Biotech will eclipse IT, says veteran

27 Apr 2005

The CEO of the first US biotech company to establish an operation in Ireland told that biotechnology has the potential to bypass the IT sector in terms of economic impact in the 21st Century, echoing a similar prediction by Microsoft’s Bill Gates.

Tom McLain, (pictured) chairman and CEO of Nabi Biopharmaceuticals, said: “When you look at the world today, especially in Europe and the US, healthcare is becoming a major part of the economy and biotechnology — with its cutting edge and value-added implications — will become a dominant industry and will be every bit as dominant, if not more so, as the IT industry has been.”

Yesterday Nabi Biopharmaceuticals became the first US biotech company to establish its European headquarters in Ireland, forming the vanguard of what IDA Ireland is hoping will become a major influx in the same tradition as the IT industry.

The company will create 40 jobs at its Bray operation by the end of 2006. The company’s employees will be primarily engaged in research activities related to clinical research and development.

The second stage of development may include the construction of a world-class manufacturing facility in Ireland, which McLain said could possibly also manage the company’s worldwide supply chain.

“At this point what we needed was offices and here in Bray an office park that was really geared for the biotech industry was available. We have plenty of available land so that in the future if our operations progress it would give us an opportunity to put in manufacturing and distribution facilities. We will definitely run our supply chain from here as well as other important parts of the supply chain process.

“We were very impressed with education system and workforce in Ireland. Ireland has distinguished itself in that regard and delivers competitive advantages over other countries in Europe,” McLain added, indicating that the country’s membership of the EU and available tax incentives were crucial to the company’s decision to come here.

Nabi Biopharmaceuticals develops and markets innovative products that empower the immune system to fight serious medical conditions. The company is focusing on four core areas: gram-positive bacterial infections, including the MRSA superbug, Hepatitis; kidney disease and nicotine addiction.

One of the key products that Nabi Biopharmaceuticals is currently developing is StaphVax(r), an immunisation against the most dangerous and prevalent strains of bacterial infections, S. Aureus, which is a major cause of hospital acquired infections and is becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics.

In Ireland alone, about 10,000 patients contract MRSA each year. Most carry the bacteria without coming to any harm but approximately 3,000 patients develop the more serious and potentially lethal infection and last year an estimated 240 people died from the most severe strain of this super bug.

By John Kennedy