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Luís Portela was born in 1951, in Porto, Portugal, where he graduated in Medicine. He practiced medicine only for three years and lectured Psychophysiology for six years at the University of Porto.
He began his business career when he was 21 years old, and at 27 he became the Chairman and CEO of the pharmaceutical company Bial until 2011, when he took the role of non-executive Chairman, until 2021. He was also President of the Health Cluster Portugal and of the General Board of the University of Porto and Vice-president of Serralves Foundation. Currently he is Chairman of the Bial Foundation.