Techs can help Ireland compete on costs says team behind new hub

By Gareth Macdonald

- Last updated on GMT

University of Limerick, Ireland. Home to the new manufacturing tech development centre
University of Limerick, Ireland. Home to the new manufacturing tech development centre

Related tags Pharmacology

Ireland once was a drug making nexus,Making meds sold from Cairo to Texas.But with key patents gone,Firms are keen to move on,And a new Limerick tech hub reflects this, says director.

The Irish Government announced plans to invest €5m ($6.4m) in an “industry-focused” pharmaceutical manufacturing technology centre at the University of Limerick last week, in a bid create a hub for process innovation.

The centre – which is the latest of 15 sites set up by Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland – is designed to foster the development of technologies that will help drugmakers compete on costs according to Limerick University research vice president, Mary Shire.

Ireland has one of the best reputations globally in pharmaceutical manufacturing and it’s important that we continue to support the sector so we attract further investment and retain existing investments​” she said.

Dr Shire explained that providing drugmakers and academics with a centre at which they can collaborate on things like process analytical technology development will help “reduce cost and thus enhance competitiveness.”

This was echoed by center director Chris Edlin who told the site was a response to the negative impact patent losses and competition from low cost regions have had on drug making in Ireland.

He expalined that: "There was a real fear that unless our manufacturing industry could start competing on costs by becoming more innovative and knowledge-based, work would start to go elsewhere​."

Dr Edlin said that, in light of this need, the new centre will focus on expanding the use of PAT and data analysis to improve processes, explaining that this work will be carried out by an eight strong team of researchers.

Commercial impact

While it is a Government project, development of the new centre is being supported by an industry consortium involving big firms like Pfizer, GSK, Eli Lilly, MSD and BMS, smaller firms such as Alkermes, Allergan, Astellas and Gilead and various local suppliers.

Donal Coveney, managing director of active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) and excipient firm TopChem said: “The major commercial impact for member companies will be the access to technology generated by the research team.”

The implementation of these technologies will lead to improved competitiveness, increased or retained employment and more secure future prospects for the companies involved​.”

Companies involved in the project will be offered access to any IP developed at the centre according to Edlin, who explained that they can either license access to a particular information or take greater control by choosing to fund further development.

Irish collaboration 

Edlin, who has a background in the competitive world of pharmaceutical drug discovery, also said he is confident the centre combined with the collaborative approach to manufacturing present among Irish drugmakers will benefit the industry.

One eye opening thing is that companies in Ireland are very collaborative,” he said, adding that “everybody recognises the need to innovate and this approach will pay dividends​.”

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