Prof Mark Ferguson

Director General

Tel: Emer O’Driscoll, Executive Assistant: + 353 (0) 1 607 3259


Professor Mark W.J. Ferguson commenced as Director General of Science Foundation Ireland in January 2012 and as Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland in October 2012. Prof Ferguson is a founding member of the Small Advanced Economies InitiativeChair of the eHealth Ireland Committee, a member of EU High Level Expert Group on H2020 Impact and has been involved in a number of international reviews of R&D systems, including Hungary and Canada.

Previously, Mark Ferguson was appointed Professor in Life Sciences at the University of Manchester in 1984, aged 28, when he was the youngest Professor in Britain. He has held a number of administrative posts including Head of Department and Dean. He played a key role in the internationally acclaimed restructuring of Life Sciences at The University of Manchester. Mark has wide ranging research interests which focus on cellular and molecular mechanisms in scarring and wound healing, developmental mechanisms in normal and cleft palate formation, alligator and crocodile biology. He is the discoverer of scar free embryonic wound healing and temperature dependent sex determination in alligators and crocodiles. He is the recipient of numerous international awards, prizes, medals and honours for his research work, including the 2002 European Science Prize (jointly), The International Association for Dental Research, Washington USA Craniofacial Biology (2000) and Distinguished Scientist / Young Investigator (1988) Awards and the Swedish JJ Pindborg International Prize for Research in Oral Biology (1996) and is the author of 327 research papers and book chapters, 60 patent families and author / editor of 8 books. Mark has supervised over 70 PhD students and been awarded more than £70M in International peer reviewed research grants from major Research Councils and Charities. He has delivered hundreds of plenary lectures at International Scientific Conferences and contributed to numerous TV and Radio programmes on Scientific Research and its utilisation.

Mark has a deep interest in translating scientific research findings into successful commercial entities. He founded and funded (including a £13.5M state of the art building) the Manchester Biosciences Incubator, which has successfully mentored and housed a number of start up companies. Based on inventions and patents from his University research, Mark co –founded (with Dr Sharon O’Kane) Renovo, a biotechnology company developing novel pharmaceutical therapies to prevent scarring and accelerate wound healing. As CEO, since foundation, Mark built and led Renovo from 2 people to a peak staff of approx 200, and from being a small private start up to a listed public company. He was personally involved at every step of this evolution: hiring key staff and Directors, raising £32M of private International Venture Capital, pursuing commercial research and development including clinical trials of potential products , interacting with International Regulatory Authorities, licensing ( including negotiating a US $830M plus royalties deal for the lead drug ), liaising with major banks , analysts and investment funds including an IPO on the London Stock Exchange raising £67.5M, and restructuring Renovo in response to advanced clinical trial data and commercial opportunities.

Mark is currently Honorary Professor of Life Sciences at the University of Manchester. Mark has been President of a number of Learned Societies eg European Tissue Repair Society, chaired the first UK Government’s Health and Life Sciences Foresight Panel, and served on many committees eg the UKTI Life Sciences Marketing Board, the Committee of Safety of Medicines Biological Subcommittee and the European Space Agency. He has served on the Board or Scientific Advisory Board of a number of International Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Companies.

Mark Ferguson, was born in Northern Ireland , attended school in Ballykelly and Coleraine and graduated from the Queens University of Belfast with degrees in Dentistry (BDS 1st class honours), Anatomy and Embryology (BSc 1st class honours, PhD) and Medical Sciences (DMedSc), holds Fellowships from the Royal Colleges of Surgeons in Ireland (FFD), and Edinburgh (FDS) and is a Founding Fellow of the UK Academy of Medical Sciences (FMedSci). He is a member or Fellow of a number of learned Societies, and was made a “Commander of the British Empire” (CBE) by the Queen in 1999 for services to Health and Life Sciences.

Dr. Ruth Freeman

Director of Strategy and Communications

Tel: Michelle Maxwell, Executive Assistant: +353 1 607 3159


Dr Abigail Ruth Freeman was appointed as Director of Strategy and Communications in 2013. 

Prior to her current appointment Dr Freeman has held a series of positions at Science Foundation Ireland.  Most recently she was the Director of Programmes, Enterprise and International Affairs, with responsibility for overseeing all SFI research funding programmes and management of funded awards, as well as the Foundation’s activities in conjunction with industry and international partners.  Prior to this, Dr Freeman held roles as both Director of Enterprise and International Affairs and Head of Industry-Research Development.  Dr Freeman joined SFI as a Scientific Programme Manager in November 2006.

Prior to joining SFI Dr Freeman was working as a researcher at Trinity College Dublin (TCD).  She holds PhD and Bachelor degrees in Genetics from TCD.   During her time there as a student she was awarded a Trinity scholarship, the Eli Lilly Chemistry Prize and the Roberts prize for Biology.  Dr Freeman’s PhD research, on population genetics in hybrid zones, was funded by a prestigious studentship from the Wellcome Trust and was carried out at TCD and ILRI, Nairobi.  She was a founding member of the Trinity Research Staff Association; the first Irish association representing contract researchers.

Mr. Donal Keane, B.Comm FCA

Chief Operations Officer

Tel: Michelle Maxwell, Executive Assistant: +353 1 607 3159


Mr Donal Keane was appointed Chief Operations Officer at SFI with effect from 1 November 2005, with responsibility for Grants, IT, Finance, HR and Facilities. 

Keane joined SFI from Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology where he held the position of Secretary/Financial Controller from 1997 to 2005.  Prior to that Keane held senior management positions at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Drogheda, GE Capital and Wang Finance in both Dublin and Toronto, Canada.  His professional training was undertaken at Coopers & Lybrand from 1978 to 1982.

Donal Keane holds a B.Comm degree from University College Dublin and is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland.

Dr. Darrin Morrissey

Director of Programmes

Tel: Michelle Maxwell, Executive Assistant: +353 1 607 3159


Dr. Darrin Morrissey was appointed SFI Director of Programmes in September 2014. In his role Darrin is responsible for overseeing all SFI research funding programmes and management of funded awards.

Darrin joined SFI from GSK where, as Business Improvement Director, he was responsible for the strategy deployment and business transformation at the GSK-owned dermatology manufacturing business Stiefel.

Darrin originally joined GSK in 2007 as Head of Oncology for Ireland and led the establishment of GSK’s oncology business and the launch of its oncology and haematology therapeutics portfolio. During his time with GSK Darrin also held the role of Global Oncology Marketing Director with responsibility for developing launch strategy for melanoma therapy assets.

Prior to his time with GSK, Darrin worked across a number of pharmaceutical and biotech companies – including Sanofi-aventis, Eli Lilly & Tibotec-Virco – in a variety of commercial and research roles.

Darrin qualified with a BSc in Microbiology and he holds a PhD from University College Cork. His PhD research focused on the molecular mechanisms that underlie cancer metastasis. He also worked as a postdoctoral researcher at UCC, where he managed ‘first-in-human’ clinical trials of probiotic bacteria-containing food products.

Darrin also holds a Diploma in Advanced Management Practice awarded by National University of Ireland Galway.