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Biopharmaceutical Industry in Ireland in 2015

Pictured above: Collins McNicholas staff at NIBRT facility in UCD

There are over 25,000 people working in the pharmaceutical/biopharmaceutical industry in Ireland today. The industry supports another 25,000 jobs indirectly and had over €50bn worth of exports in 2013. It remains Ireland’s most important export sector, accounting for over 50% of our exports. In the 10 years from 2003 to 2013 the number of pharmaceutical companies in Ireland engaged in biopharmaceutical manufacturing has risen from 2% to 20%. This transition, which will become more dominant in the future, is in line with global expectations for the industry. It is estimated that in 2015, 50% of all pharmaceutical products worldwide will be biopharmaceuticals.

A steady stream of job announcements over the last two years has bolstered regional hubs in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, and the North West. In the Dublin region some of the more significant announcements include; Bristol-Myers Squib’s construction of a manufacturing plant, Biomarin’s expansion of its Dublin facility; and the growth of Alexion’s operation; these three investments will create in excess of 650 jobs in the Dublin region. Elsewhere, Eli Lilly and Biomarin are creating 140 jobs in Cork, Abbvie is generating 175 new jobs in Sligo, Allergan’s €350 million investment in Westport will bring another 200 jobs to the region, and Ethicon Biosurgery and Regeneron will hire almost 600 staff in Limerick in the near future.

There has been an increase in the amount of jobs being advertised by biopharmaceutical companies and in the number of professionals registering with us that have biopharma related experience. Biotechnology, biochemistry, microbiology, analytical chemistry, molecular cell biology, bioinformatics, and bioanalytics, are all skills that are in demand. Salaries in the pharma/biopharma sectors have remained relatively stable over the last 3 years, with only minor increases in certain niche areas. We have seen a strong demand nationally for process engineers, chemical engineers, experienced team leaders, particularly in the areas of product and technology transfer, product/technology transfer specialists, downstream processing specialists, and QA professionals, especially from an audit perspective.

Over 46% of employees in the sector have a third level qualification, compared to a national average of 24%. The sector also employs 25% of all PhD researchers. Demand for new graduates has been strong and efforts to increase the supply of graduates for the sector have been largely successful. The National Institute for Bioprocessing Research & Training (NIBRT) operates a number of different training programmes to prepare people for biopharma careers. It collaborates with universities for both training and research purposes, is an active participant in the Springboard conversion course programmes, and partners with industry to design courses that meet the specific training needs of a company. NIBRT trains approximately 2,000 people annually and in 2013 provided 300 training places through Springboard.

The global biopharmaceuticals market was estimated at $199.7 billion in 2013 and is projected to reach $497.9 billion by 2020. Currently, 20% of all marketed medicines come from biotechnology. This figure is set to rise significantly, with 50% of medicines in the pharmaceutical pipeline being biologics. Given the strong supply of talent, the long history of pharmaceutical manufacturing, and the commitment of government and industry, Ireland is in an excellent position to capitalise on the global growth in biopharmaceutical development.