13 biopharma companies making their own luck in Ireland

13 May 2016

On the day that’s in it, we take a look at 13 of the leading biopharmaceutical companies with operations in Ireland, in an industry worth a total of €12.6bn to the Irish economy.

Biopharma companies, for decades now, have seen Ireland as a launchpad, and production hub, for many of its pharmaceuticals, thanks to our low corporate tax rate and a high number of educated graduates.

For these reasons, 13 out of the top 15 global biopharma and medtech companies have decided to establish operations here, generating €12.6bn in exports to the global pharma market.

In fact, more than 20 years ago, Ireland had around 50 biopharma companies based here, but this figure has now grown sixfold to more than 300 companies.

Given this continuing growth in the number of companies, it’s not too surprising to see regular announcements on Siliconrepublic.com showing that biopharma companies are one of the most active sectors hiring right now.

Tomorrow marks one of the industry’s latest attempts to recruit Ireland’s best and brightest as the National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT) will host a careers event at its facility in Dublin, which will feature some of the country’s largest employers.

So, to that end, here are 13 biopharma companies that are some of the biggest recruiters in Ireland right now.


Pfizer, the world’s largest biopharma company, has a significant presence in Ireland, with it having seven locations across four counties.

Employing more than 3,300 people in Ireland, the company first set up here in 1969, and the work carried out here includes R&D, manufacturing, shared services, treasury and commercial operations.

The company has invested more than $7bn in its Irish operations in its almost 50 years here, including opening a $30m lab at its operations in Ringaskiddy, Co Cork in 2014.

In October last year, Pfizer announced it was to create 130 jobs across its sites in Dublin and Cork.

The company was in the news recently due to the collapse of its proposed $160bn merger with Dublin-based Allergan, which was abandoned when the US government said it was to bring in new rules to clamp down on what it called inversion tax deals.

BioMarin Pharmaceuticals

BioMarin’s focus is on developing and commercialising innovative drugs for the treatment of serious and rare diseases that are driven by genetic causes; most of the diseases it targets affect children.

The California-headquartered company has operations in Cork and Dublin – from where its offshoot BioMarin Manufacturing Ireland has responsibility for international supply chain, logistics and commercial decision-making.

The company, which was founded in 1997 and employs 2,000 people worldwide, said it plans to have 200 people employed in Ireland by the end of 2017.

In 2015, the company was ranked 10th in Forbes’ list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies.

Pharma pills

Medical pills in production line. Image via Shutterstock


MSD has a long legacy in Ireland that stretches back over the last 50 years and, in that time, the company has invested more than $2.5bn in expanding and developing its facilities here.

During that time, MSD has developed treatment methods in the areas of diabetes, heart disease, immunology, oncology, infectious diseases, women’s health and anaesthesia.

Last year, it emerged that MSD was to invest a further €11.5m at its Carlow operation to advance its research and, in February, it emerged that the company is to create 200 new jobs in Carlow, Cork and Tipperary.

MSD’s Irish sites are involved in the production of more than 60pc of MSD’s global top 20 products.

McGee Pharma

McGee Pharma International is one of the indigenous biopharma companies making this list, having been founded in 2004 by Ann McGee, with its headquarters in Portmarnock, north Dublin.

Its main line of work sees it as one of the country’s biggest life sciences consultancies, working with global pharmaceutical, biopharma and medical device companies of varying sizes.

Services it provides to these companies include auditing, gap analysis, technical remediation solutions and personnel training, guiding and advising them across a pharma product’s lifecycle.

Speaking of the type of people they tend to recruit, McGee said in a previous interview: “Our challenge is to recruit the right people with a scientific background and experience and with an attitude that matches the drive and ambition of a young and growing international business.”


In October 2011, Abbott Laboratories announced its plan to separate into two publicly-traded companies.

This new Abbott Laboratories would specialise in diversified products, including medical devices, diagnostic equipment and nutrition products, while AbbVie operates as a research-based biopharmaceutical manufacture.

The company employs more than 500 personnel in Ireland across two pharmaceutical manufacturing sites, one in Cork and one in Sligo, having announced in 2014 an €85m expansion of this site, resulting in the creation of up to 175 highly-skilled new jobs.

The company was previously recognised as one of Ireland’s Best Workplaces in 2014 and 2015 by the Great Place to Work Institute.

Pharma manufacturing

Pharma operating production line. Image via Shutterstock

Eli Lilly and Company

American pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Company has had an Irish presence since the 1970s, beginning with the development of a manufacturing facility in Kinsale, Co Cork. Production began at that facility in 1981, and the site has now grown to encompass almost 50 hectares.

Currently, Eli Lilly’s medicines are used in the treatment of cancer, diabetes, depression, osteoporosis, schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and many other illnesses.

