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Cork’s pharma biz boost

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Amgen, the world’s largest biopharmaceutical company, is to invest more than $1 billion in a new facility in Carrigtwohill, County Cork. The plant will be primarily used for manufacturing, though it will also incorporate some development capabilities. The deal is expected to bring 1,100 new jobs to the East Cork region by 2010. The site of the development comprises about 150 acres.
Amgen is a Fortune 500 company that employs more than 14,000 people worldwide. It is headquartered in California and its current market capitalization is in excess of $100 billion.
Amgen’s most recent results, for the third quarter of 2005, showed increases across a range of categories: total product sales increased to $3 billion from $2.6 billion in the third quarter of 2004, an improvement of 19 percent; total revenue rose 16 percent to $3.2 billion; net income rose to $967 million for the quarter from $236 million for the comparable period in the previous year. Amgen will report its 2005 full year results tomorrow morning.
The company’s products are used in the treatment of cancer, kidney ailments and rheumatoid arthritis among other diseases. Ireland beat other contenders, the most serious of which were Switzerland and Singapore, to win the investment from the U.S. corporation.
Asked about the factors behind Amgen’s decision, company spokesperson Sarah Reines stressed the presence of a highly educated workforce in the Cork region:
“That was a significant factor and one of the most attractive things about Cork,” Reines told the Echo.
“The region has become a biopharmaceutical hub with many people already working in the industry. There is also a very vibrant university culture and we will be hoping to attract people from there.”
Both University College Cork and the Cork Institute of Technology produce the kind of graduates that Amgen is likely to be interested in recruiting. Reines’ reference to Cork being an industry hub relates to the existing presence of many major pharmaceutical players, including Pfizer, Novartis, Eli Lilly and Schering Plough, in the area.
Reines also noted the “tremendous support” the company had received from the Irish government and particularly the IDA, the group charged with attracting international investment to the State. The specifics of the financial support offered to Amgen are not known, but other efforts to help attract the company are understood to include a pledge to improve the road infrastructure in the area where the plant will be situated.
According to Reines, Amgen hopes to break ground on the project by the end of this year. She also noted, however, that the planning and building of biopharmaceutical facilities tends to be a long process. It is unlikely that the Cork plant will come close to full capacity before 2009.
The sheer scale of the Amgen investment will provide reassurance amid fears that Ireland’s capacity to attract major international corporations would decline. More bearish observers continue to point to a range of factors, from the enlargement of the European Union to the growing strength of nations such as India and China, which they believe will damage Ireland.
Outsourcing is, of course, a deeply controversial issue in American industry and politics. However, Amgen can defend itself from criticism on this score to some degree, since it can also point to significant investment in its U.S. facilities. Yesterday, alongside the announcement of the Cork deal, the company revealed that it would expand facilities in San Francisco, Seattle and Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is also a significant employer in Rhode Island.
Amgen’s decision to locate in Cork delivered a boost to the Irish government, especially Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Micheal Martin.
“This is a landmark decision,” Martin said as the deal was announced, “and one which is welcomed not just by Cork but by all of Ireland.
“Investments of this scale speak volumes about Ireland’s ability to compete and win the most advance and innovative business from the biggest biotechnology company in the world.”
Martin also credited government policy for having played a significant role in attracting Amgen:
“These investments further validate the decision by the government over recent years to invest in the development of Ireland’s support infrastructure for the biotechnology industry,” he said.
Trade and Industry Minister Michael Ahern also welcomed the announcement:
“This is great news for Cork and represents a new dawn for the region,” Ahern said. “Such a major investment by a world-leading company will bring enormous benefits to the local economy in addition to the large direct employment. Very significant additional employment will also arise from sub-supply opportunities.”

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