€1.5m industry and Govt investment in advanced biopharma collaboration

10 Nov 2014

A new €1.5m SFI-funded research collaboration involving scientists and engineers in industry and academia has been established to make Ireland a global hub for advanced manufacturing of biopharmaceuticals.

The project involves seven industry partners and aims to develop single-use bioprocessing solutions to examine the effects of extractable and leachable agents on product quality.

It will be spearheaded by the Synthesis & Solid State Pharmaceutical Centre (SSPC) at the University of Limerick and led by Prof Kieran Hodnett.

Just over €1m will come from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) through the Department of Jobs while the remainder of €450,000 will come from industry partners including Allergan Pharmaceuticals Ireland, BioMarin Manufacturing Ireland Ltd., Eli Lilly and Company, Genzyme Ireland Ltd, Janssen Biologics, MSD and Pfizer Ireland Pharmaceuticals.

Three research organisations involved include the National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT), Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and Dublin City University (DCU).

A stake in the ground

“Government and industry are setting a stake in the ground as to the direction of Irish research into the future – creating centres of research excellence in areas that are strategically important and relevant to Ireland’s future,” the Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation Damien English TD explained.

“This new initiative in the Synthesis & Solid State Pharmaceutical Centre will deepen the roots of the pharmaceutical industry in Ireland, which supports over 60,000 Irish jobs and exports over €50 billion annually, by encouraging innovation and expanding career opportunities in the sector.”

The manufacturing process of biotherapeutic drugs is complex and costly, with problems relating to formulation and protein instability often affecting the biological performance of these therapeutics.

As a result of this new Advanced Biopharmaceutical Technologies collaboration, some of Ireland’s leading scientists and engineers will work with industry partners to develop innovative single-use disposable plastic bag systems for bioprocessing.

This project will generate significant intellectual property for Irish universities and gain commercial advantage for Irish-based biopharma companies, with the goal of establishing Ireland as a global hub for pharmaceutical process Innovation and advanced manufacturing.

“We are already home to eight out of the world’s top ten pharmaceutical companies, with six of the top ten blockbuster drugs manufactured in the country,” said SFI director general and Chief Scientific Advisor to the Irish Government Professor Mark Ferguson.

“This new research collaboration will help to keep us ahead of the competition, enabling us to continue to attract foreign direct investment and encourage the development of new and existing Irish companies.”

Lab image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years