Failed firm scientist is in charge of €100m fund for research
The Northern Irish scientist deciding how €100m (£77.6m)in Irish taxpayers' money will be spent on research has insisted he is the right man for the job despite the failure of his own research firm which led to 200 jobs lost.
Professor Mark Ferguson's biotech firm Renovo Limited never made a marketable product, even though more than £132m was invested in it — including a large chunk from the British taxpayer.
Prof Ferguson, who is originally from Belfast, and his wife received more than £14m from their time with the company, which ended last year.
The academic, who lectured in anatomy at Queen’s University, Belfast in the early 1980s, has since been appointed director general of Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), with a €189,000 salary.
“I could earn a lot more in the private sector but I wanted this job,” he said.
SFI invests in academic research likely to lead to new technologies and business in science and engineering.
Despite Renovo never producing a drug that could be marketed, Prof Ferguson received £3.5m in salary, including a payment of over £621,000 when he stepped down. His researcher wife Sharon O'Kane received more than £1.5m.
In 2006 the company was floated on the London stock market and the pair netted £9.8m by exercising a director's option by selling shares at their peak in 2007.
A defiant Prof Ferguson said: “I invested all of my savings in Renovo. Lots of others involved sold shares and lots of investors made hundreds of millions. I wasn't the only one who made money.”