Pharma Leaders

From left to right: Deirdre Connelly, John Crowley, and MacDara Lynch.

August / September 2013

A selection of leaders in the pharmaceutical industry who have been featured on Irish America’s Business 100 list and who continue to shape the future of medicine.



“We hope to make a meaningful difference in the lives of patients living with metastatic melanoma.”

Deirdre Connelly is president, North America Pharmaceuticals for GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). The global health care company announced on July 25 that Health Canada had approved a BRAF-inhibitor, Tafinlar, and MEK-inhibitor, Mekinist, for melanoma patients with BRAF V600 mutation, offering new hope for those afflicted with metastatic melanoma.

Deirdre is a member of the global Corporate Executive Team and co-chairs, along with the Chairman, Research and Development, the Portfolio Management Board. She has also serves as the CEO  and President of Human Genome Sciences Inc.

Consistently recognized by Fortune as one of the 50 most powerful women in business, Deirdre was named Woman of the Year by the Healthcare Businesswomen’s  Association in 2012. In 2008, she was appointed to the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships.

Deirdre was born in San Juan to an Irish father and a Puerto Rican mother. She earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and marketing from Lycoming College in Pennsylvania and graduated from Harvard University’s Advanced Management Program, and in January 2013 was appointed to the Harvard University Public Health Policy Council.


Pompe Disease

“You think about what we were able to do with so many people along the way; that was really cutting-edge science.”

John Crowley is the Chairman and CEO of Amicus Therapeutics, Inc.  John’s involvement with biotechnology stems from the 1998 diagnosis of two of his children, Megan and Patrick, with Pompe disease – an often fatal neuromuscular disorder. In his drive to find a cure for his children, he left his position at Bristol-Myers Squibb and became an entrepreneur as the co-founder, president and CEO of Novazyme Pharmaceuticals, a biotech start-up conducting research on a new experimental treatment for Pompe disease (which he credits as ultimately saving his children’s lives).  Novazyme was acquired by Genzyme Corporation in 2001.

John and his family were  the inspiration for the motion picture Extraordinary Measures, starring Brendan Fraser and Harrison Ford. John’s personal memoir is Chasing Miracles: The Crowley Family Journey of Strength, Hope and Joy.

John is also a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve, assigned to the United States Special Operations Command and is a veteran of the global war on terrorism, with service in Afghanistan.

He earned a B.S. in Foreign Service from Georgetown University, a J.D. from the University of Notre Dame Law School and an M.B.A. from Harvard. He is also a member of the University Council on Science & Technology at Notre Dame. He serves on the executive committee of the National Board of Directors of the Make A Wish Foundation of America and is a founding board member of the Global Genes Project. John is a Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute. He and his wife Aileen have roots in Co. Cork.



A rheumatoid arthritis treatment has been approved for patients who had an inadequate response to existing therapies.

MacDara Lynch has a long association with Pfizer, the pharmaceutical giant that announced on  July 13, that a breakthrough drug, tofactitinib, had been approved for rheumatoid arthritis. Lynch is vice president/team leader of Pfizer’s Global External Supply Division.

Born in Bandon, Co. Cork, MacDara joined Pfizer in 1972 having graduated from University College Cork with a BSc degree in chemistry. He has served in leading positions in many countries with Pfizer. Throughout his travels, he has been active in the local community – he served as Honorary Irish Consul in Indonesia for two years. He  is a member of the board of directors of the Ireland-U.S. Council and Cooperation Ireland. MacDara and his wife Ita have three children and two grandchildren and live in Connecticut. He says being Irish “helps to refocus on what is really important in life.”


Stem Cells

Peter milnerHis research led to the discovery of pleiotrophin, a novel growth factor that regulates stem cell differentation.

Peter G. Milner, M.D., is CEO of Heart Metabolics, a company that makes drugs for treating heart disease, and President and CEO of AshHill Pharmaceutical Investments, LLC.

