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Ireland has a long and successful track record of pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical manufacturing, with 9 of the world’s top 10 Pharmaceutical companies having a very significant presence here.

In many cases major companies have made significant repeat investments in Ireland, underlying the strong reputation that Ireland has built up in this sector, with an excellent regulatory track record and strong availability of talent.

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An interesting development in recent years has been the arrival of several new companies to Ireland, further enhancing the cluster. The sector is hugely impactful for the Irish economy, with over 25,000 people directly employed in the industry, with a strong regional spread and accounting for almost 50% of Irish Goods exports. Indigenous Irish companies are also developing strongly as part of the cluster: companies supplying world-leading services to the multinational base here and globally or companies looking to develop their own therapeutic products through the clinic.The Irish pharma and biopharma industry is now entering an exciting period following the challenges faced by the patent cliff. In the last two years international companies have committed approximately $3bn to capital expenditure in Ireland, reinvesting in existing facilities and establishing new facilities.

Growth has been particularly strong in the area of biopharmaceutical manufacturing with major investments announced in Cork, Dublin, Limerick, Waterford, Athlone and Westport between 2012 and 2014.

Another area of growth has been in the area of highly specific and potent small molecule drugs which are having a breakthrough impact in areas such as oncology and virology. Several existing facilities in Ireland are winning investment to develop and manufacture these highly potent molecules. Such investments allow sites to complement their ability to manufacture blockbuster drugs at large scale with an ability to develop and supply a variety of nichebuster products.

Exciting opportunities also exist in the area of drug delivery and drug product manufacturing and several companies have established capability in manufacture of novel formulations. In the case of injectable drugs, Irelandís very strong medical device cluster creates significant opportunities for collaboration between companies on novel devices for drug delivery.

This is just one example of an area of new product development where collaboration across disciplines will be key. In a small country with a high industry concentration, collaboration is and will remain a key element of the Irish clusterís success in the future. A key component in the success of the pharma and biopharma industry is a wide range of research collaborations with Irish universities and research institutes. Ireland has ascended the international ranking of scientific research capability from 36th in 2003 to 20th in 2010 and has scored world rankings of 8th in materials science and 3rd in immunology.

Specifically for the pharma and biopharma industry, the Irish government has funded three applied research centres:

  • The National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (www.nibrt.ie) provides award winning research and training programmes in state-of-the-art facilities for the biopharma industry.
  • The Synthesis and Solid State Pharmaceutical Centre (SSPC) (www.sspc.ie) delivers world leading research which spans the entire pharmaceutical production chain from synthesis of the molecule, to the isolation of the material, and the formulation of the medicine.
  • The Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Technology Centre (PMTC) (www.pmtc.ie) delivers advanced technology solutions to contemporary manufacturing issues currently challenging the Irish pharmaceutical sector.

IDA welcomes the publication of this overview of the breadth and depth of research capability in Irish Universities and research institutes and the collaborations that are developing between these centres aimed at addressing industry needs. To borrow a word from chemistry, I believe that these research centres, working together and with industry, will be catalytic in the further development of the cluster in Ireland.

Martin Shanahan – IDA Chief Executive


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