The Big Interview

‘Way too many people worry too much about big cars and fancy houses’ – Cathal Friel

Cathal Friel’s latest venture, Poolbeg Pharma, a clinical-stage infectious disease firm spun out of Open Orphan, aims to tap into the almost €200 billion infectious disease market

Cathal Friel, chairman and co-founder of Poolbeg Pharma. What keeps him going is ‘the fun and enjoyment of creating companies’. Picture: Fergal Phillips

The big successes of his recent career are not what motivate Cathal Friel. The executive chair and co-founder of Open Orphan and Poolbeg Pharma says his drive goes back to his teenage years in the early 1980s, when he had to drop out of school and take over the family’s retail and petrol business.

“It’s very simple. I was waking up in Donegal as an 18-year-old and saying ‘shit, how did this happen?’” Friel tells the Business Post. “I remember I used to cry my eyes out at 17, 18 years of age.”