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Cork County on the Rise: Big pharma feels at home in Cork

15 November, 2019

In 1969, when global biopharmaceutical company Pfizer located in Ringaskiddy, Cork was a very different place.

Verolme, the Dutch-owned shipyard in Rushbrooke, was busy making ships, some of them patrol and fisheries vessels for the State.

For generations, workers at the Sunbeam factory in Blackpool had been making textiles.

On the banks of the Lee, Ford, or Ford’s as it was known locally, operated an assembly plant that made cars and tractors for places as far away as Argentina. If they needed tyres, Dunlop was only down the road.

In the 50 years since, all of these companies have disappeared except Pfizer. Ringaskiddy was Pfizer’s first Irish location. Since then, the company has expanded to six sites in the country, including in Little Island.

From an initial investment of €10m in 1969, Pfizer’s investment in Ireland is now €8bn, with a €2bn contribution annually to the economy. Pfizer has a 3,700-strong workforce, making it one of the country’s largest employers.

Cork has become an important European hub for biopharmaceutical manufacturing and, in some cases, discovery. The harbour area hosts a cluster of big-name biopharmaceutical multinationals, including Novartis, Janssen and BioMarin.

Further south, Eli Lilly has a major presence in Dunderrow, near Kinsale, while, just north of there in Brinny, over 850 employees in MSD are developing and supplying complex biologic medicines for a range of conditions.

On the east side of Cork city, AbbVie’s plant in Carrigtwohill is a modern bulk tablet and capsule facility, manufacturing solid oral dose formulations for the global market.

Janssen, the pharmaceutical company of Johnson and Johnson, has two advanced manufacturing sites in Cork. The company is doubling its biotechnology plant in Ringaskiddy through a €300m investment. Although recent news about Novartis has been hard on the affected workers, the job losses will be phased out until 2022 and the company will still have an important role in making medicines after that. Global business services will continue to be delivered from Ringaskiddy.

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