Pharma giant seeks planning for Swords plant

Biotech facility to employ 350 on repurposed and expanded Dublin site

Artist’s impression of new MSD site at Swords, expanded  to 43,000sq m from previous 31,000sq m plant.

Artist’s impression of new MSD site at Swords, expanded to 43,000sq m from previous 31,000sq m plant.


MSD has submitted planning permission for the construction of its major new biotech plant in Swords.

The company’s new biologics facility will be built on the site of its former women’s healthcare product business.

The planning application confirms the company’s intention to refurbish and repurpose buildings already on site to make them suitable for the manufacture of biopharmaceuticals.

The footprint for the new development will be 43,000sq m – a significant increase on the 31,000sq m occupied by the previous plant.

MSD, the European business of US drug giant Merck, announced in February that the new facility would play a pivotal role in the manufacture of MSD’s biologics-based medicines, including in the area of immuno-oncology.

Merck is looking to ramp up global manufacturing capacity for its blockbuster cancer therapy Keytruda. At present the group has only one immuno-oncology manufacturing base, with the rest of its supplies delivered by contract manufacturing partners.

Four other sites

The company said 350 people will be employed at the Swords biotech plan when it is commissioned. It expects to begin manufacturing operations in 2021.

MSD already employs more than 1,700 people across four other sites in Ireland – in Carlow, Cork, Dublin and Tipperary. Its Irish operations had combined turnover of €4.7 billion in 2016.

The company had originally put the €25 million Swords site on the market last year after it transferred the long-standing women’s health products business from the site to the Netherlands. It had expected that the 33-acre location would appeal to a rival pharma business.

However, Ger Brennan, managing director of MSD Human Health, said its history as a pharma site, onsite infrastructure and its location, close to both the M50 and Dublin Airport, brought it back into consideration when the company was examining options for the biologics facility.

The prospect of an uncontentious planning process was another factor in the final decision, the company said at the time.