Vote of confidence as Pfizer's Irish plants get $130m
US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer is to invest $130m (€100m) between facilities in Dublin and Cork to ensure the plants are future-proofed to handle the manufacture of new drugs.
The company, which employs 3,200 people in Ireland, is investing $100m at its massive Grange Castle site in west Dublin, where more than 1,000 people are employed.
A further $30m will be invested in the group's Ringaskiddy site in Cork. The Grange Castle expansion will support as many as 250 construction jobs.
The new investment is seen as a vote of confidence in Ireland from Pfizer after its blockbuster Viagra drug came off patent in June.
The investments will enable the two sites to begin producing more advanced therapies to deal with some of the most devastating diseases.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Pfizer vice-president Paul Duffy said the firm's Irish arm had competed vigorously with other global locations to secure the investment.
He said Pfizer's product profile was changing, with an increased focus on more targeted treatments.
"In the past, you've had these very broad-brush products such as Lipitor, which treated cholesterol. New products tend to be more targeted and you have to be able to manufacture small volumes of multiple products. The investment we're doing will allow us to do that," he said.
The investment in Ringaskiddy will put it in a position to be considered by Pfizer for on-going development work on new products, including those used for clinical drug trials.
While no new jobs will be immediately created at Pfizer as a result of the new investments, Mr Duffy said it was a "vote of confidence" in the sites and helps to secure their future.
The expanded facility in Grange Castle will be operational by 2015 and comes on top of a $200m investment unveiled in 2011 for the site.
Jobs and Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton welcomed the new investment by Pfizer. He said the "right steps" were being taken to ensure Ireland was a key location for companies such as Pfizer to expand their businesses.
"Pharmaceuticals and life sciences generally is a hugely important sector for the Irish economy and the Government's Action Plan for Jobs includes a series of measures to sustain and grow this sector," he said.
Pfizer, along with other major drug firms, has been facing a so-called 'patent cliff', where highly profitable products developed by the companies are losing patent protection after lengthy periods and facing competition from far cheaper generic versions.
The patent for Viagra, whose active component is made in Cork by Pfizer, expired just last month. Lipitor – once Pfizer's biggest-selling drug with peak annual sales of $9bn – came off patent in 2011.