South Korean firm SK Biotek invests in Irish pharma campus

26 Jan 2018

From left: Dr Junku Park, PhD, CEO of SK Biotek, and Michael D’Arcy, TD. Image: Keating

Strong links emerge between Irish and South Korean pharma and biomedical industries.

SK Biotek, a South Korean pharmaceutical company, has officially acquired the former Bristol-Myers Squibb API (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients) facility in Swords, Co Dublin.

More than 360 staff at the Swords campus transitioned to SK Biotek employment from 1 January of this year and the acquisition is part of SK Biotek’s strategy to become a top-level global contract pharmaceuticals firm.

Big plans for SK Biotek’s Dublin facility

A subsidiary of SK Group, a top-100 company on the Fortune 500 list, SK Biotek will operate and develop the Swords site as a standalone contract development manufacturing organisation, or CDMO, which will manufacture pharmaceutical products to specification on a contract basis for other firms.

The company also said it plans to add marketing and R&D talent as well as additional API capacity to the Swords campus.

Speaking at the official opening ceremony, Dr Junku Park, PhD, CEO of SK Biotek, said: “With Ireland being at the forefront of global pharmaceutical manufacturing excellence, [the] Swords campus brings with it a strong legacy and rich history, which spans 50-plus years of excellence in pharma production.”

A stellar reputation

Describing the reputation of the Swords facility as stellar, Park said his company was pleased with the talented workforce on board. He also added that the company’s experience of operating in Ireland had been “very positive”, citing the country’s welcoming business environment.

He said the help from IDA Ireland was “very encouraging and much appreciated”.

“The establishment of our first manufacturing campus outside of South Korea offers great opportunity for growth, which will in turn create additional and exciting new opportunities for our staff in Swords,” concluded Park.

A vote of confidence

Minister of State Michael D’Arcy, TD, said: “This investment by SK Biotek is a great vote of confidence for what Ireland has to offer, particularly our talented and flexible workforce.”

He noted the rapid growth in the Irish pharma sector and its contribution to the economy and added that the Government is keen to support companies like SK Biotek.

South Korean ambassador to Ireland Kang-Il Hu said: “SK Biotek is a global leader in innovation in the pharmaceutical sector while Ireland, too, is a globally recognised centre of excellence in this field.”

“Today’s ceremony recognises the strong economic and cultural links between Ireland and South Korea,” said the CEO of IDA Ireland, Martin Shanahan.

South Korea meets Galway

Over at NUI Galway, Science Foundation Ireland research centre Cúram yesterday (25 January) finalised a deal with the South Korean Biomedical Manufacturing Technology Centre (BMTC) at the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology (KITECH).

The agreement will see KITECH and Cúram establish a programme for academic cooperation, including joint conferences and workshops as well as research and education exchanges for faculty and students at both bodies.

The first KITECH researchers will visit Cúram in mid-2018. Dr Woo Jong Lee, head of the Biomedical Manufacturing Technology Centre at KITECH, said, “This agreement will be a cornerstone for establishing collaborative relationships in the future between the biomedical ecosystems of our two countries.”

Prof Abhay Pandit, scientific director of Cúram, said both organisations have many mutual research interests, including “the development of efficient manufacturing processes for tissue applications, chronic wound management applications and therapeutics for various diseases”.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects