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20 of the world’s top life sciences companies are thriving in Ireland

23 Sep 2019

Check out some of the major global life sciences companies that have substantial operations here in Ireland.

This week on Siliconrepublic.com, we’re focusing on careers in life sciences. To start, we’ve compiled a list of the top life sciences companies that have set up bases in Ireland, bringing cutting-edge innovation and great job opportunities along with them.

IDA Ireland has reported that over the past decade, €10bn has been pumped into new biopharma and biotech production facilities in the country, representing “close to the biggest wave of investment in new biotech facilities anywhere in the world”.

All of the world’s top 10, and 20 of the world’s top 25 pharma companies (by market capitalisation) have substantial operations in Ireland, employing more than 30,000 people.

This has a significant impact on our annual exports, with €39bn worth of pharma, bio and chemistry produce being generated each year. That makes us one of the largest exporters of medicinal and pharma products in the EU.

And our life sciences sector is ever-expanding, with the regular jobs announcements showing that biotech and pharma companies are always on the lookout for new hires.

Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson’s ranking on this list won’t come as a surprise. As the largest biotech in the world, the company employs more than 130,000 people across 60 countries.

Operating globally for 130 years and in Ireland for more than 80, Johnson & Johnson has almost 3,000 employees across a network of locations including Johnson & Johnson Vision Care in Limerick, DePuy Synthes in Cork, and multiple Janssen operations in Cork and Dublin.


Roche began as the first company in the world to mass produce vitamin C. At the time, it was headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, but today it’s a multinational pharma and diagnostics healthcare powerhouse with a commercial operation in Citywest, Dublin, and a manufacturing site in Clarecastle, Co Clare.

The latter, which produces active pharmaceutical ingredients, is set to close next year.


Earlier this year, Pfizer celebrated 50 years in Ireland, where it has eight locations across three counties. It set up operations here in 1969, and today it employs more than 3,300 people who carry out work on R&D, manufacturing, shared services, treasury and commercial operations.

The company has invested more than $7bn in its Irish operations, including a $30m lab in Ringaskiddy, Cork, which opened in 2014.


Preceding Pfizer by arriving in Ireland in the 1950s was Novartis. Like Roche, Novartis is also headquartered in Basel.

At its Irish operations it employs around 1,500 people, with the Dublin team providing scientific and commercial services, IT, HR operations and procurement. In Cork, two Ringaskiddy manufacturing sites produce active pharmaceutical ingredients for a range of oncology, respiratory, cardiovascular, dermatology, central nervous system and transplantation medicines.


When US biopharma Amgen first came to Irish shores, it purchased Pfizer’s Dún Laoghaire facility. That was back in 2011 when it invested €300m to transform the site.

Resulting from the revamp was a new production plant, a cold-chain warehouse and a full refurb of existing buildings. A syringe-filling facility was also constructed, positioning the Dublin plant as a key location within Amgen’s global organisation.

Santry is home to another Amgen office, where its commercial operations take place, while Amgen’s biotech experience programme is a great opportunity for science educators.


Sanofi was born out of Sanofi-Aventis SA’s $20.1bn purchase of Genzyme back in 2011, creating a global pharma force. Its manufacturing campus in Waterford employs more than 700 people working to supply therapies to patients in 70 countries, and combined with a team in Dublin, Sanofi employs more than 800 people in Ireland.

Its products are focused on rare inherited disorders, kidney disease, orthopaedics, cancer, transplant and immune disease and diagnostic testing. In 2013, €44m was put into the Waterford campus to increase production of insulin product Lantus.


Research-based biopharma manufacturer AbbVie originated as a spin-off of Abbott Laboratories. The company now has manufacturing facilities in Sligo and Cork, and offices in Dublin where commercial and operations work takes place.

In 2015, AbbVie worked with university-based researchers under a €10m award from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) to investigate new disease markers, and in January 2017 announced a partnership with Irish start-up Genomics Medicine Ireland to map the genomes of 45,000 Irish people for use in improved drug development.


GSK has significant global presence in more than 150 countries, and its operations in Ireland have been around for nearly 80 years, in which time it has become the country’s largest provider of vaccines to the HSE.

While its Irish headquarters in Dublin focus on pharmaceuticals and consumer healthcare, 6.5bn Panadol tablets are made every year at its plant in Dungarvan, making it the drug’s global home.


