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UCD Smurfit School Alumna Sharon Cunningham Honoured as 2023 AACSB Influential Leader

  • Date: Tue, Feb 7, 2023

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UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School announces that alumna Sharon Cunningham is one of 25 business school graduates honoured by AACSB International (AACSB)—the world’s largest business education alliance—as the 2023 Class of Influential Leaders.

The annual initiative recognizes notable alumni from AACSB-accredited business schools whose inspiring work serves as a model for the next generation of business leaders, and this year’s class features individuals defining what it means to be a societal impact leader.

Sharon Cunningham currently serves as CEO and Co-Founder of Shorla Oncology which develops and commercializes innovative oncology products for women's and children's cancers, populations for which existing treatment options are limited. Shorla's vision is to improve lives through science by rethinking, reimagining, and improving upon existing, proven oncology treatments.

As a leader, Cunningham strives to make a positive impact on society. She tackles grand challenges and pursues objectives that make a difference in the lives of those whose needs are unmet by existing products and approaches. Sharon 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.

“Sharon’s achievements demonstrate that success in business can also mean success for society. Her efforts to prioritize purpose, people, and planet should inspire all of us to reorient our ideas about impactful leadership,” said Caryn Beck-Dudley, AACSB president and CEO. “It is a privilege to amplify her efforts and the entire 2023 Class of Influential Leaders.”

Now in its eighth year, AACSB’s Influential Leaders spotlight program recognizes more than 275 business school graduates who have created lasting impact in business and society. All honourees have earned an undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral degree from one of the more than 950 AACSB-accredited business schools worldwide.

The 2023 honourees include advocates across businesses, nonprofits, and governments who are committed to creating positive change in the world. These changemakers use their business education to create a more sustainable environment, elevate employment and education opportunities for underrepresented populations, and improve the livelihoods of society’s most underserved communities. They represent business education’s efforts to create and promote positive societal impact—a key feature of AACSB’s 2020 business accreditation standards and the focus of its recent accelerator work. Support for the 2022 Influential Leaders initiative is provided by Academic Partnerships.

The unique stories of each honouree, and how they are creating meaningful, lasting impact in the world, are available at

About Sharon Cunningham and Shorla
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 UCD Smurfit 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. 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. Two of the three products in Shorla's current pipeline treat orphan diseases, rare diseases that affect fewer than 200,000 patients. Unfortunately, rare cancers have a mere five-year survival rate on average when compared to more common cancers. This is due in large part to limited treatment options—a result of insufficient research in this area. 

The 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 Boston in 2021 in order to drive the company's mission and oversee the launch of the company's portfolio of drugs. Almost five years since founding the company, Shorla 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. 

Established in 1916, AACSB is the world’s largest business education alliance, connecting educators, learners, and business to create the next generation of great leaders. With a presence in more than 100 countries and territories, AACSB fosters engagement, accelerates innovation, and amplifies impact in business education. Learn how AACSB is transforming business education for a better society at

For further information, please contact:
Leah (Harms) McBride
Public Relations Manager
AACSB International


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