As the biopharmaceutical industry in Ireland works to fast-track testing and treatment for Covid-19, it's inspiring that, so far, the industry is performing beyond expectations, many of the important drugs to combat this virus are manufactured here in Ireland.

Nineteen of the world’s top 20 global biopharma companies are in Ireland and five of the world’s top eight selling drugs are made here, this sector directly employs over 34,000 people. The biopharma industry is the 3rd largest exporter of pharmaceuticals globally, accounting for exports of €80bn.

Several biopharmaceutical multinationals based in Ireland are striving to seek out a Covid-19 vaccine or therapeutic 

The July stimulus package included €25 million in funding grants for this.

Some of the biopharmaceutical companies in Ireland who are developing vaccines or therapeutic treatments in response to Covid-19 include Pfizer who manufactures cancer, arthritis and stroke medicines and vaccines for patients all around the world. The drug manufacturer is in the race to produce a vaccine with its partner, Germany’s BioNTech. Assuming clinical success and once regulatory approval is obtained, Pfizer and BioNTech hope to supply up to 100 million doses by the end of 2020 and approximately 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021. Pfizer employs 4,000 people across Ireland and contributes over €2 billion to the economy annually.  Last week Regeneron who manufacture a wide range of biopharmaceuticals for patients worldwide, filed requests to the FDA for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for its antibody-based treatments for COVID-19. Regeneron’s EUA request comes after the success of its antibody cocktail in treating U.S President Donald Trump last week. Trump has called the cocktail a “cure” for COVID-19 and a “miracle from God.” Regeneron has the largest-scale bulk biologics production facility in Ireland, it is operational in Limerick since 2015 and employs 1,000 people, they recently announced plans to extend their workforce in Ireland by 40% and recruitment is ongoing to fill 400 new high-end specialist jobs in areas like process sciences, QA/QC and other support functions for scientists, chemists, and technicians.

Eli Lilly who employs 2,000 people in Ireland, across their high-tech manufacturing campus in Kinsale and their Global Business Solutions centre in Little Island is currently researching neutralising antibodies and an existing small molecule as potential treatments for COVID-19. Lilly said it would be hopeful to have as many as 1 million doses of its antibody treatment, available before end of the year, with 100,000 available this month.  

Johnson & Johnson who operate 10 sites throughout Ireland, have a lead vaccine candidate identified, being developed by its Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies with phase 1/2 human clinical studies started since September 2020. They envisage the primary batches of a COVID-19 vaccine might be available for emergency use in early 2021 if proven to be safe and effective, they have  scaled up their manufacturing capacity and remain on track to achieve their goal of providing one billion doses of a vaccine annually. Janssen Sciences Ireland UC is a component of the Johnson & Johnson family of companies, they employ 5,000 people in Ireland.

Gilead Sciences are based in Co Cork and have 20 years of operations in Ireland, they manufacture the drug Remdesivir, an anti- viral treatment which is the only Covid-19 pharmacological treatment option licensed to be utilised in Ireland. They currently have close to 500 employees in Ireland and they have to date invested €225 million in the country.

Gilead have recently announced, that they are going to be opening a site in Dublin with an investment of circa €7 million into its Irish operations and creation of 140 jobs in areas like clinical development, process development and analytical operations.

The impact of Covid-19 is extensive, and thus the biopharma industry must adapt and adopt new approaches to be equipped for abiding and rapid change. It is reassuring to know that Ireland’s resilient biopharma industry will not be defeated by COVID-19.