Darrin Morrissey PhD
Ireland’s global leadership in biopharma manufacturing is an excellent foundation for building a new leadership position in the development, manufacture, supply and adoption of the latest innovations in advanced therapies and vaccines.
Over the last 20 years, Ireland has established itself as a global leader in biopharmaceutical manufacturing. By targeting the sector with flexible incentives and smart infrastructural investments — most notably, the establishment of the National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT) and the building of its pilot plant facility in 2011 — Ireland has been successful in attracting multinational companies to establish manufacturing operations across the country. Biopharma and the wider pharma sector, incorporating biopharma, contribute over €75 billion in national exports annually1.
Growth in advanced therapeutics and vaccines
Advanced therapy medicinal products (or ATMPs) are predicted to become the main driver of biopharma growth over the next decade. ATMPs are a biopharma category that comprises a range of highly innovative medicines that includes cell-based therapies, gene-based therapies, engineered regenerative tissues and oligonucleotide-based (e.g. RNA) vaccines and therapies.
ATMPs treat diseases at a fundamentally molecular level, with a wide diversity of mechanisms of action. ATMPs represent a potential step-change in the precise personalised nature of treatment and in the capacity to deliver a sustained disease response or even a cure.
The power of advanced therapies to offer substantial long-term benefits for patients is exemplified in the story of Emily Whitehead — the first paediatric patient in the world treated with the engineered autologous cell therapy CAR-T for acute lymphoid leukaemia in 2012 and, over 10 years later, is cancer-free and living a normal life.2
Advanced therapy medicinal products (or ATMPS) are predicted to become the main driver of biopharma growth over the next decade.
Advanced therapies: major opportunity for Ireland
Manufacturing these highly sophisticated therapies is complex. Efficient and safe scale-up of the processes to make cell-based and gene-based therapies, in particular, presents unique challenges. Building on our successful track record in monoclonal antibody manufacturing, existing infrastructure, experienced workforce and new investments, Ireland has a strong role to play in optimising and presenting solutions towards the cost-effective and safe manufacture of ATMPs.
Investment in advanced therapy research and training infrastructure
In June 2023, NIBRT completed an expansion of its training and research facility in Dublin. The expansion – which has been funded by a €21 million capital investment from IDA Ireland/the Government of Ireland – has created dedicated new space, including an extra seven laboratories and two new training suites, for training and research in advanced therapy and vaccine manufacturing. The new facility will also feature CONCEPT, a suite of cutting-edge equipment jointly funded with €6 million from Science Foundation Ireland and IDA Ireland. NIBRT hopes that CONCEPT will serve as a ‘one-stop-shop’ where researchers from academia and industry can rapidly generate optimised cell lines and biological material for accelerated advanced therapy research and development.