Dr. Lee Coffey

By 18th January 2019 No Comments

Dr. Lee Coffey

Adjunct Senior Research Fellow (PMBRC-TSSG)
P: +353 (0)51 845514
Personal Summary

Dr Lee Coffey is a Lecturer in Molecular Biology with Biopharmaceutical Science at the Department of Science, WIT and is a Principal Investigator at the PMBRC where he is leading the Molecular Biotechnology and Biopharmaceutical Research Group, with over €1.2 million research funding secured to date.

He received a BSc (Hons) Degree in Applied Biology with Quality Management (first class honours) and a PhD in Molecular Biotechnology from WIT in 2002 and 2007, respectively. In this time Dr Coffey gained experience in industry in both microbiological and pharmaceutical laboratories.

Dr Coffey conducted his postdoctoral research at the PMBRC from 2007 to 2011, expanding the biotechnology research while also serving as manager of the Molecular Biology research lab, overseeing >€1.5M of research projects and commercial activities.

Dr Coffey is currently mentoring two research staff and is lead supervisor for three and co-supervisor for five postgraduate students, with two more positions in recruitment. He received the WIT Postgraduate Supervision Excellence Award in 2016. He has presented at numerous national and international conferences and 13 peer-reviewed publications. The research group follows a strong commercialization focus, with four Invention Disclosures filed to date; detailing biological solutions to biopharmaceutical processes, Patent Co-operation Treaty applications; three filed to date, detailing territories of the above, a Technology License Agreement secured with a global multi-billion $ pharmaceutical company, sharing biotechnology technology products (enzymes/cells) on an ongoing basis on a royalty agreement including an upfront payment. Dr Coffey has established collaborations with various academic and medical institutions and also global biotechnology companies.

Current research interests and projects include rare disease therapy enhancement through directed evolution of gene therapy products, the use of genome editing to enhance protein performance and the development of proprietary biological technology for protein discovery. Dr Coffey is also an affiliate member of the TSSG where he is involved in molecular communications research; the use of DNA for data storage, security and networking.


Soares Bragança CR, Dooley-Cullinane TM, O’Reilly C and Coffey L (2017) Applying functional metagenomics to search for novel nitrile-hydrolyzing enzymes using environmental samples. Biomater Tissue Technol: 1(2): 1-5.doi: 10.15761/BTT.1000108

Dooley-Cullinane TM, O’Reilly C, Coffey L (2016) Real-time PCR detection of aldoxime dehydratase genes in nitrile-degrading microorganisms. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, (2017) 110: 271. doi:10.1007/s10482-016-0786-2

Coady Tracey M, Coffey Lee V, O‘Reilly Catherine, Owens Erica B, Lennon Claire M. (2015) Substrate evaluation of Rhodococcus erythropolis SET1, a nitrile hydrolysing bacterium, demonstrating dual activity strongly dependent on nitrile sub-structure. Europ J Org Chem DOI: 10.1002/ejoc.201403201

Coady Tracey M, Coffey Lee V, O‘Reilly Catherine, Owens Erica B, Lennon Claire M. (2013) A high throughput screening strategy for the assessment of nitrile-hydrolyzing activity towards the production of enantiopure β-hydroxy acids. J Mol Cat B: Enzymatic 97: 150-155

O’Neill, D., Turner, P. D., O’Meara, D. B., Chadwick, E. A., Coffey, L. and O’Reilly, C. (2013) Development of novel real-time TaqMan® PCR assays for the species and sex identification of otter (Lutra lutra) and their application to non-invasive genetic monitoring. Molecular Ecology Resources. 13, 5: 877-883.

O’Meara D, Turner P, Coffey L, O’Reilly C (2012) TaqMan assays for species identification of the red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) and the grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis). Conserv Genet 4, 3: 603-604.

McCarthy, G., Lawlor, P.G., Coffey, L., Nolan, T., Gutierrez, M., and Gardiner, G.E. (2011) An assessment of pathogen removal during composting of the separated solid fraction of pigmanure. Bioresour Technol 102, 19: 9059-67.O’Connor L, O’Leary M, Leonard N, Godinho M, O’Reilly C, Coffey L, J.Egan and O’Mahony R (2010) The characterisation of Listeria sp. isolated from food products and the food-processing environment. Lett Appl Microbiol 51, 5: 490-498.

