THE PROMOTERS of an ambitious plan to create 4,500 pharmaceutical research jobs in Co Kerry are in talks with the Saudi Arabian government about funding the entire cost of the €4.7 billion project.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen yesterday lent his support to the plan to create the large place of employment in Ireland and the biggest pharmaceutical research centre in the world on an industrial park in Tralee.
Mr Cowen said the proposed Global Pharmaceutical Centre of Excellence could rely on the “supportive engagement” of the State enterprise agencies to help bring the project to fruition.
He added: “When the detailed proposals for the project are submitted, I want to assure you that as head of Government, the expertise of our State enterprise agencies will be at your disposal to assist and support you further to bring this ambitious project to fruition.”
The centre, which already employs 65 people, said yesterday it was finalising plans for a planning application to Kerry County Council for a 1.2 million sq ft facility in the Kerry Technology Park in Tralee.
It plans to open in February 2013, subject to planning and other permissions.
The promoters, Irish pharmaceutical company Pharmadel, say up to 400 jobs will be created in advance of opening, with over 4,500 jobs envisaged when the centre is up and running. Pharmadel employs 12 people selling generic pharmaceuticals in Midleton, Co Cork.
Senior figures formerly in the European Commission, US politics and university governance have been approached about joining the board of the centre, according to Rory Doyle, vice president of global development at Pharmadel.
Mr Doyle said Government funding was not being sought. Discussions had been held with three sovereign funds about supporting the project and negotiations with one in the Middle East were at a critical stage. He declined to say who the potential investor was, but The Irish Times understands it involves a Saudi state funder.
When news of the project first emerged after local TDs were briefed during the summer, it was greeted with some scepticism in official circles, largely because of the unprecedented size of the plan. However, intensive lobbying appears to have allayed many of the initial concerns, and State agencies have now rowed in behind the plan.
Mr Doyle said he understood the scepticism, but insisted the project was realistic.
The pharmaceutical industry was re-inventing itself by contracting out the huge cost of developing new drugs, he pointed out, so an opportunity existed to carry out this work here.
“If you study the industry as we have you’ll see this is going to happen on a large scale. So why not in Ireland? And why not in Kerry?”
The centre will operate as a campus carrying out drug research on contract for individual companies and countries. Different departments with different research objectives will share their knowledge and operate under the one roof.
By PAUL CULLEN © 2010 The Irish Times