12 people in the life sciences industry you need to know

29 Apr 2021

Image: © martincp/Stock.adobe.com

Want to know who’s changing the world of life sciences? We’ve rounded up a small selection of leaders in medtech, pharma, biotech and policy.

Click here to view the full Life Sciences Week series.

If this year has shown us anything, it’s the importance of the life sciences industry. From early groundbreaking research into Covid-19 to the production of several high-efficacy vaccines, it’s clear that research, talent and funding in areas such as biotech, pharma and medical devices is vital.

With that in mind, we wanted to highlight just a few people working within various areas of the life science industry, from the forefront of research to leaders at the top of the sector.

Emer Cooke

In November 2020, Irishwoman Emer Cooke was appointed executive director of the European Medicines Agency, the EU body in charge of evaluating, approving and supervising medicinal products for member states.

Cooke brought 30 years of international regulatory experience to the role. She previously worked for the pharmaceutical unit of the European Commission and as the director responsible for all medical product-related regulatory activities at the World Health Organization.

Cooke holds a degree in pharmacy from Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and spent several years in her early career working in the Irish pharmaceutical sector.

Luke O’Neill

Well known on Irish airwaves for discussing all things science and, more recently, Covid-19, Prof Luke O’Neill is an immunologist and chair of biochemistry at TCD. As well as his radio contributions, he has also written several books, the most recent of which is ‘Never Mind the B#ll*cks, Here’s the Science’.

O’Neill was also an instrumental part of the formation of TCD spin-outs Opsona Therapeutics and Inflazome, the latter of which was snapped up in a €380m deal by pharma giant Roche last year.

He also co-founded Sitryx, an Oxford-based biopharma start-up that aims to regulate cell metabolism in the development of therapeutics in immuno-oncology and immune-inflammation.

Kerry Thompson

Dr Kerry Thompson is lecturer and programme director for the MSc in microscopy and imaging at NUI Galway. She received her PhD in 2010 and in 2018 was elected as honorary secretary of outreach and education of the Royal Microscopical Society in the UK.

In December 2020, Thompson was awarded more than $750,000 in funding from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a fund designed to support biomedical imaging researchers and the development of technology to drive the discovery of cures, prevention or management of disease.

Thompson’s funding will be used to support a new centre of excellence at NUI Galway offering STEM professionals, scientists and researchers the latest training in bio-imaging and analysis.

Patsy Carney

Waterford native Patsy Carney has more than 30 years’ experience in the pharmaceutical industry and has held senior positions in a number of pharma companies in Ireland and UK in both operations and business development.

Patsy Carney, director at Kinetic Labs, is standing in the facility in a lab coat and goggles with his arms folded.

Patsy Carney. Image: Kinetic Labs

He co-founded pharma company EirGen, which was bought by US company Opko in 2015 for $135m. Carney is now the director of Kinetic Labs, a new purpose-built science innovation centre in Waterford, which acts as a private ‘rent a lab’ space for the region.

Christine Loscher

Prof Christine Loscher is the assistant dean of research at Dublin City University (DCU). She completed her PhD in immunology at Maynooth University in 2007, and went on to establish the Immunomodulation Research Group and become director of the Nano-Bioanalytical Research Facility at DCU.

Loscher is currently leading the university’s Covid-19 research and innovation hub, which was established in May last year. Speaking of the launch of the initiative, she said: “The hub is a living example of a rapid response research initiative … to make a strong and positive contribution by providing solutions to the many challenges we are now facing.”

Michael Zaworotko

Prof Michael Zaworotko joined University of Limerick (UL) in 2013 as chair of crystal engineering at the Bernal Institute. He is among the world’s top 20 research chemists and his interests focus on designing crystal structures that can be used in the pharmaceutical and energy industries.

In 2017, he was appointed as co-director of the Synthesis and Solid State Pharmaceutical Centre (SSPC), alongside Prof Gavin Walker.

Zaworotko has been involved in a number of innovative studies and research projects, including a greenhouse concept that could one day allow communities to produce food anywhere in the world in any conditions, and the discovery of a potentially revolutionary material that could help give fresh water to millions.

Anne Jones

With more than 25 years of experience in the life sciences industry, Dr Anne Jones is a veteran of the sector. In 2018, she was appointed CEO of Genomics Medicine Ireland, and was appointed COO when the business was restructured as Genuity Science last year.

Prior to her current role, Jones worked in leadership positions at US-based firm Danaher and Agilent Technologies.

She has a background in research, having graduated from NUI Galway in microbiology and molecular biology and completing her PhD with Cancer Research UK where she studied protein biochemistry and molecular biology with a focus on human DNA repair.

John Greally

Galway native Dr John Greally serves as professor of genetics, medicine and paediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, where he is currently a driving force in the implementation of new ways to perform human epigenetics research.

Greally studied at NUI Galway where he subsequently undertook an internship in medicine and surgery. In the US, Greally has received multiple awards for services to his field and was made a fellow of the American College of Medical Genetics in 2013.

Ciara Clancy

Physiotherapist and medtech entrepreneur Ciara Clancy is the founder and CEO of Beats Medical, a company that aims to empower people with Parkinson’s disease through an app using individualised metronome therapy.


Ciara Clancy on stage at Inspirefest 2015. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

In 2019, Beats Medical’s app was given the seal of approval from Parkinson’s UK, the largest Parkinson’s disease charity in Europe.

Clancy was awarded the accolade of Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur in 2017 and she was also named Laureate for Europe at the Cartier Women’s Initiative 2015, a year in which she also appeared at Inspirefest.

Barry Heavey

Having joined Accenture in 2017, Barry Heavey leads the multinational’s life sciences practice in Ireland.

He previously worked as global head of life sciences and engineering at IDA Ireland, a position he held since 2012. His career has involved roles in a variety of organisations in Austria, the UK and the US, with a common theme being his passion for the application of biotechnology in medicine.

Heavey has a degree in biotechnology from NUI Galway, a PhD in genetics from the University of Vienna, and an MBA specialising in financial strategy from University of Edinburgh.

Orlaith Ryan and Sharon Cunningham

In 2018, Orlaith Ryan and Sharon Cunningham started Shorla Pharma, a Tipperary-based pharmaceutical start-up focusing on women’s and paediatric cancers.

Two women wearing white lab coats are leaning on a countertop in a lab setting.

Orlaith Ryan and Sharon Cunningham. Image: Shorla Pharma

Cunningham is a chartered accountant, while Ryan is a scientist and biochemist. They worked together in senior roles at EirGen Pharma in Waterford, before deciding to start their own healthcare business.

In June 2020, the start-up raised $8.3m in Series A funding and earlier this month submitted an application to the US Food and Drug Administration for its oncology drug designed to treat T-cell leukemia, bringing it one step closer to launching its first product in the US.

Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic