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Dr Ruth McKernan CBE, Innovate UK

Dr Ruth McKernan CBE, Innovate UK

Ruth McKernan became chief executive of Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, in May 2015. She was formerly chief scientific officer of Pfizer’s Neusentis unit.

Ruth graduated from the University of London with a first in biochemistry and pharmacology. She gained her PhD at London’s Institute of Psychiatry studying the mechanism of action of antidepressant drugs. A Fulbright Scholarship took her to the University of California in San Diego for two years and thereafter Ruth joined the pharmaceutical Industry. In her 20 years’ experience she has held many posts including Head of the Merck Neuroscience Research Centre in the UK.

Before leading Neusentis, Ruth was site head and head of research at the company’s former European R&D site in Sandwich, UK and before that held positions as vice president of biology in Sandwich, head of the research technology centre in Boston, MA and vice president for external research in Europe. She was also a member of the UK board of Pfizer Ltd.

Ruth had worked previously and extensively with Innovate UK in the area of innovation, particularly relating to stem cells, and was the interim co-chair of the Cell Therapy Catapult Centre. Ruth has been on the advisory board of several biotech companies and the Canadian Centre for Regenerative Medicine. She is also a member of the Medical Research Council, sits on the Cancer Research Technology Board, and is a visiting professor for King’s College, London.

Scientifically, Ruth is best known for her research in neuroscience on ligand-gated ion channels with over 130 publications and 15 patents. She has also won awards for science writing and her first book for non-scientists, Billy’s Halo, was short-listed for the 2007 MIND awards. She was awarded a CBE for services to business and innovation in 2013.