Pharma firms create 300 research jobs

ALMOST 300 jobs were announced yesterday as part of the first phase of a huge pharmaceutical enterprise planned for unemployment blackspot Tralee, Co Kerry.

Over the next four years, between 40 and 50 medium-sized businesses, including some top international names, will form part of the €4.7 billion Global Pharmaceutical Centre of Excellence (GPCE) project.

The aim is to have 4,700 people employed in what is being flagged as one of the biggest research centres of its kind in Europe.

A total of 282 jobs were announced by three international companies yesterday, part of an initiative to locate test centres in biomedicine, drug-testing and pharmaceutical research in a new campus overlooking Tralee Bay.

The jobs, in research and development, are to come on stream over the next 15 months and are to be based temporarily in the town’s Centrepoint building. Recruitment begins in May.

Rory Doyle, chief executive of the proposed centre and a senior executive with Pharmadel, the Cork-based generic drug firm, said a planning application is to be lodged in May for a 32-acre site.

The site is beside the Kerry Technology Park and the Institute of Technology, Tralee.

Details were spelt out to political, local authority and business figures in Kerry at a presentation at the council headquarters in Tralee.

The plans include a four-storey, light-filled building with a floor space of 27.5 acres and comprising laboratories and an auditorium larger than that in the new convention centre in Dublin, according to architects.

The 282 jobs will be created by the International Prevention Research Institute (IPRI), Global Research Services (GRS) and Optivia Biotechnology.

IPRI boss Prof Peter Boyle said the focus of his organisation was on prevention, adding what he described as the bold GPCE initiative was necessary for the development of medicine.

“This could be a very important centre for the whole of Europe in five years,” he said.

The IPRI is a non-profit organisation which advises on public health to governments, including Poland and Kuwait, and is targeting €2bn EU structural funds for research.

Dr Paul Milner, head of Optivia Bioctechnology based in Silicon Valley, said he envisaged 500 studies and an investment of $5m (€3.6m) in the first year in Tralee.

His company’s focus was in pre-clinical trials which would not involve animal testing. Optivia would need up to 30,000 sq ft of laboratory space and could create 60 to 120 jobs in Tralee, he told the gathering.

Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs and Kerry North FG TD Jimmy Deenihan attended and promised every support from the Government.

The promoters had meetings with the previous government and are seeking a multi-million euro funding package, as well as overseas investment, to ensure the project goes ahead.

More than 60 professionals have been working on the project for over a year.

Meanwhile, former Finance Minister and FG leader Alan Dukes, a member of the GPCE board, said yesterday’s event was the first ‘material and tangible manifestation” of the project which, he added, was receiving great help from the IDA and Shannon Development.

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