An interview with VP of Clinical Operations & Managing Director, Genuity Science (Ireland), David Kavanagh, by Eimear Doyle
David, what made you want to work in science?
My parents would say I was always asking questions…Why? Why? Why? I was a “tearaway” in school…really! But I was always good at biology, had a great teacher, so I gravitated towards it.
First year General Science was tough though as I hadn’t had the opportunity to study physics and chemistry for the Leaving Cert–I did a Biochemistry undergrad in UCC, then a PhD in biochemistry -cardiovascular research. It was cell level work, lab work in UCD, so I moved up to the big smoke (Dublin).
What is your special work arrangement with Genuity Science?
I have always been slightly transient, working here, home elsewhere…
Genuity Science is a great company. I can enjoy flexibility, lifestyle-wise, and I need that as I’ve an interesting work / life set up. My wife is a school principal in Killarney in the west of Ireland and we have a farm – cows, goats — a weekend job. Farm animals look after themselves! Right??
It’s an interesting blend of two worlds that are very different – Genuity Science at the cutting edge of research: exciting, great team and intellectually very stimulating; and living on a farm in the countryside – the polar opposite, but a great escape. If I gave up one or the other, I would miss it.
How did you find the move from academia to a more commercial setting?
I had a start-up idea that came out of my PhD – a search engine for a research product- and I built a team around it. It started in UCD, then went on to the NDRC (an accelerator programme).
After three years I sold the business and worked for the company that acquired it – in the States and in Sri Lanka. It was a great journey, as I saw the business side of science, made loads of mistakes, and learned a lot personally.
Before I joined Genuity Science, I was working with an Irish business services consultancy team in the area of American healthcare which was also great learning and experience. After two years, I was keen to get back into a science and start-up atmosphere.
What led you to Genuity Science?
I encountered Genuity Science (then GMI) in UCD. I met the founders and we started having some discussions and was really excited about the potential of what the team were trying to achieve.
When you take on a new role, there are key things that are important to think about: Will this job fulfill me? Does it excite me? Does it present challenges that are worth solving? Genuity Science ticked these boxes straight away. But could I afford to take the financial risk? Was it secure enough to join an early stage company (which it was back when I joined in 2016)… Step out of a permanent job that was well paid? At a certain age, it takes some time to get comfortable with that. But it felt right and that’s how it played out.
What's your core responsibility?
Our team is responsible for starting the collaborations all over the world -- setting up the relationships and discussions with researchers from all walks of life from universities to hospitals to research institutions. It's exciting work and it's been really interesting how it's grown from Ireland, to Europe and now all over the world.
Best thing about the job?
Science is amazing, day-to-day it’s a really fun team to work with, a great sense of growth and fun.
In another life, what would you be doing and why?
A farmer – I have the best of both worlds. I also play music, the guitar …. even did gigs…. But I wouldn’t do it professionally. Science and farming have a lot of things in common. Increasingly agriculture is very scientific. I choose both.
What would you bring to a desert island and why?
Water. A guitar. A book. But is there foliage? Grass?
Yes!!! A goat then – endless supply of milk, cheese, and easy enough to manage
How would you describe the culture of Genuity Science?
Very collegial, open minded, inclusive, really energized