BMS's 'industrial evolution' blow to Irish small molecule plant

By Dan Stanton

- Last updated on GMT

BMS's 'industrial evolution' blow to Irish API plant

Related tags Small molecule Pharmaceutical drug Pharmacology Drug

Ireland is seeing a renewed interest from biotech, the Industrial Development Agency (IDA) says, as Bristol-Myers Squibbs shuts a Dublin API plant to focus on biopharmaceuticals.

Yesterday, our sister publication reported that BMS had earmarked its Cruiserath, County Dublin active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) facility for closure, with 160 workers set to be affected.

BMS told told “the dynamics of the global pharmaceutical industry have changed” ​and that the firm has been “evolving into a specialty care biopharma business model.”

“Due to these changes in the marketplace and our company, we have excess manufacturing capacity in Ireland and the Cruiserath facility is not equipped to produce the specialty care products that are vital to the company’s future.”

BMS’ pipeline​ is biopharmaceuticals heavy as it concentrates on developing the next entity to join a marketed portfolio which includes the oncology monoclonal antibodies Yervoy and Erbitux, and reflects a common trend amongst Big Pharma companies.

As for Ireland, once the manufacturing source of seven of the top ten (small molecule) blockbuster drugs​, a number of Big Pharma firms have shuttered or divested API plants, including Merck & Co.​ and Pfizer​ as the patent cliff drive manufacturing changes.

According to the Irish Central Statistics Office​, 2013 exports of medical and pharmaceutical products decreased by €2.9bn ($4bn) to €21.6bn from 2012, which in turn had fallen 7% from 2011’s figure.

Irish Biomanufacturing

However, whilst Barry Heavey of the IDA told this publication industry was still investing in niche small molecule manufacturing, there has been an upsurge in companies investing in biomanufacturing capabilities including Eli Lilly​, Amgen​ and – last July - Pfizer​.

“We do see renewed global interest in increased investment in new facilities in Biotech,”​ Heavey told us, adding “Ireland has now built up a strong track record in that space with 17 sites employing over 5,000 people in biotech drug substance and/or drug product.”

Furthermore, the IDA has invested €60m in the creation of the National institute for Bioprocess Research and Training, he said, which trained over 2,000 last year “in a real world environment mimicking a state of the art biotech DS/DP facility.”

“It also conducted world leading research in the area of biosimilar characterisation,” ​he continued. “We believe that this output of talent helps position Ireland for continued growth in bio pharma manufacturing.”

Heavey also spoke to us about the combination of small molecules and biologics to manufacture antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs). “We believe ireland is well positioned to become a centre of excellence in this emerging area as Ireland can offer capability, infrastructure and track record on both core technologies.”

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