A Co. Tipperary native, Peter was a finalist in the 2012 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards. He was educated at the University of Liverpool, receiving a medical degree in 1980, and completed postgraduate training at Johns Hopkins Hospital, the University of Virginia, and Washington University in St. Louis.

In 1992, as an assistant professor of medicine at Washington University in St. Louis, Milner’s research led to the discovery of pleiotrophin (PTN), a novel growth factor that regulates stem cell differentiation, organ development, and the epithelial mesenchymal transition. Dr. Milner, who co-founded Optivia Biotechnology, Inc., a private company recognized as a leader in the emerging field of transporter biology,.  is co-inventor on 48 issued patents, and an author of 28 scientific articles in Science, Biochemistry, Circulation, Cancer, JCI, and JBC. He is a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology (FACC), and a board certified physician and cardiologist. He serves as adjunct clinical faculty at Stanford University School of Medicine, and as a board member of the California Healthcare Institute.

Heart Metabolics recently received orphan designation from the US Federal Drugs Administration (FDA) and in the past week raised four billion dollars in Series A funding. If a major trial of the drug is successful, Heart Metabolics could be well on its way to being the next three-billion-dollar pharmaceuticals business.


Multiple Sclerosis

John ManohanDeveloping a drug candidate for the treatment of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis and cognitive dysfunction in multiple sclerosis.

Dr. John Monahan, Ph.D., serves as Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President of Research & Development at Synthetic Biologics Inc., a biotechnology company focused on the development of biologics for the prevention and treatment of serious infectious diseases, and developing a drug candidate for the treatment of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis and cognitive dysfunction in multiple sclerosis. John joined Synthetic Biologics as Senior Vice President, Research & Development in 2011. He received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada in 1974 and his B.S. in Science from University College, Dublin, Ireland in 1969. In 1992, he founded and built Avigen, Inc., a biotech company that pioneered and led the development of gene medicines based on AAV vectors, an industry standard. He co-founded Tacere Therapeutics, Inc. in 2006 and serves as Director. He served as Chairman of Genable Technologies Ltd. and serves as Non-Executive Director. He serves as a Director of Cellix Ltd., Genable, Pharmatrin and GK Technologies and as Director of IdentiGEN Ltd. since 2007 and Heat Biologics, Inc. since 2009.

John has published scientific writings extensively and has made hundreds of presentations including public TV interviews, to scientific groups, investors and the public in general over the years.


Dennis Purcell

Dennis PurcellDennis Purcell has served as the Senior Managing Director of Aisling Capital since February 2000. The fund has approximately $1.7 billion of assets under management.

Prior to joining Aisling Capital, Dennis served as Managing Director of the Life Sciences Investment Banking Group at Chase H&Q for over five years. While at Hambrecht & Quist, he was directly involved with over two hundred completed transactions and supervised over $10 billion of financing and advisory assignments in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical products industries.

During his tenure, BioWorld and other industry publications cited H&Q as the leading underwriter of life sciences securities. Dennis is a frequent commentator on the industry and has been honored in the “Biotech Hall of Fame” by Genetic Engineering News, named to the Biotechnology All-Stars list by Forbes ASAP and cited as one of the top 100 contributors to the biotechnology industry. Prior to joining H&Q, Dennis was a Managing Director in the Healthcare Group at PaineWebber, Inc.

Dennis currently serves as a director of Paratek Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and Xanodyne Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Previously he served as a director of Aton Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Bridge Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Cengent Therapeutics, Inc., Dynova Laboratories, Inc., and Valentis, Inc.

He has served as a member of the Advisory Council at Harvard Medical School, the Board of Directors of the Biotechnology Industry Association, as well as the New York Biotechnology Association and the Irvington Institute. He also serves on the board of L.E.K. consulting.

Dennis received his M.B.A. from Harvard University and his B.S. in Accounting from the University of Delaware.

One Response to “Pharma Leaders”

  1. Trish says:

    A rolling stone is worth two in the bush, thanks to this aricelt.

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