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KBS MBA graduates, Patsy Carney & Tom Brennan, Eirgen Pharma - awarded 2016 UL Alumni Award - Contribution to Business

University of Limerick Alumni have bestowed their highest honour on four of the university’s outstanding graduates at the 11th Annual UL Alumni Awards gala dinner held on Saturday, November 12.

KBS MBA graduates, Patsy Carney and Tom Brennan, co-founders of Eirgen Pharma, were presented with a joint award for their contribution to business.

Tom Brennan and Patsy Carney’s story dates back to their days working together in the pharmaceutical industry at the start of the new Millenium.

Tom, who has been married to Gráinne for 20 years with three children, James, Kieran and Maeve, grew up on a farm in Clough village in Co. Laois and has been living in Clonmel, Co Tipperary for over 25 years. Tom’s early career was spent as a Chemist at Clonmel Healthcare, followed by Norton Healthcare. He is also a Six Sigma Black Belt and a Qualified Person (as per Directive 2001/83/EC for Medicinal products).

Originally from Askeaton, Co. Limerick, Patsy has lived in Tramore, Co. Waterford for the last 26 years with his wife, Phillipa and their four children, Lochlann, Dylan, Tom and Alana. Patsy graduated from UL (the NIHE) with a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Chemistry in 1985, in the same year Phillipa graduated from Thomond College of Education with a BA Physical Education. Son, Lochlann followed his parents to the campus, graduating with the same degree as his father earlier this year. Following his own graduation, Patsy’s first job he recalls as “a baptism of fire” when he was Manufacturing Supervisor in Rorer Ireland in Nenagh, followed by a number of years working in R&D at Beecham Pharmaceuticals in the UK until his return to Ireland in 1990.

Working together in IVAX Pharmaceuticals, where their paths converged in 1996, Tom and Patsy undertook the MBA programme together at UL, graduating in 2005. During their studies, they identified a specific niche in the pharmaceutical industry focusing on the development of highly potent pharmaceutical products. The original business plan to develop this opportunity was in fact an assignment for the Entrepreneurship Module of the MBA programme, led by Professor Patricia Fleming at UL. During this time, Tom and Patsy – accompanied by Prof Fleming - also took their business idea to San Diego where they represented UL at an International Business Plans Competition, making it to the final 6 and the only European entry at that stage of the competition. In the same competition, they also won an award for the best “telephone pitch” to a US investment banker.

Tom and Patsy’s Business Plan led to the creation of EirGen Pharma in Waterford, a company which now exports products to 45 countries worldwide including all of the EU, US, Canada and Japan, from its state of the art high containment facility. This is a long way from the company’s humble beginnings where staff initially had to base themselves in offices inside 40-foot containers, while Tom and Patsy met many challenges and competition from other sectors as they attempted to source investors.

In the decade since it was founded, EirGen has successfully completed over 45 clinical studies, mainly in the oncology therapeutic area and now employs over 140 highly skilled personnel at their facility in Waterford which is licensed by the HPRA, FDA and Japanese PMDA regulatory authorities. The company also benefited from a substantial investment from Saudi Pharmaceuticals Industries and Medical Appliances Corporation, one of the biggest pharma companies in the Middle East, using those funds to build out the facility and invest more in their R&D pipeline in 2012.

Always looking for the next opportunity, Tom and Patsy then turned their attention to the U.S., where much of their business lies, with a view to attracting the right company to bring theirs to the next level. In May 2015, EirGen was acquired (in a deal worth 135 million dollars) by OPKO Health Inc., a Miami, Florida based pharmaceutical company engaged in providing total solutions from diagnosis to treatment for unmet medical needs to improve the lives of patients. Part of the deal was that both Tom and Patsy would remain in their roles at the company where Co-Founder Tom is the CTO while Co-Founder Patsy is the CEO.

EirGen Pharma has been nominated for and won numerous awards including:

  • Irish Life Science Exporter of Year
  • AIB / Business & Finance Irish Emerging Company of the Year
  • Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year
  • David Manley Start Up Business of the Year

Today, Tom and Patsy are committed to and excited about the future of the company they founded. Earlier this year, EirGen OPKO entered into an agreement with IDA to acquire an Advanced Technology Building in Waterford to establish a new state of the art R&D facility which will lead to the creation of an additional 150 jobs.