Our People

Our People

Plusvital has a very strong team of both scientists and horse industry experts. Our research team includes genetic researchers, vets, bio-informaticians, developers and nutrition experts giving us an in-house expertise that is second to none. Our sales and marketing team include executives with a wide range of equine industry experience, giving them a clear insight into how to best use our products and services to give our customers a competitive edge.

We are always looking for high-potential people to join our fast-paced team at Plusvital. If working at the cutting-edge of the equine industry excites you, please forward your CV and a brief cover note to info@plusvital.com

Senior Management

Mike Shelly


Mike Shelly is the CEO of Plusvital. Mike is a chemical engineer by background with an MBA from UCD Smurfit graduate school of business. He started his career in biotech where he worked in a number of operational and process engineering roles for Wyeth (now Pfizer) and Amgen in Ireland, Switzerland and the USA. Upon completion of his MBA, he joined a startup renewable energy company operating in the UK and Ireland in a business development/management position. Upon the successful trade sale of this business, Mike returned to Ireland where he joined Plusvital as Head of Business Development and he became CEO in early 2015. Mike is passionate about the vision of building a world-class equine science company based in Ireland and is far too tall to ride horses.

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Prof Emmeline Hill


Professor Emmeline Hill was a co-founder of Equinome Ltd. and leads the Plusvital R&D team. In 2004 she was awarded a President of Ireland Young Researcher Award to establish the world’s first academic research programme dedicated to understanding performance traits in the Thoroughbred. She has been at the forefront of Thoroughbred performance genomics during the last decade and has published more scientific papers on equine exercise genomics than any other researcher worldwide. She is an Associate Professor of Equine Science at University College Dublin and leads the Equine Exercise Genomics research group at UCD funded by Science Foundation Ireland. She has retrained a former steeplechaser to be her weekend hack and she rides regularly with her two children.

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Ciara Watt

Sales Director

Ciara Watt studied Environmental Science at NUIG and also completed a BA in Marketing in French. Having worked for the world renowned Coolmore Stud both in Ireland and the US, as well as International Sales for Glanbia/GAIN Horse Feeds she has vast knowledge of the Global thoroughbred Industry. Horses have always been a passion having ridden and competed from an early age. Ciara has won the ladies side-saddle class at the Royal Dublin Horse Show as well as representing Ireland in dressage and show jumping in Switzerland at the World Equestrian Student Games. Ciara also owned her own chocolate company exporting handmade truffles to the UK and France and was finalist in the Entrepreneur of the Year Awards before selling the company.

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R & D Team

Dr Beatrice McGivney

Senior Researcher

Dr Beatrice McGivney is a molecular genomics researcher at Plusvital. She graduated from Trinity College Dublin with a degree in Human Genetics and then joined Professor Hill’s Equine Exercise Genomics research group obtaining a PhD in Equine Functional Genomics. Beatrice started her career in Equinome Ltd in 2009 and following a three-year interval working as postdoctoral researcher she returned to Equinome Ltd. In 2014. Beatrice’s research has focussed on understanding the genetic response to exercise in the Thoroughbred and in the development of tests to predict performance traits in the Thoroughbred racehorse. She loves to get out riding whenever she the opportunity arises with hunting and polocrosse being the latest endeavours.

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Amy Holtby

PhD Researcher

Originally from Yorkshire, Amy Holtby joined Equinome Ltd in July 2013 after graduating from the Royal Agricultural University (Cirencester) with first-class honours in Equine Science. During her degree, she worked with high-performance polo ponies which inspired her undergraduate research project investigating myostatin mutations in polo ponies, which she performed in collaboration with Equinome. Having worked as part of laboratory operations team for three years she was always eager to pursue her passion for research exploring the biological dynamics underpinning the equine athlete and started a PhD project based at University College Dublin in September 2016.  In her spare time she enjoys riding in Wicklow and is also a member of the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association Next Generation club.

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Ramon Fallon

Operational Bioinformatician

Ramon has a B.Eng. and M.Sc. Computational Science from UCD and has worked with the BBC, Ericsson and Gartner before specialising in Bioinformatics in 2008. In this capacity, he has worked at the University of Vigo in Spain, Uppsala University in Sweden and University of St. Andrews in Scotland working on aligning sequences, assembling genomes and quantifying gene expression in diverse species such as yeast, mussels and crows as well as microbial metagenomics. His main interest is in algorithms for unravelling signals and patterns in abundant data which is something that his background in electronic engineering and bioinformatics have in common.

Ramon enjoys the great outdoors and cycles and runs in his spare time. Despite this, he concedes that his job of analysing equine DNA is an entirely indoor task staring and typing at computer screens. He’s still thrilled to be working with horses though: “actually a horse race can be simply modelled as an exciting Poisson process which is similar to how DNA evolves too”, he says.

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Sales & Marketing

Robert O’Connor

Marketing Manager

Originally hailing from the west of Ireland, Robert O’Connor’s first real memory of horse racing is receiving some terrible betting tips from the chocolate seller at his local racecourse. Things only got better from there on out and Robert studied a BComm International in NUI Galway, followed by a MSc in Marketing in the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate School of Business, before eventually ending up in telecommunications giant, Vodafone Ireland.

After nearly five years working on a diverse set of international projects with Vodafone, Robert left the company to fulfil a long-held ambition in backpacking around the globe for nine months, but returned to Ireland to join the Plusvital team in February 2017. Robert has been known to throw a rugby ball around, claims to speak Spanish (badly) and, while he rarely rides horses, he tends to travel much farther on bikes, once completing an 800km charity cycle from Paris to Dusseldorf.

