MU Professor wins IRC Early Career Researcher of the Year

Professor of Law Aisling McMahon
Tuesday, November 21, 2023 - 12:00

Maynooth University congratulates Professor Aisling McMahon of the School of Law and Criminology on receiving the highly prestigious IRC Early Career Researcher of the Year Award for her work in health and intellectual property law. 

The Irish Research Council’s Researcher of the Year Awards celebrate the very best IRC-funded researchers who are making highly significant and valuable contributions to knowledge, society, culture and innovation.

The winners were announced at a ceremony yesterday evening, having been selected by an independent expert panel. The Early Career Researcher category recognises a current or previous IRC awardee, who is within eight years of award of their PhD, and who has demonstrated an exceptional level of achievement in their field at this stage in their career.

Prof McMahon has led pioneering and internationally recognised research on the impact of intellectual property (IP) rights on people’s access to healthcare and on the development and delivery of health technologies.

A 2020 article by Prof McMahon examining the impact of patent rights on which countries could access Covid-19 vaccines, medicines and diagnostics first, and on what terms, was cited as an information source for a UK House of Commons Briefing in November 2020.

In 2022, she was awarded a highly prestigious European Research Council Starting grant for the PatentsInHumans project. Prof McMahon’s research is especially focussed on the regulation of emerging health-technologies and biotechnologies, and the relationship between intellectual property law and bioethics in the context of health-related technologies.

Maynooth University received a total of three Researcher Awards, including two commendations, and nine ‘Research Allies’ honours in last night’s ceremony, which recognises excellence and an exceptional track record in a field of research funded by the IRC.

Accepting her award, Prof McMahon said: "Scientific research can have incredible benefits for human health. My research is driven by building understandings of the role that legal and regulatory mechanisms can play in fostering the development of cutting-edge ethically responsible health technologies; and alongside this, developing understandings of how legal tools can facilitate and ensure equitable access to such health technologies for all those who need them."


Professor David Stifter of the Department of Early Irish was commended in the Researcher of the Year category and Dr Ian Marder of the School of Law and Criminology, received an Impact Award commendation for his research work in restorative justice.

Professor Rachel Msetfi, Vice President Research and Innovation at Maynooth University congratulated all the recipients and paid tribute to their dedicated research:  “These awards are a wonderful recognition of the excellent work being conducted by researchers at Maynooth University in the fields of law, criminology, education, and old Irish. We are very proud that our researchers are being honoured today for their highly significant and valuable contributions to knowledge, society, culture, and innovation.”

Director of the Irish Research Council, Peter Brown, congratulated this year’s awardees, saying, “It’s important to shine a light on the remarkable achievements of our top researchers and on the leading-edge work they are spearheading at national, community, European and international level." 

Maynooth University was also recognised in the ‘Research Allies’ category marking the crucial role of mentors, supervisors, and research and technical support staff in supporting the academic research community across all career levels.

The Research Allies are: Dr Anthony Malone, Dr Joe Oyler, Professor Sharon Todd and Dr Rose Dolan of the Department of Education; Dr David Murphy, Department of History; Dr Lorna Lopez, Department of Biology; Prof Sean Commins, Department of Psychology; Dr Eilish Lynch, Strategic Research Officer and Marie Carr, Research Support Officer.

Globally-recognised research excellence is one of the pillars at the heart of MU’s Strategic Plan 2023-2028, which was published in October. The plan focuses on priority research areas such as data and digital transformation, health and wellbeing, heritage, culture and language and public policy, sustainability and climate change.

About the researchers

Professor Aisling McMahon is a Professor of Law at MU with expertise in health law and intellectual property law. Her research is interdisciplinary, bridging patent law, health law, bioethics, social policy, human rights and healthcare policy, and makes novel contributions by demonstrating the tendency to insulate these fields from each other, which has problematic effects. Her current research focuses particularly on the impact of intellectual property (IP) rights on access to healthcare and on the development and delivery of health-technologies. She previously led the IRC funded New Foundations project entitled ‘Patients’ Access to Advanced Cancer Therapies (PAACT): Ethics and Equity of Access’ conducted in partnership with Breakthrough Cancer Research. The PAACT project examined the current landscape for access and delivery of advanced cancer immunotherapies in Ireland, focusing on CAR-T therapies, and on understanding the main legal, ethical and other policy challenges in this area. The project produced a policy report which identified ten key policy recommendations in this field aimed at developing and delivering more sustainable affordable pathways for the provision of personalised CAR-T therapies in Ireland.

Professor David Stifter has been Professor of Old Irish at MU’s Department of Early Irish since 2011. His research interests include language variation and change in Old Irish, comparative Celtic linguistics and language contact in the ancient world and on the early medieval British Isles. He is focused on Digital Humanities, their appli­ca­tion and stand­ardisation across the sub-disciplines of Celtic Studies and is develop­ing methods for statistical, corpus-linguistic research of language variation and change.

Dr Ian Marder is Assistant Professor in Criminology in MU. His expertise is in criminal justice reform, particularly in the development of restorative justice and restorative practices in criminal justice. His work explores how to reduce the harm caused by crime and criminal justice, and how to identify, communicate and implement humane, evidence-based ways to meet citizen and professional needs in justice contexts.