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International Clinical Trials

Thinking Allowed

ICT: What was your entry point into the clinical trials industry?

Nuala Murphy: Having completed a post-doctoral position in neuropharmacology, I was keen to seek out new ideas and test new horizons. I joined an entrepreneurial start-up focused on pharmacoeconomic research, and worked with a team developing quality of life assessments in multiple sclerosis and assessing the economic burden on patients, caregivers and societies.

Which part of your current role do you most enjoy?

Now at ICON, I enjoy working across multiple disciplines, covering a range of therapeutic areas in a rapidly developing environment. It is also very rewarding to work with diverse compounds and engage with a variety of people to provide tailored solutions that make a difference to patient welfare. Every day is different. You need to like change because this business keeps you on your toes.

How would you describe your business philosophy?

I am not sure if it is a business philosophy per se, but a few principles have guided me in my career: less is more; mediocrity is not an option; focus on outcomes and stray from politics; it takes two to tango – make it easy for teams to work together; and have a sense of humour.

What has been your proudest moment?

There have been many. Co-publishing clinical research findings for psychiatry trials stemming from a decade and in conjunction with an eminent group of clinicians is up there. More recently, I am enamoured to be part of ICON, an innovative Irish company that has given me the opportunity to lead its clinical research services. Being born, bred and educated in Dublin, it is a real pleasure to be part of a successful Irish organisation that is making a global impact.

What keeps you awake at night?

Aside from a seriously good concert, I’d say thinking about the right solutions for customers. There is an answer to most things; it may just be a question of an innovative approach, more effort or deeper expertise to get there in the end.

How do you think the industry will change in the decade ahead?


Unlike the fashion industry, we do not have the pleasure of a new collection every season. But while we may not be in a fast-moving or cyclical industry, the pace of change has picked up, and technology has been key to this.

We will no doubt continue to see a shift towards personalised medicine and need to be even more tailored in our clinical delivery models to support this. The need for cost-effective solutions will remain a constant. However, the opportunity to be predictive via real-time data analytics is vast.

What is the most important lesson you have learnt?

The best decisions are made by being as objective as possible, using quality data and ensuring the sample size is robust. I have been fortunate to be surrounded by statisticians throughout my career, and I fully appreciate and respect this valuable expertise.


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Dr Nuala Murphy was appointed President of ICON Clinical Services in January 2014. She has more than 22 years of senior leadership experience within the pharma and CRO industries. Nuala holds a BSc degree in Biochemistry from Trinity College Dublin, a PhD in Neurochemistry from the University of Leeds, and conducted post-doctoral research in neuropharmacology at the Collège de France in Paris.
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