The Irish founder of animal nutrition company Alltech and an Irish statistician and sociologist have both been awarded this year's St Patrick's Day Science Medal.

Professor Adrian Raftery and Dr Pearse Lyons were honoured by Enda Kenny in a ceremony in Washington.

The Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) awards, now in their fourth year, mark the achievements of experts living and working in the US who have strong links to Ireland.

Prof Raftery, who works at the University of Washington, is regarded as one of the most eminent statisticians in the world, having developed new statistical methods in the fields of social, environmental and health sciences.

His research in quantifying statistical uncertainty in demographic projections has been credited with changing approaches to population forecasting.

Dr Lyons founded scientific research company Alltech in 1980 with the aim of improving the health and performance of people, animals and plants.

Alltech is now a multi-billion dollar business that trades in 128 countries worldwide, employing thousands of people.

At a ceremony at the United States Institute of Peace, Mr Kenny said: "I am delighted to present the SFI St Patrick's Day Science Medal on behalf of Science Foundation Ireland, to these two exceptional leaders.

"Dr Lyons and Prof Raftery have both had a huge impact in their own areas of expertise and played pivotal roles in the development of researchers in Ireland.

"They have demonstrated how academic and industry based scientific research can create jobs, tackle global problems and impact positively on people and society.

These distinguished medal recipients are driving globally significant innovation in the areas of agriculture, food production, health, and population and weather forecasting, to name just a few."

Dr Lyons said he was "so proud" to accept the medal.

"While my business is global, my passion for biochemistry and entrepreneurship started at home in Ireland.

"As a company, we still have very close links to Ireland with one of our three biosciences research centres based in Dunboyne, Co Meath. Science and technology play a very important part in my company's success and all of the Alltech team work to innovate every day.

"We strive to put scientific research at the core of our business and to use that research to drive our success at home and abroad."

Prof Raftery said: "I developed my passion for statistics during my time at St Conleth's College in Dublin and at Trinity College Dublin. Statistics is vital to science, including the social sciences, and it is progressing rapidly with the current growth in big data and data science.

"I am very honoured to receive the SFI St Patrick's Day Science Medal."