How to make a success out of your PhD? This is a big question and probably no one knows the answer. Success is a personal achievement based on what are your expectations and goals: getting a lectureship, working for a big corporate or setting up their own business.

There is definitely someone who made a huge success out of his PhD and postdoc and, in my opinion, this person is Colm Ryan. Colm along with Séan Mac Fhearraigh, Ph.D.  is CEO and founder of the Reagent Genie company. This is a premium life science reagents company with offices in London and Dublin. It was founded to meet the global demands for life science reagents. Through its 3 major brands, Assay Genie, ELISA Genie and Antibody Genie, offers over 55,000 products to customers across the globe. It’s a privately held company with manufacturing operations in the USA, Asia and Europe.

To follow Colm and Seun, please check their LinkedIn profile, Colm Ryan and Sèan Mac Fhearraigh, their Twitter accounts @TheRealColmRyan and @MacFhearraigh. To know more about the company please visit the website

This is my interview with Colm Ryan.

  1. When you decide to leave academia and make your own company? That’s a really good question and the answer lies before I ever even started in academia! I always wanted to be in control of my own destiny and felt that running my own business may be a way of doing that. My first foray into business pre-dated academia at age 9 when I started my own candy shop at Irish dancing events with some credit from my parents. While it was short-lived, I learned some harsh lessons in stock control! However, it was at the end of my undergraduate studies in Trinity College Dublin, that I put together my first serious business plan to develop a pharmacogenomics company that failed to get funding. During my PhD and post-doc, I wrote some other business plans for medical devices but it was actually not until I actually left academia and took a sales and marketing role at a life science reagents supplier that I knew I had the drive to start my own company and for my own curiosity, I had to try. 5 years and a lot of work later, Reagent Genie and the 3 brands Antibody Genie, Assay Genie and ELISA Genie were born.
  2. What help you the most in starting off your company? Mentoring? Professional advice? Professional schemes you took part to during your PhD/postdoc? It was the perfect mix of all of the above. From a time-line perspective, the best career advice I ever received was from the guidance counsellors at the University of Nottingham during my PhD. Those guys are fantastic empowered me with the confidence to pursue my goals. I was also extremely lucky to have a superb support network of family and friends and some key mentors along the way including my PhD supervisor, Prof. David Heery who leads the Gene expression group @ the University of Nottingham. While myself and co-founder, Sean Mac Fhearraigh PhD, have very strong science, sales and marketing backgrounds, our weaknesses were in business organisation, structure and finance and we filled these gaps by doing courses (University and government-sponsored) as well as reading widely. This allowed us to create a viable business plan that stood up to detailed scrutiny and provided the basis to raise the appropriate finance to start Reagent Genie. Right now, we have an amazing group of investors and a very experienced board of directors who have an incredible breath of business knowledge which we can leverage on a daily basis.
  3. Did someone really make an impact in your life and help with this decision? Wow, that’s a great question. I want to say someone like the Dalai Lama (!). However, as it is such a life-changing decision, the only person to help you make it, is yourself. I would suggest listening to yourself and understanding what you want to do with your life and using this as a light to guide you. I believe that if you are open to good things in life and have a clear vision for your future, then the right people will appear to help guide you along the way.
  4. If students want to embrace the same career what advice would give to them? The most important ingredient is a deep understanding that you want to start your own business. Once you know this, then go on a course that facilitates the creation of a business plan. Leverage your network including family and friends to fill gaps in your knowledge and always ask for a referral to someone they may know that could be open to invest in your business idea. Finally, just do it! Stop talking about what you will do and the future and take the plunge and go for it. It’s an amazing journey and one you won’t regret.

If you want to read more about this I would suggest buying this book from Amazon (click on the blue writing).

To make your transition to industry as smooth as possible also read my article about the transferable skills (click on blue writing)


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