Pharma research firm APC has just the right medicine

EY Entrepreneur of the Year finalist Mark Barrett, APC

We often hear in the news about the discovery of new ground-breaking medicines that help save lives and progress the treatment of conditions such as hepatitis, malaria, HIV and multiple sclerosis.

Mark Barrett’s passion is in creating a research environment, underpinned by world-class science and engineering, to assist in the development and launch of such medicines.

APC, which was founded in 2011 by Barrett and Prof Brian Glennon, is a fast-growing pharmaceutical research and development company that helps global biotech and pharmaceutical partners to accelerate the development and launch of their solutions.

The company recently announced a major expansion at its Dublin headquarters as it looks to more than double headcount in the next few years.


Describe your business model and what makes your business unique.

APC’s business model focuses on the provision of research and development services to the global pharmaceutical and biotech sectors.

We take cutting-edge science and engineering and combine it with some unique technology. This blend of technology and team based capability creates a globally unique R&D environment.

What is your greatest business achievement to date?

Treble-digit growth and global reach are nice business metrics we have achieved but I think attracting the brightest and best minds, both nationally and internationally, and creating a world-class team in such a short period is without doubt our biggest business achievement. Their energy and entrepreneurial spirit have enabled a concept to become a global business.

What was your “back-to-the-wall” moment and how did you overcome it?

On finalising the design for our new HQ the lease, post approval, was rescinded. Our scalability was jeopardised, that was daunting. That was December 2015, in January of the following year we found a different building and signed a new lease for 400 per cent more space. That was a tough time for me personally but on reflection it was a massively important experience for APC.

To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?

About 85 per cent of APC's revenue is export driven with all R&D taking place in Ireland. Our future plans are focused on developing research capabilities that allows us to expand our presence within these international markets. To date this has led to high double- to treble-digit growth and the incorporation of a subsidiary APC Pharma Inc in the US.

Describe your growth funding path:

One of our proudest achievements was not requiring VC or angle investment to start APC, sweat equity was the name of the game for myself and Brian. By developing a strong self-funding financial track record we have now been able to develop an excellent relationship with a bank, this relationship enabling us to proactively fund our current and future growth.

What was your biggest business mistake?

I would have to say not integrating functions such as training, HR, operations and so on sooner. On reflection, my focus was very much on the front end science, our product and the systems required for scaling and optimising the business were secondary. Since integrating these functions our business operations have improved massively.

How will your market look in three years?

The pharma/biotech sector is going through transformational change at a medicine, patient and shareholder level. To enable patients to access lifesaving therapies sooner I see the industry continually looking for partnership and externalisation to drive productively and performance. This evolution, which has led to the formation of many billion dollar companies, is a key part to APC’s future successes.

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor is a former Irish Times business journalist