Shorla Pharma raises €7.4m to bring cancer drugs to market

Female-led healthcare company is redeveloping treatments for women and children

Shorla, an Irish healthcare start-up that develops pharmaceutical therapies to help cancer patients, has raised $8.3 million (€7.4 million).

The Series A investment round was led by Dublin-based venture capital firm Seroba Life Sciences, whose other portfolio companies include Endotronix and Atlantic Therapeutics. Enterprise Ireland was among the other participants.

Shorla, which was founded by Sharon Cunningham and Orlaith Ryan in Clonmel, Co Tipperary, in 2018 is focused on developing oncology drugs with a focus on rare, orphan and paediatric cancers. This includes helping to make existing treatments easier to use. One example of this is a children's cancer drug the company has redeveloped from a difficult-to-swallow capsule into an oral solution.

The founders met when they worked together at EirGen Pharma, the Waterford company founded by Patsy Carney and Tom Brennan which was acquired by US drugs firm Opko for $135 million in 2015. The company won the overall award at the Ireland's Best Young Entrepreneur competition last year and the founders were included on a list of 50 people to watch out for in 2020 by The Irish Times.


Shorla is still in its prelaunch research and development phase, but its first two oncology products have been presented to the US Food and Drug Administration for approval with a third to follow shortly.

Ms Ryan said that as the start-up is taking existing treatments and redeveloping them, its route to market is faster than it would be for most pharma companies.

“The funding we have secured will give us the rocket fuel to scale up our products so that we can bring them to market next year,” she said.

“Our strategy is to utilise regulatory incentives that permit market exclusivity, create intellectual property on the products to protect them, and pursue areas of unmet needs that are not of interest to the larger pharmaceutical companies.”

Life sciences industry

Ms Cunningham said getting Seroba on board was “a signal of confidence in Shorla’s business plan”.

“They are very familiar with the life sciences industry and the process to get products approved and they speak our language, which is something that was hugely important to us when we were looking for investors,” she said

Shorla employs six people and intends to take on more locally and in the US, its primary target market, over the next 18 months.

Alan O’Connell, a partner at Seroba who has joined the Shorla board, said the start-up had a promising pipeline of products to improve treatment options for cancer patients.

“Shorla is led by experienced founders with a track record of success in the sector and we look forward to working with them to grow the company and bring their products to market,” he said.

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor is a former Irish Times business journalist