Pharma firms create research hub

A total of 17 international pharmaceutical companies based in Ireland have joined forces to form the first research hub of its kind in the world to help find solutions to common problems.

Launching the Synthesis & Solid State Pharmaceutical Centre at the University of Limerick (UL) yesterday, Jobs and Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton said: “This centre is to turn good ideas into good jobs.

“The pharmaceutical sector is crucially important to Ireland and employs 60,000 people, it exports €50m of product and it is absolutely essential that we develop the new opportunities in this rapidly changing sector.”

The Government has invested €30m to super the new ‘think tank’, with a further €10m coming from the industries involved.

Up to 90 research jobs will be generated in third- level colleges which will feed into the centre at UL.

Mr Bruton said the UL centre will draw world-class researchers to help develop new products. It will also, he said, act as a magnet to attract new pharmaceutical companies here.

Mr Bruton said: “This centre will be a unique resource that the industry can tap into.

“We pride ourselves in being able to promote collaboration in a way that other countries haven’t. We are creating a new environment for promoting commercialisation of research. That’s the key.”

Ireland is home to eight of the world’s top 10 pharmaceutical companies and six of the top 10 ‘blockbuster’ drugs are now made here.

Professor Kieran Hodnett, scientific director of the new centre at UL, said they will research topics important to the manufacture of medicines.

Prof Hodnett said: “Of all the medicines manufactured in the world, some part of half of all those medicines are manufactured in this country.”

He said the new centre will strengthen the position of pharmaceutical companies based here by conducting shared research, which will make their operations here more efficient and cost effective.

Prof Hodnett said while there is a certain part of the business of pharmaceutical companies which is very private and very secret, there are other areas which are common.

He said: “They would have common problems in terms of trying to make a process more sustainable, common problems in trying to have the best manufacturing techniques and come up with solutions which they can specifically apply to their own industry.”

Prof Hodnett said highly innovative people across the industry will now have a centre where they will be able to share and learn.

He said the new centre will attract greater worldwide research and innovation from the pharmaceutical industry here.

He said: “The centre is the first of it’s kind in the world. It’s the first time these industries have worked together, nationally and internationally.

“When corporate headquarters of pharmaceutical companies look at the way we operate in Ireland, they are really impressed. And these are the people who make the decisions where their next investment is going to be.”

Professor Don Barry, president of UL, said the establishment of the centre “will have overarching economic impact for this country in the retention and creation of jobs in the pharmaceutical industry”.

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