Professor Patrick Cunningham has been appointed to the office of the Chief Scientific Advisor to the Irish Government, it emerged last night. Cunningham has an extensive academic background and a career that includes stints at the World Bank and the UN.
Originally from Waterford, Professor Cunningham is Professor of Animal Genetics at Trinity College Dublin. He graduated from UCD in 1956 with first class honours in agricultural science and went on to obtain a masters degree in animal genetics from Cornell University in the US.
He gained considerable international attention in the 1970s and 1980s while working at the precursor to Teagasc, An Foras Taluntais, where he pioneered methods of genetic evaluation of cattle breeds and the economic evaluation of breeding options and strategies.
In 1988 he moved to the World Bank as visiting professor to the Economic Development Institute.
From 1990 to 1993 he was appointed director of Animal Production and Health at the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the UN in Rome.
He also directed the largest international campaign of biological control ever undertaken, the Screwworm Eradiccation Programme for North Africa.
In 1989 he developed new methods of reading DNA at Trinity College for livestock, which has since been expanded by his colleagues at Trinity to include other species, including horses, salmon and humans. Irish research is at the forefront of international work in this area.
Cunningham, who is chairman of biotech start-up IdentiGEN, has had more than 100 papers published in science journals and has twice featured on the cover of Nature.
“There never was a better time for science in Ireland,” Professor Cunningham said on his new appointment. “The growth in the economy in recent years has been fuelled largely by our rising capacity across many fields of knowledge.
“In the National Development Programme we have a strong commitment to science and technology over the next six years. The establishment of the Office of Chief Scientific Adviser is part of that commitment, and I very much welcome the challenge of helping to place Ireland among the leading countries in the world of science,” Cunningham said.
By John Kennedy