial launch access to novel chemistries and we act as a beta test site for new technology platforms and analysis kits. My research focuses on elucidating the underlying mechanisms of human disease with a focus on cancer and metastasis of solid tumors. This work is translated into novel assays for better diagnosis and prognostication of patients' disease. I have made seminal discoveries into the pathobiology of cancers including thyroid and cervix, which have resulted in major changes to the way patients are treated. I am a founder member of several international consortia working to establish novel sequencing technologies as routine diagnostic testing regimens in clinical laboratories. My research has been published in international journals at the highest levels and has been incorporated into fundamental pathology textbooks. My research continues to enhance TCD's reputation as an international force in cancer research. The international significance of my research is recognized by invitations to deliver plenary and keynote addresses at leading conferences in Pathology and Human Genetics. Additional transformational significance has seen Trinity College affiliated St James's Hospital become Ireland's first accredited Cancer Diagnostics Laboratory. My position within the Department of Histopathology means that I have an understanding of the diagnostic and prognostic deficiencies within current clinical practice and many of the research innovations made under my supervision have been geared towards enhanced service delivery. Thus there is a spectrum of research in which I am involved from basic science to more translational research with direct application in the clinical setting. My work in early cancer diagnostics and theranostics is recognised globally and has made tangible differences in the way patients are managed. The translation of basic research to clinically relevant assays has had an industry disruptive and transformative influence on molecular diagnostics. I have positioned myself for leadership by building an infrastructure within and outwith of TCD that is unique to the College ecosystem and from which TCD continues to make a real difference in people's lives who are affected by cancer. My translational research positions us to lead cancer related diagnostics in Ireland and beyond. This research will form the bedrock of service provision and interdisciplinary innovation that are central to the aspirations of the newly proposed Cancer Institute at the SJH site. In Summary, my research has led to discoveries highlighting pivotal mutations in cancers and directly influencing improved treatment of patients. In essence my research has been the difference between life or death for many patients.