Small Business Q&A: Patsy Carney, EirGen

In this week’s Q&A Kehlan talks with the chief executive of pharmaceuticals company EirGen, Patsy Carney. EirGen recently announced a brand new facility in Waterford along with over 200 jobs. EirGen is part of OPKO, a Miami-based pharmaceutical and diagnostics company, which operates the third largest clinical laboratory in the US.

Can you give us a brief overview of EirGen, Patsy?

Well, we’re based here in Waterford and our business is that we develop and manufacture oncology products for global markets. 

We have a purpose-built facility here and currently have about 130 people working for us. 

And we’re going to be increasing that to around 200 with this new facility that we have planned. That new facility will be dedicated to research and development. 

That will take us into other platforms... We’re going to move more into sterile products and injectables; they’ll be in the same area of oncology. 

That’ll make us an operator across several different platforms with the combination of being part of the wider organisation of OPKO Health.

Where are the best margins for a pharma company, generics or new products?

Well, right now it still remains that if you can get that new chemical entity onto the market a lot faster, then that’s where the money will be made in terms of profitability. 

However, with that comes a huge risk that you may never make it out of the clinical studies. 

You still have to spend that money, pump the money into R&D and hope that the stats are there to support that work. 

The likelihood of any particular drug getting onto the market from R&D is the same as you or I stepping up and hitting a hole-in-one at a golf course. 

But for the ones that do come through, it can be very profitable. 

The generic side of the business is a little more predictable, because if you can make a product that little bit more cost effectively and be competitive in the marketplace, there is revenue to be made. 

However, that revenue would be much more modest than that of a brand new chemical product. 

We also have a combination of new chemical, but that solves an old drug problem on the market. 

For example, right now we’re working on a new growth hormone for children with developmental issues. 

Currently, they have to take an injection every day. With what we’re working on they would need just one injection a week. 

So for us, that’s a lower risk as we are building upon something already in the market but developing a newer, better version.

What’s next for EirGen and OPKO with this new facility?

Well, all the work at the moment is going towards the design of the facility. 

That’ll happen over the next six months. 

Then we’ll be slowly bringing that facility online over the next year to 18 months. 

OPKO wanted an R&D base here in Ireland because of the workforce that we attract. 

We have that skill base here in Waterford and we aim to grow that over the next few years too. 

We also take on the supply chain aspects and get the products to market. 

So the new facility will be a vital part of the OPKO global reach.


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