Brady was born on 9 August 1959 to Carmel and Hugh Brady. Brady attended the Presentation College, Bray, Moville National School and Newbridge College. He studied medicine at University College Dublin, National University of Ireland and graduated with a M.B., B.Ch., B.A.O. (Hons) in 1982. He was subsequently awarded a B.Sc (Hons) in Pharmacology (1984), a Ph.D. for his research in renal physiology (1993) and an M.D. for research in molecular medicine.
In 1985, Brady became a member of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland and a Diplomate of the American Boards of Internal Medicine (1992) and Nephrology (1993). He trained as an Intern and Senior House Officer in St. Vincent’s University Hospital and St. Laurence’s (Richmond) Hospital, Dublin before undertaking Fellowships in Nephrology in the Toronto Western Hospital, University of Toronto in 1986 and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston in 1987.
From 1987-96, Brady served sequentially as Fellow, Instructor in Medicine, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard University where he led his own research group and taught at Harvard Medical School. He was also Attending (Consultant) Physician at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Director of Nephrology at the Harvard-affiliated Brockton-West Roxbury VA Medical Centre. He was awarded research grants from the William H. Milton Fund, National Institutes of Health (NIDDK), National Kidney Foundation, USA and American Heart Association. In 1996, Brady was appointed Professor of Medicine and Therapeutics at UCD and Consultant Physician the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital in Dublin in 1996. From 2000-2003, he served as UCD’s Head of the Department of Medicine. He established new outpatient haemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis units in the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital. He was awarded research grants from the Wellcome Trust, Irish Health Research Board, EU and industry to build a research group of 40 researchers and support staff. He also led the development of the new UCD McAuley Education and Research Centre on the site of the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital.
At the age of 44, Brady was appointed President and Chief Officer of University College Dublin in January 2004 - the youngest President in UCD’s history.
As President, Brady led a major and somewhat controversial programme of institutional change which was hailed by some as necessary modernization and internationalization of Ireland’s largest university and criticized by others as being too business focused and managerial. The programme included: academic restructuring; introduction of the UCD Horizons modular and semesterised undergraduate curriculum; overhaul of UCD’s student supports; establishment of the Ad Astra Academy to nurture UCD’s highest performing students; establishment of graduate schools and structured PhD programmes to support postgraduate training; creation of a number of thematic multi-disciplinary research institutes; a major focus on internationalization; adoption of innovation as the 3rd pillar of UCD academic activity; the launch of a new visual identity for UCD; a new campus development plan and capital programme; enhancement of UCD’s development and alumni relations functions; and launch of a new fundraising campaign. During his tenure, UCD also introduced independent Chairs to UCD’s Governing Authority and Finance Committees and Brady invited the President of UCD’s Students Union to join UCD’s Finance Committee.
Under Brady, UCD increased its 1st preferences from Irish school-leavers year-or-year and consistently attracted the most 1st preferences among the other Irish universities. The University increased its share of the national pool of high performing Irish school leavers (>500 CAO points) from 22% to 30%. UCD total student number increased from 23,000 to 25,500 with postgraduate student numbers growing from 5,874 to 7,260. UCD increased its annual research funding from €49m to €113m. UCD approximately doubled its publication output (1,391 to 2,590), publication impact (0.94 to 1.46 where 1.0 is the international average) and international collaborative publications (36% to 49%; publication impact from 1.3 to 3.0). UCD’s QS World Ranking rose from 221 to a peak of 89 at the onset of Ireland's austerity programme.
UCD expanded its on-campus international student population from 11% to 22% (of approximately 25,500 students) and grew its overseas programmes in China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia to a student population of 5000. UCD was invited to join the Universitas 21 Network of global research universities. The University was granted approval by the Chinese Government to establish the Beijing-Dublin International College in 2011 and was awarded €3m by the Chinese Government in December 2013 towards construction of a new building for the UCD Confucius Institute for Ireland on UCD’s Belfield campus with matching funding from the Irish Government. In December 2013, Brady secured a commitment from Chinese authorities to provide facilities worth c€300m for a new campus in Yantai City, Shandong Province to be run jointly by UCD and China Agricultural University (CAU).
