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Who's who in the Irish pharma sector


The poster-boy for the indigenous pharmaceutical sector. Founded by doctors John Climax and Ronan Lambe in 1990, ICON has grown to become a global leader in drug development and testing. It now employs more than 10,000 people in 37 countries.

ICON floated on the NASDAQ in 1998 and now has a market capitalisation of $2.7bn (€1.95bn). The company recorded sales of almost $1.8bn (€1.3bn) and pre-tax profits of $130m (€94m) in 2013. No other indigenous pharmaceutical company comes even close to matching ICON's performance.

The one genuine indigenous Irish pharmaceutical multinational.

Merrion Pharmaceuticals

Founded in 2003, Merrion floated on the Irish Stock Exchange in 2007. The company has experienced its share of ups and downs during its eleven-year existence.

"We went through a period where there was no news flow. It was where we were on the product-development cycle," says founder and director Professor Michael Donnelly.

However, Merrion is now developing three diabetes treatments in partnership with Novo Nordisk and also has a treatment for breast cancer about to enter phase-three trials.

EirGen Pharma

EirGen Pharma was founded in 2005 by Patsy Carney and Tom Brennan, who had met while working for the same foreign-owned company. Their Waterford-based company develops, registers and manufactures oncology products that require a special production facility.

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The company minimised the risk in the early days by partnering with other companies. "They pay us to develop it and we then manufacture the product. They do the sales and distribution," says Mr Carney.

EirGen now employs 76 people and has contracts in 45 countries. In March 2012, Saudi firm Spimaco, one of the largest pharma companies in the Middle East, paid €19m for a 48 per cent stake in EirGen.

Alimentary Health

Alimentary Health was founded in 1999 by a group of medical doctors and scientists at UCC. The company aims to develop the potential of probiotics, the bugs in our gut that have evolved over millions of years to naturally treat inflammation.

The firm has successfully developed a probiotic product, Align, for consumer products giant Procter & Gamble. With annual sales of over $100m (€72m), it is the market leader in its segment in the US.

"Probiotics are effective for mild inflammatory conditions.

"Where the drug potential exists is if you can mine down and find the anti-inflammatory component in probiotics", says Alimentary co-founder and chief executive Barry Kiely.

Moll Industries

Injection moulders Moll Industries opened its doors in Donegal town in 1982. Since then, it has passed through many hands. In 2009, the then owners gave plant manager Helen Masterson an ultimatum: sell it, buy it or close it.

Ms Masterson and her husband Michael, both of whom are engineers with masters degrees in business, bought the plant, which produces healthcare-related items, such as syringes and plungers, drug-delivery components, lens cases and eye care assemblies.

Since then MBO Moll, which achieved certification to the International Medical Device Standard in 2011, has doubled turnover and increased its employees from 16 to 23.


Chanelle started life in 1983 when founder, veterinary surgeon Michael Burke, spotted a gap in the market. Initially a distributor of veterinary products, it started manufacturing at its Galway base in 1985. The company now employs 220 people and has registered over 700 products worldwide.

Barclay Chemicals

Over the past 30 years, Mulhuddart-based Barclay Chemicals has grown to become Europe's largest producer of generic crop production products.

Still Irish-owned, it also has operations in the Baltic States, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and Ukraine.

Opsona Therapeutics

Founded in 2004, Opsona Therapeutics is a TCD spin-out. It has validated and developed a series of new drug candidates and strategies, which modulate the innate immune system.

Over the past decade it has attracted a roster of blue-chip investors including Amgen, Baxter, BB Biotech Ventures, Roche Venture Fund and Enterprise Ireland.


Aerogen specialises in the design, manufacture and marketing of aerosol drug delivery systems. Its products are aimed at the critical care respiratory market.

Aerogen's patented technology lets drugs be nebulized into a fine particle mist that can be absorbed through the lungs.

Founded in Galway by chief executive John Power in 1997, Aerogen now sells in over 65 countries, playing a critical role for patients on life-support ventilation.

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