Who we are

The Health Innovation Research Alliance Northern Ireland (HIRANI) is an alliance of universities, health organisations and other industry bodies, established to drive and support ambitious growth in Northern Ireland’s Life & Health Sciences sector.

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Joann Rhodes

Chief Executive

Joann’s current role as Chief Executive of HIRANI provides support to accelerate collaborative health research and innovation from the lab-clinic-patient-home. She connects knowledge with opportunities to drive health and prosperity for the citizens of Northern Ireland, the health services and the wider, global health and life sciences economy.

She also holds advisory positions at TopMD, Discovery Park, and the British Pharmacological Society.

Joann started her career as a cellular pharmacologist and industry fellow at Imperial college developing novel immunomodulation therapies for COPD, delivering clinical biomarker rationale for 4+ novel therapeutics to accelerate progression to the clinic.

Since 2011, Joann has sought to facilitate industry-academic partnerships delivering the £16M US-UK Pfizer Rare Diseases Consortium for collaborative commercialisation of small molecule and gene therapy programmes, and as Chief of Staff at Merck UK R&D Laboratories (2018-2020), to realise the start-up vision for the new collaborative £1.3B UK R&D Innovation laboratories for Neurodegeneration at The Francis Crick Institute, in London.

Joann is also an honorary visiting Professor at Ulster University and recently graduated from with an Executive MBA from Imperial College, London where she also won the Dean’s award and Joan Woodward Prize for Organisational Strategy.

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Dr Siobhan McGrath

Chief Operations Manager

She is a senior executive who has worked in the Public (NHS & HSC) and university sectors, as well as the commercial health and life sciences sector

Siobhan has expertise in change and project management, clinical trials and implementing health research regulatory science and policy, particularly in the field of research ethics. Whilst working in the medical devices industry, she has managed regulatory road maps to market for several products

She is an innovative leader, who as the Head of the Office for Research Ethics Committees Northern Ireland, established and transformed the office into a nationally and internationally recognised service for health and life sciences

Siobhan has also worked closely with research funders and regulators in the UK to produce codes of practice and guidance for researchers. She has connections with researchers from pharmaceutical, medical device, translational medicine as well as other areas of research which involves participation of patients and citizens.

She obtained her degree and PhD in Biochemistry from Queen’s University Belfast.

Her proudest achievement to date has been her contribution to the regulatory environment for research in Northern Ireland and the wider UK, to promote health and social care research and protect the interests of patients and the public.

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Dr Hakim Yadi

Chair of the Board

Hakim is a Co-Founder and chief executive of Closed Loop Medicine and Chair of HIRANI.

Closed Loop Medicine is a healthcare technology company developing drug + digital combination products, transforming drug effectiveness through dose optimisation by providing every drug its real time digital companion.

Hakim joined Closed Loop Medicine from the Northern Health Science Alliance Ltd, the pan-Northern health partnership which brought together for the first time 20 research-based NHS hospitals, the North’s Academic Health Science Networks and Universities to collaborate on improving health outcomes across the North.

As the founding CEO of the NHSA, Hakim was instrumental in raising the profile of the region in parliament, with investors and the media to help focus resources on improving healthcare services for the 15 million population living in the North and its eight great cities. Central to the NHSA’s mission was to raise awareness of the region’s high mortality rates and to seek national solutions to improve these morbidity levels by working with all local agencies to improve health - and therefore wealth and well-being -outcomes. Hakim was also highly successful in working with companies in the North to attract substantial domestic and overseas investment into the region’s life science sector, one of the most vibrant in the country.

Hakim started his career at IMS Health before joining PA Consulting, where he co-managed the company's translational medicine team. During his time at PA, he was seconded to the UK Government where he worked as the Chief Operations Officer and was a founding member of the UK Department of International Trade (DIT) Life Sciences Organisation (LSO). In this role, he helped to oversee the DIT’s global life science inward investment strategy.

He holds a PhD from the University of Cambridge and in 2017 he was awarded an OBE for services to Healthcare Technology and the Economy.

Board Members

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Professor Ian Young

Ian Young is Professor of Medicine at Queen’s University Belfast, and Deputy Medical Director and Consultant Chemical Pathologist at Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.  In addition, he is Chief Scientific Advisor to the Department of Health, Northern Ireland, and Director of Research for Health and Social Care.

His main clinical and research interests are in nutrition and lipid metabolism, particularly in relation to cardiovascular disease prevention and management of patients with complex lipid disorders.  He is author of over 400 published research papers.  He is currently President of the Association for Clinical Biochemistry and Laboratory Medicine, UK, and Chair of the Joint Committee for Traceability in Laboratory Medicine (JCTLM).

He is a member of the UK Government’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, and the Scientific Advisory Board of the UK National Institute of Biological Standards and Controls.  He is Associate Editor for Clinical Chemistry, and a member of the editorial boards of a number of other international journals.

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Professor Sir Ian Greer

Ian Greer has been President and Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast since August 2018. He has extensive experience of university innovation driving regional economic growth, including cross-sector developments such as the Northern Health Science Alliance, a collaboration of eight Universities and NHS partners, and is the cofounder of the Health Innovation Research Alliance for NI.

He is a strong advocate for University social responsibility including widening participation. He leads the innovation pillar of the Belfast Region City Deal, driving innovation in key sectors for the local economy - creative industries, health innovation, data science & analytics, and advanced manufacturing. He is currently President of Universities Ireland, promoting collaboration across the island.

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Professor Liam Maguire

Professor Liam Maguire is the Pro Vice-Chancellor Research at Ulster. He joined Ulster University as a lecturer in 1994 and became a Professor of Computational Intelligence in 2007. Liam has been Executive Dean of the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment since 2016.  Previously he held a number of senior positions at Ulster such as Head of School and Director of the Intelligent Systems Research Centre.

Liam is the NI representative on the National Council for Professors and Heads of Computing committee. He has recently been invited to join an Invest NI Board Sub-Group on Digital Innovation and is the university representative on the Belfast Innovation partnership and has a leading role in Ulster’s projects in the two City Deals.

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Grainne McVeigh

Grainne McVeigh Invest NI Director, Advanced Manufacturing, Engineering and Life Sciences with a demonstrated history of working in the international trade and development industry.

At Invest NI, Grainne oversees business growth across a number of sectors including Life and Health Sciences, which has more than 250 companies who specialise in oncology, diagnostics, medical devices and connected health.

As the regional business development agency, Invest NI's role is to grow the local economy by helping new and existing businesses to compete internationally, and by attracting new investment to Northern Ireland.