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Brendan McGrath

VP of Manufacturing and Ireland Site Head, WuXi Biologics

Dundalk-based biomanufacturing company embraces key protocols and state-of-the-art technology to ensure energy use is kept to a minimum while seeking to enhance employee wellbeing.

In a world increasingly conscious of the ecological and societal impacts of industry, delivering effective social and environmental leadership has become a strategic imperative for forward-thinking organisations. Such leadership not only resonates with and attracts high-calibre, sustainability-minded employees, it also fosters partnerships with like-minded organisations, enabling the development of a greener, more resilient supply chain.  

Sustainable biomanufacturing in Ireland 

As a global leader in Contract Research, Development and Manufacturing Organization (CRDMO), WuXi Biologics is firmly committed to sustainability across its operations. This commitment is notably demonstrated in their greenfield project in Dundalk, Ireland, announced in 2018.  

The company was acutely conscious of its energy and resource footprint, with the ambition to create a state-of-the-art facility that excels in environmental stewardship with the long-term goal to significantly reduce carbon emissions by 2030 and to achieve net-zero GHG emissions across all operations by 2050. 

Brendan McGrath, VP of Manufacturing and Ireland Site Head, says lean construction techniques helped minimise costs and waste with dedicated recycling streams for the various construction materials. 

Renewable electricity in biomanufacturing site  

Once constructed, LED lights, motion control sensors and maximised use of glass to harness daylight further reduce energy consumption. The critical manufacturing process involves growing cells that require consistent food, heat and light with an uninterrupted electricity supply backed up by three emergency generators. 

The plant now runs fully on renewable electricity, with plans to investigate the opportunity to generate energy from solar and wind. 

Employees want to work for companies aligned around their own ethics and beliefs.

Efficiency of single-use bioreactors 

The plant uses single-use bioreactors instead of stainless steel vessels and kilometres of pipework, which require extensive cleaning and sterilisation using water, steam, detergents and energy. 

Single-use bioreactors contain all the elements for cell growth within. “Because it is a fully enclosed system, when we harvest the product from the single-use bag, we do not have to clean down the system,” says McGrath. Instead, the bag is removed, processed through a dedicated waste stream and incinerated to produce energy in a process that uses less energy and avoids cross-contamination risk. 

Technology platforms that span the entire drug discovery to manufacturing spectrum.

Social and inclusive ESG initiatives 

WuXi Biologics Ireland’s range of ESG initiatives includes WeSocial, WeCare, WiSTEM, CSR and Sustainability committees, supporting gender diversity and equality in the workplace. “Employees want to work for companies aligned around their own ethics and beliefs, and they also look for flexibility,” explains McGrath. 

WeSocial organises events such as go-karting, quiz nights and horse riding to help people feel connected outside the work environment. WeCare supports employees with wellness talks, healthy eating weeks and other challenges in their daily lives. 

WiSTEM, meanwhile, promotes women in science, technology, engineering and maths in schools to make jobs — such as microbiologists or process engineers — more visible to potential candidates. 

Using cutting-edge technology sustainably 

The Sustainability Committee encourages colleagues to be sustainable in their broader lives such as with water conservation or recycling. They also promote cycling, and the company offers 23 electric car charging points. 

“We are doing it because we want to do it and play our part,” says McGrath. “We are cognisant of high use of electricity and water as a manufacturer of medicine. Our technology is cutting-edge, but we want to make sure we efficiently use the limited resource of the planet and attract like-minded people.” 

Positive impact along supply chains 

That green ethos also extends to the supply chain as WuXi Biologics works with companies with similar outlooks. Other eco-friendly initiatives include print protocols to reduce paper; repurposing coffee grounds into soap; cutting food waste in the canteen. 

Located 45 minutes north of Dublin and one hour south of Belfast, local employment opportunities have cut down commuter journeys. “That has a positive impact on the environment, colleagues work/life balance and helps the overall sustainability journey,” concludes McGrath. 

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