German chemical and pharma giant Bayer has been in Ireland for almost 50 years, with headquarters located in Dublin.

Its healthcare and agriculture products and services are designed to improve quality of life for humans and animals, and to boost plant growth.

Eli Lilly

Here since the 1970s, Eli Lilly and Company began its foray into Ireland by developing a manufacturing facility in Kinsale, Cork. The American pharmaceutical business produces medicines used in treating cancer, diabetes, depression, osteoporosis, schizophrenia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, to name a few.

With a site in Cork city focusing on global business solutions and another in Dublin dedicated to sales and marketing, Eli Lilly employs around 1,300 people in Ireland.

Gilead Sciences

American biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences has operations in Ireland focusing on manufacturing, quality control, packaging, and the release and distribution of its products in the EU and other international markets.

Its most famous products are the drug treatments for hepatitis C, Harvoni and Sovaldi.

Bristol-Myers Squibb

Global biopharma company Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) has been in Ireland for more than 50 years, first entering the country with a facility in Swords. Its current operations include a new manufacturing facility in Cruiserath and divisions in Blanchardstown and Shannon, employing around 650 people in total.

BMS produces medicines to treat diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hepatitis B, HIV and AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis and psychiatric disorders.


With operations in 100 countries and more than 18,000 global employees, pharma company Allergan develops products that meet the diverse needs of patients.

Directly employing almost 1,700 people in Ireland, the company says that it supports a further 600 jobs in the supply chain and 500 in the wider economy.

Earlier this year, Allergan announced plans to invest €65m in two of its four Irish facilities, generating 63 new jobs in Westport, Co Mayo. The company has four plants here – two in Dublin, one in Mayo and one in Galway – and the expansion will bring its total headcount in Ireland to more than 2,000 people


Anglo–Swedish multinational AstraZeneca is a science-led biopharma business producing medicines for cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, and oncology and respiratory patients.

Currently, about 50 people are employed by AstraZeneca in Ireland, spanning sales, marketing, medical and regulatory affairs, IT, finance and administration. Its Dublin office serves as a hub of communication between office-based staff and more than half of the company’s employees are directly involved in promotion of its medicines to healthcare professionals throughout the country.


Abbott Laboratories has been in Ireland since 1946, where it now employs nearly 3,000 staff across nine sites to develop high-quality products and lasting treatments for unique health challenges.

It focuses on diagnostics, medical devices, nutrition and branded generic pharmaceuticals, delivering them to more than 150 countries. It has sites in Clonmel, Cootehill, Donegal, Longford, Dublin and Sligo, including manufacturing, commercial and support facilities.

Novo Nordisk

Novo Nordisk is a global healthcare company with more than 90 years of innovation and leadership in diabetes care. With a global workforce of more than 43,000 employees, it is headquartered in Denmark and has five key research areas: diabetes care, obesity and weight management, haemophilia management, growth hormone therapy and hormone replacement therapy.

In Ireland, the company has offices in Dublin.


American multinational Biogen is headquartered in Massachusetts. It develops, manufactures and markets treatments for neurological, neurodegenerative and autoimmune diseases.

Biogen’s Irish facility is located at United Drug House in Citywest, Dublin, and it has been named as a company of choice for its efforts in diversity and inclusion, particularly in the area of hiring women.


After acquiring Shire last year, Takeda now employs 30,000 people around the world and has facilities in 70 countries and regions. In Ireland, the company operates a manufacturing facility in Bray and a new plant in Grange Castle, Dublin.

The company is also investing $600m in a new biologics plant in Dunboyne, and so is constantly on the lookout for graduates.


Regeneron Pharmaceuticals established its first facility outside of the US in Dublin. That was back in 2013 and since then the New York-headquartered biotech company has invested more than $750m in its Limerick manufacturing facility.

Dublin is now home to its EMEA headquarters as well as its European business operations, including regulatory affairs and pharmacovigilance.


Another company that came to Ireland and stayed for the long haul is MSD (Merck Sharp & Dohme), which, over the past 50 years, has established extensive operations in the country, representing an investment of more than $2.5bn.

In the past five decades, MSD has developed treatment methods in the areas of diabetes, heart disease, immunology, oncology, infectious diseases, women’s health and anaesthesia.

Its facilities are located in Dublin, Carlow, Cork and Tipperary, where it produces more than 60pc of the company’s global top 20 products.

Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

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