Coffey L, Owens E, Tambling K, O’Neill D, O’Connor L, O’Reilly C (2010) Real-time PCR detection of Fe-type nitrile hydratase genes from environmental isolates suggests horizontal gene transfer between multiple genera. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek 98, 4: 455-463.

Coffey L, Clarke A, Duggan P, Tambling K, Horgan S, Dowling D, O’Reilly C (2009) Isolation of identical nitrilase genes from multiple bacterial strains and real-time PCR detection of the genes from soils provides evidence of horizontal gene transfer. Arch Microbiol 10: 761-771.

Song LY, Yuan HJ, Coffey L, Doran J, Wang MX, Qian SJ, O’Reilly C (2008) Efficient expression in E. coli of an enantioselective nitrile hydratase from Rhodococcus erythropolis. Biotechnol Lett 30: 755-762.

O’Mahony R, Doran J, Coffey L, Cahill OJ, Black GW, O’Reilly C (2005) Characterisation of the nitrile hydratase gene clusters of Rhodococcus erythropolis strains AJ270 and AJ300 and Microbacterium sp. AJ115 indicates horizontal gene transfer and reveals an insertion of IS1166. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek 87: 221-232.

Book Chapters:

O’Meara DB, Turner PD, O’Neill D, Coffey L, Harrington A, O’Reilly C (2012) “DNA toolbox for squirrel surveys” Mammal News – Autumn 2012

Conference Proceedings:

30th European Mustelid Colloquium, Dublin, 2012: “Non-invasive genetic monitoring of otter (Lutra lutra) populations”, David O’Neill, Denise O’Meara, Andrew Harrington, Peter Turner, Ceri Morris, Jenny Macpherson, Bernie Guest, Liz Halliwell, Henry Schofield, Lee Coffey and Catherine O’Reilly

AIMS 2012 Conference, Dublin 2012: “Non-invasive genetic tools for squirrel surveys”, Denise O’Meara, Peter Turner, David O’Neill, Lee Coffey, Andrew Harrington and Catherine O’Reilly

Biocatalysis Conference, December 2010: “Gene cloning, overexpression and characterisation of the nitrilases from Burkholderia sp. LC8 and LC9”, Pat Duggan, Lee Coffey, Eoghan O’Dwyer, Sarah Duggan, David O’Neill and Catherine O’Reilly

Annual IT Colloquium, Waterford I.T., 2004: “Localisation of the nitrile hydratase genes in a number of novel Rhodococcal strains”, Lee Coffey, Catherine O’Reilly


Academic Supervision

Student: Erica Owens; Thesis: Purification and analysis of mixed bacterial cultures containing genes associated with nitrile metabolism; Degree type; MSc; Expected year of completion: 2015. Role: Co-supervisor
Student: Tríona Dooley Cullinane; Thesis: The identification and application of genes and enzymes as biocatalysts towards the production of pharmaceutical intermediates; Degree type; PhD; Expected year of completion: 2016. Role: PI
Student: Caio Bragança; Thesis: Recombinant enzymes towards the production of pharmaceutical intermediates using biotransformations; Degree type; PhD; Expected year of completion: 2016. Role: PI
Student: Hazal Yilmaz; Thesis: Characterisation and improvement of microbial enzymes using directed evolution towards bio-pharmaceutical applications; Degree type; PhD; Expected year of completion: 2017. Role: PI
Student: Evelyn Joyce; Thesis: In-situ bioremediation and molecular microbiological monitoring of ammonia contamination in shallow groundwater.; Degree type; PhD; Expected year of completion: 2017. Role: Co-supervisor


Student: Tatenda Mereya; Thesis: Enantioselective biocatalytic synthesis of ß-amino acids and amines; Degree type; PhD; Expected year of  completion: 2018 . Role: Co-supervisor


Student: Mariana Gavendova; Thesis: Design, synthesis and evaluation of novel organocatalysts towards the synthesis of biologically active oxindoles: Degree type; PhD; Expected year of completion: 2019. Role: Co-supervisor