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Industry and policy leaders can share a stage for medicines innovation

Left to right: Patricia Quane, Chairperson BPCI; Simon Coveney, TD, An Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Aidan Lynch, President IPHA

Bernard Mallee

Director of Communications and Advocacy, Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association

The biopharmaceutical industry is among Ireland’s most significant investors, accounting for 62% of Ireland’s goods exports. We have a large biopharmaceutical manufacturing presence, relative to other big sectors and to other similar-sized countries. Our scientists are contributing to global efforts to find treatments and cures for serious diseases, including for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Industry and the State

None of Ireland’s progress in medicines innovation can be taken for granted. Product life cycles, industry consolidation patterns, the draw of emerging markets, skills readiness and slow speeds of adoption of new medicines in the health services are creating headwinds that could decelerate the pace at which the industry scales into the future in Ireland.

The response is to plan, together. Closer collaboration between industry and the State on the operating environment for medicine innovation and investments is the way forward. This happen in other countries in Europe, and it should happen here, too.

When we examine the response to COVID-19, it is clear that partnership between industry and policy leaders works. It is helping to fast-track collaborative research for a treatment or vaccine, assure patients that the supply chain is robust enough to cope with system shocks and remind everyone how important is continuous manufacturing in securing the global medicines pipeline.

Cell and Gene Therapy

In identifying new opportunities for Ireland, we must heed global industry trends. One of the most important of these is the sharp growth in cell and gene therapies (CGTs).Cell therapies can treat potentially fatal blood cancers by reinfusing patients with their own engineered immune cells to tackle the illness. In the longer run, companies will likely target more challenging solid tumours.

At the same time, scientists are making progress on gene therapy by replacing faulty DNA to cure genetic diseases. Extraordinary clinical results in recent years have led to an explosion in the number of new companies developing CGTs. Major investments will be needed to create CGT manufacturing capacity and capability at sites in Ireland. We will need to meet training and skills needs linked to manufacturing this new wave of medical therapies.

If we move quickly, Ireland can build on our reputation as a global leader in biologics manufacturing to become a leading European destination for CGT production. 

‘BioPharma Ireland’

The industry, through events like the recent BioPharma Policy Forum and BioPharma Ambition 2020, is working closely with policymakers on a shared vision for biopharmaceutical innovation. The upside for Ireland is clear – gains clinically, economically and socially by making the most of medicines innovation and investments.

The industry has called for a Strategy for the Development, Production and Provision of 21st Century Medicines. It should be clear about Ireland’s potential in emerging areas like CGTs, Industry 4.0, immunotherapies and genomics. It should ensure that we have the best operating environment for medicines innovation, including the availability of the right skills and talent, tax policies that catalyse research and development and draw new investments, a robust intellectual property regime, and a reformed approval and funding mechanism that makes us as fast as other western European countries in adopting new medicines in the health services.


Ireland must continue to pursue excellence in manufacturing and research, adapt public policy to the promise of science, and ensure standards of care are raised through the availability of new medicines to patients and their doctors. All of this will require intense collaboration. The beneficiaries will be people, communities and science.

That is what we call ‘innovating for life’; our industry’s rallying call to everyone with a stake in healthcare innovation to work in common purpose.

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