Thought Leader Q&A: Mairéad McCaul, MSD Ireland

January 25, 2024
Thought Leader Q&A: Mairéad McCaul, MSD Ireland
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Innovation in the Community – Positioning Ireland to Deliver Best Patient Care.

In the ever-evolving landscape marked by pharmaceutical innovation, MSD Ireland stand at the forefront, committed to a future where sustainability, patient-centric healthcare, and digital transformation seamlessly converge.


Mairead McCaul is Managing Director of MSD Ireland (Human Health) and is also Head of the MSD Ireland Country Leadership Team which includes representatives from MSD’s six sites in Ireland and key business areas. She is a passionate advocate of diversity and inclusion and has led many programmes of activities to support this area, previously co-leading the MSD Women’s Network in Europe.

MSD has a commitment to sustainability. How can pharmaceutical companies contribute to sustainable practices, considering environmental impact and social well-being, while maintaining excellence in their operations?

At MSD Ireland we are committed to building a safe, sustainable, and healthy future. We have a long history of environmental stewardship and compliance and are committed to continuously evolving in the face of changing sustainable practices and environmental impact.

With a strong track-record of innovative sustainability practices and robust plans at the community and country level for the years ahead, our Irish team is committed to taking our environmental, social and governance commitments a little further every day, ensuring that our operations not only meet the highest standards but also contribute positively to the world around us.


Embracing sustainable practices goes beyond compliance; it is a proactive stance towards mitigating environmental impact and enhancing social well-being. At MSD Ireland, our sustainability commitments are embodied at all levels of our work: implementing developments aimed at creating eco-friendly processes, reducing waste, adopting energy-efficient technologies such as solar panels, supporting our communities, supporting patients, and innovating in human health and animal health products that help solve some of the world’s most pressing health challenges. By prioritising sustainability, at MSD Ireland we believe in having a conscientious and ethical approach to everything we do, ensuring the well-being of the communities we operate in as well as helping improve the lives of the people and patients who rely on our products.

You've emphasised the importance of prioritising patients. How can the pharmaceutical sector further evolve to ensure patient-centric healthcare solutions, especially in the context of rapidly advancing technologies?

The voice of the patient is at the heart of everything we do at MSD Ireland. We are experiencing a shifting landscape towards patient-centric solutions across the board, most especially with the increased integration of new and advanced technologies.

MSD Ireland believes in putting patients at the heart of its operations. Technologies will continue to change rapidly into the future, and we need to ensure that the needs of patients today and into the future are at the focus point driving innovation. Technological acceleration always needs to be anchored around its end goal: how will this make things better for the patient? How much quicker will these efficiencies allow us to deliver for patients? How much more would we be able to produce for patients? What would this innovation mean for the people who rely on it?


A company culture that is shaped around our joint mission, around our values and our commitment, is what allows us to keep these considerations always top of mind, ensuring innovation never happens in a void but is instead patient-centric and people-focussed from end-to-end at all levels of the biopharma innovation and manufacturing processes. As an industry, this should always be our main focus – inspiring our people to deliver better and to continuously come up with solutions and better ways of doing things. By embracing technological advancements, we can not only deliver more effectively for patients but foster better communication and a healthcare system centred around the patient's well-being, reaffirming commitment to patient-centric care at all levels of healthcare delivery. We’re very proud to be playing our part in these efforts.

In the age of digitalisation, how can the pharmaceutical industry leverage technology to enhance research and development processes, improve patient outcomes, and contribute to the overall advancement of healthcare in Ireland?

In the age of digitalisation, at MSD Ireland, we recognise the transformative power of technology in research and development. Embracing technological advancements and digital innovations, we have the potential to accelerate growth and innovation to unlock new avenues of innovation and collaboration across data, insights, research, clinical trials, and much more. We’ve seen this first-hand across our Irish operations – our cutting-edge facilities across Ireland have integrated these new technologies at various levels of our operations to enable better and faster delivery of our products as well as support and guide research, innovation, and discovery.

