Influential Leaders

Sharon Cunningham

CEO and Co-Founder, Shorla Oncology
Recognition Year(s): 2023
School: Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, University College Dublin
Location: Ireland

Sharon Cunningham is CEO and co-founder of pharmaceutical company Shorla Oncology. Shorla develops and commercializes innovative oncology products for women’s and children’s cancers, populations for which existing treatment options are often limited.

A chartered accountant by profession, Cunningham graduated with a Bachelor of Science in finance from University College Cork, Ireland, and trained with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in Ireland. Following four and a half years with PwC, including an assignment with PwC in New York, Cunningham spent seven years at EirGen Pharma in Waterford, Ireland, where she began her career as a management accountant, then financial controller, and subsequently head of finance. Cunningham then undertook a two-year Executive Master of Business program at University College Dublin Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, graduating in 2015. Combined with her extensive background in accounting and finance, the MBA enhanced Cunningham’s understanding of and appreciation for the key areas of business and impactful leadership.

In 2018, Cunningham co-founded Shorla Oncology with her EirGen Pharma colleague, Orlaith Ryan. Shorla's vision is to improve lives through science and innovation by rethinking, reimagining, and improving upon existing, proven oncology treatments. The company’s values are compassion—to provide every patient hope; commitment—to build an open, accepting organization while solving for complex medical issues; innovation—to improve on existing treatments through research and development; tenacity—to never give up on their fight against cancer; and collaboration—to diligently work with internal and external partners to find solutions for individual patients.

The team at Shorla is dedicated to developing new cancer therapies for the most vulnerable patients, creating more options where existing treatments are limited, in short supply, or inadequate for the target population, specifically women and children. Scarcity of treatment options is a significant public health concern, often resulting in treatment delays or substitution with less effective therapies when the preferred drug product is not available.

With the U.S. being Shorla’s primary market, Cunningham relocated from Ireland to Bostonin 2021 in order to drive the company’s mission and oversee the launch of the company’s portfolio of drugs. Over five years since founding the company, Shoral has attracted world-renowned investors, board members and advisors, and has an advanced portfolio of oncology products focusing on women’s and children’s cancers.

As a leader, Cunningham strives to make a positive impact on society. She does not shy away from tackling grand challenges and pursuing objectives that can make a difference in the lives of those whose needs are unmet by existing products and approaches. She is similarly passionate about gender equality in the workplace. Shorla was founded by Cunningham and a female co-founder, and they strive to inspire, develop and support the next generation of female leaders by ensuring they get the coaching, mentoring, and support they need to succeed.

Cunningham believes in shaping business practices through a variety of fora. She is currently a member at Irish Rule of Law International, a joint initiative of the Law Society of Ireland, the Bar of Ireland, and the Law Society of Northern Ireland, and the bar of Northern Ireland, dedicated to harnessing the skills of Irish lawyers to tackle global injustice and empower all people. She is a board member of the Healthcare Business Network at the Young President's Organization, and is on the advisory board of LSX’s Female Founders, a networking, dialogue, and community for women in health and life sciences. Cunningham has also received many awards, including Ireland's Best Young Entrepreneur 2019 and Association of MBA's Best Entrepreneurial Venture Award 2020.