All Eyes on Ireland

Posted by: The Reference Point
Posted on: 31st July 2023
Back to: Insights

UN trade statistics identify Ireland as the world’s third largest pharmaceutical exporter. But for those closely involved within this six-decade success story, there is still much work to be done

By the time exhibitors begin filing into the Frankfurt Fairgrounds next year, another milestone will quietly and unobtrusively have been reached. It will be exactly 60 years since Ireland made its first steps towards establishing itself as a global hub for the production of pharmaceuticals. In premises it had acquired a mere six years earlier, LEO Laboratories began producing small molecule drug products in Crumlin, Dublin, a former countryside suburb famous as the birthplace of the likes of the writer Brendan Behan, the rock star Phil Lynott and the MMA legend Conor McGregor. At the same time, a few miles to the North in the county town of Swords, Bristol Myers Squibb opened an API plant, two decisions that marked the country’s first foray into drug production.

The following three decades saw wave after wave of investment in large- scale, small molecule intermediate and drug substance facilities, many of them American and attracted to the growing industrial hub of Cork, bringing with them inspiration for household-name blockbuster drugs.  And this shows no signs of abating with experts predicting the sector will grow further. Enterprise Ireland estimates that the total life sciences sector across medical devices, pharma and biopharma employs over 50,000 people directly and exports more than €45 billion a year. As an even more tangible example: three of the world’s top infant formula manufacturers currently operate from there, along with nine of the top 10 global pharmaceutical companies and 17 of the top 25 global medical device companies. Representing all this is BioPharmaChem Ireland which acts as an active link between all key stakeholders, including industry, the Government, researchers and the general public, highlighting in their words, “the unique attractiveness” of Ireland as a location for drug supply and development.

It’s got a lot going for it. Historic links to US make it an appealing trans-Atlantic option, backed by an exceptionally strong university system that produces high-calibre graduates. In fact, one of its key challenges concern sector mobility with many calls on an, existing and limited, talent pool, according to Matt Moran, director of BioPharmaChem.

The man behind Biopharmachem

Mr Moran, a father of three, was born in London to Irish parents before the family returned to Ireland where he went to local schools, eventually graduating in Chemistry at Trinity College Dublin in 1980 and in Chemical Engineering at University College Dublin in 1981. He also holds an MBA from University College Dublin’s Smurfit School of Business. He worked for more than ten years in the pharmaceutical industry where he held a number of management positions. He is currently also a member the European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC), a Board member of the Active Pharmaceuticals Ingredients (API) Committee of CEFIC (CEFIC/APIC) and The European Association for Bioindustries (Europabio).