By embracing the opportunity to understand digital transformation, we can contribute significantly to the advancement of healthcare in Ireland and across the world. A great example of these efforts in Ireland is our new Biologics Innovation Acceleration (BioNX) facility at our site in Dunboyne – a world-class research centre utilising the latest in digital technologies, data, and AI to significantly reduce the time it takes to bring products to market, redefining the capabilities of our global operations and allowing us to better connect innovative products for the future with the people who need them today. It is incredible that we’re able to boast these research and innovation capabilities from Ireland – with the patient at the heart of everything we do while truly making a difference from MSD Ireland to the world

Has AI played a role in patient care? If so, how have you implemented this into your day-to-day operations?

Harnessing innovative new technology is key to accelerating the drug discovery process; we at MSD Ireland are committed to leveraging the power of leading-edge science to save and improve lives. Rooted in our work is a pledge to utilise ethical and responsible practice in developing and using artificial intelligence.

As a business, we are committed to leveraging state-of-the-art capabilities and technologies to uncover new discoveries that may lead to the medicines of tomorrow, such as the capabilities of AI to enable better problem-solving. However, we must acknowledge that while AI is a complex and rapidly developing field that holds great potential for innovation to improve the lives of patients worldwide it can also bring with it risks and new ethical questions we need to navigate extremely carefully and mindfully, with a sense of responsibility and good governance at every stage.

While we've pledged to always leverage technology ethically and responsibly to deliver the best possible outcomes, improving the lives of patients and society, we must strive to do this while upholding ethical standards at all times to ensure long-lasting positive effects.

What are some challenges, as well as opportunities the pharmaceutical sector currently faces?

The pharmaceutical sector faces challenges such as regulatory complexities, rising R&D costs, and global health crises. However, these challenges present opportunities for innovation, collaboration, and the development of more resilient and sustainable business models.


We are navigating transformations at all levels of business operations, both within the pharma industry as well as within the business sector as a whole. Stakeholder and public expectations are shifting every day, regulatory environments are evolving, talent needs are diversifying and expanding, and generally speaking, global outlooks and local realities are becoming more and more complex every single day. Climate, social and demographic changes are also resulting in increasingly volatile and evolving patient and public health needs and requirements.


As businesses, particularly businesses with a stake and impact in the health and wellbeing of so many people around the world, I believe we can only fully realise the potential opportunities arising from these challenges and always-evolving landscapes by focussing first and foremost on people: how can we best deliver for our people, for the people who rely on our products, for our partners, for our communities?


With people as an anchor, it then becomes much easier to guide decision-making at all levels, as our compass and north star always remains the same as we navigate changing landscapes, expectations, and requirements. As an industry, the stakes have probably never been higher, but also the possibilities have probably never been more endless: we’re opening so many doors through innovation and technology - as long as we’re focussed on delivering for what matters and doing so in a sustainable way, we have a real opportunity to make a difference towards healthier, better futures.

Given the mention of new facilities last year, could you share insights into any new growth initiatives planned for the next 12 months?

With our global aspiration to be the premier research-intensive biopharmaceutical company firmly in mind, we are working tirelessly to augment and accelerate our pipeline, getting innovation out to people and patients faster than ever before.


Throughout 2023 we’ve paved the way for significant growth and expansion over the coming years, particularly with our recent announcement on the significant expansion of our Irish operations with an investment of €1 billion in our Irish network.


We were delighted to affirm our commitment to investing in our future here, across all communities where we operate. With a focus on human and animal health and a team of dedicated researchers highly trained in many different scientific disciplines across our cutting-edge sites, we are working tirelessly to find solutions for some of the world’s biggest health challenges, from cancer to HIV, diabetes, vaccine-preventable diseases and much more. With a One-MSD Ireland approach, we work as one team to bring innovation forward across everything we do and at all levels of our work and are very excited for what the future will bring as we continue to grow our Irish sites, teams, and portfolio.

To hear more from Mairéad McCaul about MSD and the Pharmaceutical Industry in Ireland, listen back to her recent episode of the Guaranteed Irish Business Podcast.

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