Cancer drug innovator named Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur for 2019

16 Sep 2019

Shorla Pharma co-founder, Sharon Cunningham. Image: Julien Behal Photography

Sharon Cunningham, 34-year-old founder of Shorla Pharma, has been named the winner of Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur.

At Google’s headquarters in Dublin yesterday (15 September), the network of Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) announced the winners of Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur 2019 (IBYE).

The winner of the main award was 34-year-old Waterford native Sharon Cunningham, co-founder of Shorla Pharma. Supported by the Tipperary LEO, Cunningham founded her business in 2018 along with a former EirGen colleague, Orlaith Ryan.

A qualified chartered account, Cunningham co-founded the business after identifying a significant issue in the pharmaceutical industry. The start-up’s focus is on improving existing treatments for children’s and women’s cancers to make them more accessible.

Its first product was the redevelopment of a children’s cancer drug from a difficult-to-swallow capsule into an oral solution. Cunningham also picked up the Best Start-Up Business award at the ceremony, along with an investment fund of €40,000.

‘Cream of the crop’

The other IBYE national final category winners were Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown-based Martin O’Reilly of Output Sports who won the Best Business Idea category, and Mayo-based Sean McGarry of Showergem who won in the Best Established Business category.

Output Sports is developing a sensor system for off-field performance optimisation, offering analysis for speed and strength. Meanwhile, Showergem produces a shower caddy that attaches to shower walls to hold bottles and razors, and was recently featured on Dragon’s Den in the UK.

The runners-up in each of the categories were Elizabeth McGloughlin of Tympany Medical (Galway) in the Best Business Idea category, Brendan Maloney of Skillko (Mayo) in the Best Start-Up Business category, and Devan Hughes of Buymie (Dublin city) in the Best Established Business category. Hughes also won the Google Best Online Promotion of Business award.

Speaking of the winners, Minster for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys, TD, said: “This year’s winners and wider group of finalists are the cream of the crop. They are our future business leaders, and I am delighted that we are celebrating and supporting them through the competition.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic