A blonde woman wearing an MSD lanyard looking at the camera in a well-lit hallway.
Ann-Marie Bolger. Image: Thomas Sunderland

What new immunotherapies is MSD Carlow planning to produce?

7 Mar 2019

With a new facility and plans to ramp up production, what new therapies will MSD be producing?

In October 2018, MSD announced plans to open a new manufacturing facility in Co Carlow. At the time, we knew that it would be a standalone facility constructed next to the existing Carlow hub. We also had some details about what would be produced there – “vaccines and biologics” as was described at the time.

Now, Ann-Marie Bolger, a technical engineering manager at MSD Carlow, has provided us with some further details. Supporting our previous knowledge, Bolger explained that the new facility will “enhance [MSD’s] production of vaccines and biologics from 2023”.

She added: “We will be at the forefront of producing immunotherapies, including an exciting new oncology drug.”

Bolger would know; in her work at MSD Carlow, she leads a team of process engineers and oversees new product introductions on the site. Though to say that this sums up her role would be quite the understatement. We spoke to Bolger about her working life and what a day in her role entails.

What is your role within MSD?

I am currently leading a team of process engineers who support new product introductions on to the vial and syringe line in MSD Carlow. The team is responsible for introducing both clinical and commercial products on to site. This involves introducing new materials, developing processes, tuning equipment and validation activities prior to commercial manufacturing.

If there is such a thing, can you describe a typical day in the job?

Every day starts off with daily team meetings. After the meetings, each day is different. Some days involve communicating with off-site teams in relation to new product introductions/technology, or meetings with site cross-functional teams in Carlow in preparation for the next technical engineering batch. The variety of each day is what keeps the role interesting and exciting.

What types of project do you work on?

I primarily look after new product introductions. This involves new materials, new presentations on both the vial and syringe line for commercial and clinical supply. I also work on process improvement activities, which involves continuously identifying strategies and techniques to enhance the performance of our existing process systems.

What skills do you use on a daily basis?

My engineering role allows me to flex a wide range of different skills. Some of the key skills involved in my job include project management, communication, technical skills and people management.

What is the hardest part of your working day?

The constantly changing environment that comes hand in hand with new product introductions into an existing commercial facility can be challenging at times. At the same time, I enjoy this experience and I have learned to manage a large workload and work through change.

Do you have any productivity tips that help you through the working day?

Planning is key. I tend to be quite organised, which helps me deal with the workload. In addition, ensuring the right resources are assigned is essential. A great tip is to tackle the hardest items first, ensuring the priority items and timelines are met, and set aside sufficient time for each project, emails and people management.

I don’t get easily fazed when high-pressure items or issues occur and I believe it’s important to keep calm when placed in high-octane situations, to minimise risk as much as possible.

When you first started this job, what were you most surprised to learn was important in the role?

Luckily, I found no shocks or surprises when I joined MSD. However, I soon came to learn that communication, asking the right questions and knowing where to get information or from whom is key when working across multifunctional project teams both on- and off-site.

How has this role changed as this sector has grown and evolved?

I started out in solid oral dose manufacturing, and in the last number of years I have expanded my knowledge. All of us in MSD Carlow are expanding our remit and expertise as our operations ramp up.

In October 2018, we announced the construction of a new facility that will enhance our production of vaccines and biologics from 2023. We will be at the forefront of producing immunotherapies, including an exciting new oncology drug.

What do you enjoy most about the job?

I like being busy. I like the buzz of this industry. I like planning, execution and successful completion of projects, and associated challenges to problem-solve.

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