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WuXi development was a long-term vision that is now reaping reward



WuXi, Dundalk. Photo: Ken Finegan/www.newspics.ie

WuXi, Dundalk. Photo: Ken Finegan/www.newspics.ie

WuXi, Dundalk. Photo: Ken Finegan/www.newspics.ie


For obvious reasons very few townspeople have seen the expanse of the site in Dundalk on which WuXi Biologics the Chinese firm is building its new plant.

It’s an astonishing site that has to be seen to be believed.

It is fair to say that it’s almost like another small town on the outskirts of Dundalk.

Security and the need to protect the integrity of the facility because of the nature of the work that will be undertaken by WuXi, especially in the vaccine manufacturing building, has meant that only construction workers and staff employed to get the facility into production have had access to the site.

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Hopefully in the future when the 26 hectare site is fully developed there will be the opportunity for an open day to allow the people of the town to view the biggest investment in a manufacturing plant in the town that they are ever likely to see.

It represents an investment of €325 million and will be the largest biomanufacturing facility, using single use bioreactors in Ireland.

In the publicity which accompanied the announcement of the project the company revealed that the state-of-the-art ‘facility of the future’ will be built upon the novel approach WuXi Biologics has pioneered deploying multiple single-use bioreactors for commercial biomanufacturing and is also designed to be able to run continuous bioprocessing, a next generation manufacturing technology to be first implemented globally in this campus”.

The company added “a total of 48,000 L fed-batch and 6,000 L perfusion bioreactor capacity will be installed, representing the world’s largest facility using single-use bioreactors”.

All of that doesn’t mean a lot to most of us without a science knowledge but we have all been intrigued from the very first day at the amount of land required for the plant, and the scale of the buildings that have gradually taken shape in the last three years.

Fortunately the astute vision shown by the IDA in acquiring the land many years ago, and investing in the infrastructure such as roads etc. was clearly a factor in attracting this massive investment to the town.

Initially many questioned the wisdom of such an investment and doubted that it would ever be needed. Those sceptics would do well to visit the site if, and when it is opened to the public.

The 400 staff, many of whom are already on site, have been recruited from countries spread throughout the world, who will in time contribute to the local economy and social structure, but they will also enjoy on the expensive site in Mullaharlin excellent facilities such as a small nature reserve that is currently being developed.

The Hong Kong listed company is of course a leading global biologics technology facility that offers end to end solutions to empower organisations to discover, develop and manufacture biologics from concept to commercial manufacturing.

Over the last two years of the Covid pandemic we have all come to realise the importance that the development and manufacture of vaccines have played in our lives, and it is comforting to know that in the very near future vaccines and other medicines that will play an important role in saving lives throughout the world will be manufactured in this town, and by skilled people who will settle from all over the world to produce those life saving drugs.