From 2004-13, UCD’s total income increased from €296m to €423m with the non-Exchequer component of UCD’s total income increasing from 36 to 52%. The Campaign for UCD raised funding for student scholarships, academic posts and physical infrastructure. Annual philanthropic donations to UCD almost quaprupled and over €60m in pledges and gifts were secured in the final 18 months of the Brady Presidency.
An international architectural competition yielded the new Gateway Campus Master Plan which provided the framework for completion of a major capital development programme. Between 2004 and 2013 UCD developed ~150,000 sq.m. of new, refurbished and acquired facilities at a cost of €600m - over 50% of which came from non-Exchequer sources. Notable elements included the following: UCD Student Centre with its 50m pool, gym, dance studio, debating chamber, theatre, cinema, student media pod and other facilities for clubs and societies; UCD Global Lounge and Gerard Manley Hopkins International Centre, the UCD Clubhouse; O’Brien Centre for Science; Sutherland School of Law; Systems Biology Ireland; National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training; Charles Institute for Dermatology Research; UCD School of Civil Engineering and Landscape Architecture; the NexusUCD Enterprise Centre; new and refurbished student residences; co-location of the headquarters for Leinster Rugby with UCD’s Institute of Sport and Health; restoration of UCD’s on-campus period houses; and campus landscaping that included planting of 20,000 trees, 7 km of woodland walkways, a new campus lake and development of UCD’s sculpture trail. The Gateway Master Plan also envisages a mixed use academic, residential, office and commercial complex at the front of the Belfield campus – the Gateway Complex. The planning framework for this development has also been included in the Dun Laoighaire Rathdown County Council development plan. UCD decided to put the project on hold at the onset of the global financial crisis in 2008-9. In his final year he secured matching funds from the Irish and Chinese governments for construction of a bespoke building for UCD's Confucius Institute. In addition, he secured a philanthropic leadership gift of 5m euro, with subsequent matching funds from the Irish government, for extensive renovation of UCD's Newman House complex which will include the development of The Ulysses Centre - a public exhibition centre drawing inspiration from the writers of Ireland and its diaspora.
He retired in 2013 having completed his ten-year term and was replaced by Andrew Deeks. From January 2014 to August 2015, Professor Brady served as Professor of Medicine and Healthcare Strategy at UCD.
In September 2015, Brady took up his appointment as Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Bristol, becoming the University's 13th Vice-Chancellor.
Brady’s research interests include the molecular pathogenesis of diabetic kidney disease and pro-resolution pathways in inflammatory disease. He has published over 160 research articles, reviews and book chapters, including invited contributions to major international textbooks in nephrology and general medicine such as Brenner and Rector’s The Kidney and Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine. He has co-edited two textbooks: Therapy in Nephrology and Hypertension (with C. Wilcox) and Intensive Care Nephrology (with P Murray and JB Hall).
From 1998-2003 Brady, at the invitation of former UCD President Art Cosgrove, played a leadership role in three successful UCD institutional research bids in science and molecular medicine to the Irish Government’s Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions (PRTLI) – a programme co-funded by Atlantic Philanthropies, the philanthropic foundation established by Irish-American Chuck Feeney. These proposals yielded ~€100m for new facilities, academic posts, PhD studentships and trans-institutional collaborative programmes: the multidisciplinary UCD Conway Institute for Biomolecular and Biomedical Research, the Dublin Molecular Medicine Centre (a collaboration with Trinity College Dublin) and the Programme for Human Genomics (a collaboration with Trinity College and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland).
Brady has served in a number of external leadership roles, including member of Ireland’s Higher Education Authority, Chairman of the Irish Health Research Board, Chairman of the Irish Universities Association, President of the Irish Nephrological Society, and Chairman of the Universitas 21 Global Network of global research universities. He also served on the Irish Government’s National Innovation Taskforce in 2011 and the Oversight Committee for Ireland’s National Innovation Fund.
He is a member of the Public Interest Board of PwC (Ireland) and a non-Executive Director of two multinational companies - Kerry Group plc and ICON plc. He received an Honorary Doctorate of Science from Queen’s University Belfast, an Honorary Fellowship from the Royal College of Anaesthetists in Ireland and the Robert Menzies Medal from the University of Melbourne.
It was announced on 31 October 2014 that Brady will become Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bristol in September 2015.
Brady is married to Professor Yvonne O’Meara, a consultant nephrologist, and they have three sons.