Site Director, Charles River Laboratories Ireland Limited
Dr. Carmen Sweeney
Scientific Director, Charles River Laboratories Ireland Limited
Head of Operations, Charles River Laboratories Ireland Limited
Outsourcing drug development and manufacturing can allow biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies to deliver new products quickly and safely to the market at lower costs.
As biological products become increasingly complex, biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies face growing challenges in developing and manufacturing drug substances, especially in quick-growing markets such as cell and gene therapy. Partnerships would allow companies to release life-changing products to the market much quicker while still managing costs.
A multi-billion-euro market
Cell and gene therapy is experiencing huge growth in the global and Irish biopharmaceutical industry. “The future of cell and gene therapy is looking incredibly promising because, in recent years, we’ve seen a flurry of success with dramatic, life-changing products being used to treat what were previously largely life-limiting diseases,” Dr Carmen Sweeney, Scientific Director at Charles River, says.
One of the ways to support pharmaceutical companies in quickly and safely delivering cell and gene therapy products to waiting patients is by providing them with development, raw material testing and manufacturing services — all under one roof. “We are very keen to be able to help, service and support the cell and gene therapy industry, including offering raw material testing and rapid testing because when you’re dealing with treatments like these which are used for life-limiting diseases, in addition to quality, speed is of the utmost importance,” says Dr Sweeney.
Setting up a BSL-3 (Biological Safety Level 3) facility here in Ireland has ensured that we are best placed to help meet the growing demand for safe spaces to handle and test both therapeutic and prophylactic treatments for serious and infectious diseases.
“We recently opened a new flagship BSL-3 facility to support work on a range of different pathogens, including viruses which is our initial focus. What’s unique about this facility is that we can offer full GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) accredited services such as challenging potency measurements,” says John Conway, head of operations at Charles River. “We’re excited about the prospects of the new area. We believe it’s critical to not only strengthen our own portfolio but as a critical support to the advancements in healthcare.”
An exciting change for us is that we will be introducing a four-day working week for our employees.
Meeting client needs
Providing tailored services and the right facilities allows pharmaceutical service providers to forge collaborative relationships with clients as well as help them speed up development timelines safely. Charles River, for example, recently added 1,500 metres of laboratory space “to meet the ever-growing testing requirements in the industry,” explains Liam McHale, the company’s site director. “We’re also focusing on digitalisation with our new digital platform, Apollo, which is scheduled for launch in 2023. It’s a hugely important feature for our clients, allowing them to know where their samples are, when it’s going on test and when the results are going to be released.”
Another service includes RightSource which improves efficiencies in quality control testing and provides flexible insource and outsource solutions. “Within the module, we offer access to the entire trials of our portfolio service and expertise in GMP and research and development services, while still allowing the flexibility to scale up or down with ease depending on the testing needs,” says Conway. “These platform testing sites will be digitalised which helps accelerate quality-control testing for clients — critical for our patients to get treatments faster.”
Retaining quality talent
Focusing on attracting and retaining quality talent is essential to support long-term biological product development and employee wellbeing. This includes providing employees with career progression opportunities and attractive benefits. “An exciting change for us is that we will be introducing a four-day working week for our employees here at the Ballina site in January 2023,” says Conway.
“However, we still have a five-day business week for our clients, where focused scheduling ensures uninterrupted client support and key staff availability. We expect it to be a success by making our site an even more positive working environment while still efficiently meeting the needs of our clients.”