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Marylu Ernsting

North American Territory Manager

Marylu Ernsting is originally from Florida, USA and now resides in the Lexington, Kentucky area. Marylu’s lengthy career in the horse industry has encompassed many facets. From owning and operating a riding lesson and boarding facility to becoming a veterinary technician working with a renowned reproduction veterinarian in Ocala, Florida, to sales in the veterinary pharmaceutical distribution industry to becoming an Equine Specialist for a manufacturer of specialty veterinary equine dermatology. The latter afforded Marylu to learn and work alongside some of the top Equine Dermatology Professors and Equine Internal Medicine Specialists in America for 6+ years.

Marylu and her husband are strong racing enthusiasts and love to vacation where there are top notch race tracks. When not attending the races somewhere, Marylu is a trail riding enthusiast and has begun mounted archery lessons with hopes of competing in the spring of 2019 on her newly acquired Blue Roan Quarter Horse “Rowdy”. Marylu and her husband also have 2 other horses, 1 mule, 4 cats and 2 dogs on their hobby farm.

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Gita Lelesiute

Operations Manager

Gita Lelesiute, originally from Lithuania, completed her BA degree in English Philology at Vilnius Pedagogical University and set out for some adventure to Ireland where she’s lived for over 14 years. She joined the Plusvital team as Executive Assistant to the CEO in early 2014, and became Operations Manager in 2015. Gita manages the process of supplements orders and works closely with our factory at David Taylor Animal Nutrition Ltd to ensure smooth manufacture and dispatch. From exports and registration documents to regulatory processes and quality control, Gita provides fast and efficient support to our agents worldwide.

Gita is also our Office Manager, overseeing the smooth day-to-day running of the business.

She devotes her spare time to her daughter and her pets and is an avid animal rights advocate.

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Leanne Corduff

Laboratory Supervisor

Leanne Corduff has worked as a Research Assistant on the Beef Data Genomic Programme with Weatherbys Ireland, a scheme carried out aiming to improve the genetic merit of the cattle herd. Previously, she worked as a Microbiologist in a food, water and Environmental Testing laboratory. She studied a Bachelor of Science in Applied Bioscience in Dundalk Institute of Technology and an honours degree in Environmental Biology. She has an interest in health and equine performance in horse racing and has two race horses at home.

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Lynda Masterson

Molecular Biology Laboratory Technician

Lynda Masterson studied Biological and Biomedical Science in Maynooth University, during which a year long sabbatical from college turned into four years working for Champion National Hunt Trainer Willie Mullins. In Lynda’s role as Barn Manager and Work Rider, she acquired a wealth of knowledge about the horse racing industry. She was lucky to have some exceptional horses in her care, including Cheltenham Festival-winning Don Poli and the Aintree Champion Bumper winner Barcardys. Lynda returned to Maynooth to finish her studies and graduated with a BSc.

Prior to Lynda joining the team at Plusvital, she worked for Weatherbys Scientific as a Laboratory Scientist on the Beef Data Genomics Programme. Her passion lies with horses and her pride and joy is her retired racehorse and an Irish Sport Horse mare, whom she competes and hunts with. Lynda is very interested in disease and performance traits in horses and hopes to contribute to Plusvital’s groundbreaking research.

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Song Liu

Database Administrator

Song Liu completed a BSc in Computer Science and Technology in Shandong Agricultural University, China (2012-2016), followed by a MSc in Computer Science (Data stream) in UCD (2016-2017). Song has previously worked with digital solutions company 4PM to build their property price prediction project and participated in an academic team project to integrate multiple data APIs and present social views for popular news. During his last year of undergraduate study, Song also worked as a Research Assistant in college Big Data Lab and mainly focused on data Extract-Transform-Load among data sources of remote databases and various formatted files. Song has no previous experience with horses, but would like to develop horse riding as hobby.

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Scientific Advisory Committee

Prof David MacHugh

Prof David MacHugh obtained a BA (Mod) degree in Genetics from Trinity College Dublin in 1988 and undertook PhD research in animal genomics at TCD. His postdoctoral work on livestock paleogenomics was funded by a Wellcome Trust Research Fellowship in Bioarchaeology. In 1999 he took up a lectureship in University College Dublin and was appointed Professor in 2009. He is currently the Associate Dean for Research, Innovation and Impact at the UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science. He is also a Conway Investigator (www.ucd.ie/conway), co-founder and Scientific Advisor to Equinome Ltd. (www.equinome.com) and a co-founder and member of the Scientific Advisory Board of IdentiGEN Ltd. (www.identigen.com).

Prof MacHugh’s research programme is focused on functional genomics of host-pathogen interactions for Mycobacterium bovis infection and development of novel disease biomarkers for bovine tuberculosis. Other research activities include livestock production genomics; population genomics of extinct and modern livestock populations; and with Professor Emmeline Hill, genomics of health and performance traits in Thoroughbred horses.

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Prof Lisa Katz

Prof Lisa Katz, an Associate Professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine, UCD, Ireland, obtained her DVM from the University of Georgia (USA, 1994) and holds an MSc degree in equine exercise physiology (Washington State University, USA, 1998) and a PhD degree in equine vascular biology (Royal Veterinary College, UK, 2003). She is a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM, 2001) and the European College of Equine Internal Medicine (ECEIM, 2005). Prof Katz has over 44 refereed publications in the scientific and clinical veterinary literature and has made several contributions to book chapters in her specialist areas. Her clinical and research interests include equine laminitis, equine exercise physiology and equine genomics.

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