Taking into account the firms other facilities in Dublin and Cork city – sales and marketing, and global business solutions, respectively – Eli Lilly employs more than 800 people in Ireland.

In its most recent recruitment announcement back in 2014, the company announced 100 new jobs.


Regeneron, a US-based biotech company founded in 1988, opened its first facility outside of the US in Dublin in 2013.

Dublin is home to the firm’s EMEA headquarters, and houses Regeneron’s business operations in Europe, from regulatory affairs to pharmacovigilance.

When Regeneron arrived in Ireland in 2013, the company announced the construction of a second facility, this time devoted to manufacturing. The Limerick facility is still in development, but is expected to open this year.

In October of last year, Regeneron announced the creation of 200 jobs in line with a €310m investment in the Limerick facility.

The company is currently hiring in manufacturing, quality control and QA, risk management and contracts management, and is offering graduate opportunities.

Sanofi Genzyme

Sanofi Genzyme was borne out of Sanofi-Aventis SA’s $20.1bn purchase of Genzyme back in 2011, creating a global pharma force. Employing around 550 people in Ireland, its products are focused on rare inherited disorders, kidney disease, orthopaedics, cancer, transplant and immune disease, and diagnostic testing.

Its activities here include a €44m campus being built in Waterford to increase production of its Lantus product, a new long-acting insulin product, which is targeting $8bn in sales and aimed at the 400m people in the world today who have diabetes.

The company is mammoth, logging €1.55bn revenues for just its Irish arm in its most recent financials.

Last year, its Waterford facility was named the best large workplace in the country by the Great Place to Work programme.

Irish clover

Skyscraper and clover. Image via Shutterstock


Amgen’s Irish activity stems back to its purchase of Pfizer’s Dún Laoghaire facility back in 2010.

Spending $300m, and taking five years, to revamp it into Amgen’s image, it currently employs 340 people onsite.

The development included the construction of a new production plant, a cold-chain warehouse and a full refurb of existing buildings.

A new syringe-filling facility positions the Dún Laoghaire plant as a key location within Amgen’s plans, with state-of-the-art manufacturing capabilities bulking up the company’s global operations.

Its other office in Ireland is in Santry, with the company investing heavily in Irish education programmes to help further scientific understanding in the country – to the tune of €600,000 so far.


Having recently opened a new €12m manufacturing facility and lab in Ireland, GSK’s operations here are spread across Dublin, Sligo, Waterford and most notably Cork – the company celebrating 40 years in the latter last year.

Of its 1,800 employees around Ireland, 450 are based in Cork, with an estimated €700m investment in Cork since it set up shop there back in 1974.

Sligo’s continually growing operations will see 250 people eventually employed there, with the company having invested €30m in R&D across its entire Irish operation last year.

GSK is not at NIBRT’s jobs expo, however, considering it employs such large numbers throughout Ireland, it is a major pharma force in the country.

Eurofins Lancaster Laboratories

Operating from its Waterford base for the last five years, Eurofins Lancaster Laboratories currently employs more than 120 people as one of the globe’s largest providers of microbial, chemical and biologics analysis to the pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device industries.

Much of the company’s activities revolve around testing what we consume, such as food and water testing.

From a global perspective, the company has its headquarters in Luxembourg, but employs 23,000 staff in more than 225 laboratories across 39 countries, its most recent of which is now in Japan, following its takeover of EAC earlier this month.

Map pills Europe

Map of Europe made of pills. Image via Shutterstock

Bristol-Meyers Squibb

Along with Pfizer, Bristol-Meyers Squibb (BMS) makes up a group of not only the largest biopharma companies in Ireland, but the world, too.

The MNC currently has four facilities here in Ireland, where it plans to employ more than 1,000 staff, including two pharmaceutical ingredient manufacturing facilities in Dublin, a drug testing facility also in Dublin and another manufacturing facility in Shannon, Co Clare.

Last March, the biopharma giant signed a deal with NIBRT – which is hosting tomorrow’s event –  to build a €1m bioprocessing lab at the centre, having also announced in 2014 it was to create 400 jobs for its new biologics plant at its Dublin-based Cruiserath facility.

Alexion Pharmaceuticals

Alexion is a relative newcomer to the Irish biopharma scene, having opened its first facility here less than three years ago to establish its global supply chain and quality operations in Dublin with 60 employees.

Now the company employs around 300 staff across its three facilities, having revealed plans in 2014 to open a new global supply chain facility at College Park in Blanchardstown, Dublin and an aseptic vial-fill-finish facility in Athlone.

One of the company’s most successful drugs processed here in Ireland is Soliris, holding the title of the most expensive drug in the world in 2010 at €430,000 per year, used to treat rare blood conditions.

Number 13 image via Shutterstock

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