Case study: EirGen Pharma's campus in Waterford
Advanced Technology Building in Waterford gives US-acquired EirGen Pharma room to grow, expand into R&D, and win against Chinese competition
Eirgen site building in Waterford
EirGen Pharma in Waterford offers a case study in how the IDA’s provision of Advanced Technology Buildings can seal a business-altering deal with high-tech jobs on the line.
The homegrown maker of generic oncology drugs was acquired by Miami-based OPKO Health for $135 million in May 2015. The weekend following that takeover deal, OPKO’s technology chiefs flew to Ireland to scout out a possible site for expansion that would transform EirGen into the American company’s primary R&D hub.
Thankfully, according to EirGen’s chief executive Patsy Carney, the IDA had already built a 25,000sq ft Advanced Technology Building less than a mile from EirGen’s existing factory. Otherwise, he says, OPKO might well have continued to look to China for its R&D needs.
“OPKO wanted to make us their centre of excellence for R&D, but I said we can’t do that in our existing facility, we don’t have the room,” Carney recalls of that watershed 2015 visit. “We had one shot to convince them that we could expand quickly and efficiently into a new Waterford campus.
“We were already discussing with OPKO what drugs in their pipeline they would want us to make, and having the brand-new ATB available made all the difference,” Carney continues. “With the ATB, we could be confident of launching operations within two years. If our only option had been to fit out an old building, that might have meant spending another $40 million and adding a year of work to the process. Realistically, the project would probably have remained in China. Having the ATB on tap meant we were ready to progress.”
Since signing its lease for the property, EirGen has been on a hiring frenzy in anticipation of opening its R&D campus in February. The workforce is doubling in size to 250, spread equally between the two sites.
The R&D campus is becoming home to two floors of workstations and labs dedicated to developing new OPKO products for combating diabetes, obesity and a strain of haemophilia based on Factor VII protein deficiency. A sterile production line taking up much of the building will produce injectable drugs for clinical trials on haemophiliacs that, if successful, will lead to the launch of a new, more efficient blood-clotting agent.
If all you have to show them is an empty field or an old building that will need to be gutted, it’s a harder sell. But if you can walk them into a newly-built ATB, you have them hooked
Carney describes the IDA’s building of Advanced Technology Buildings as pivotal to securing foreign investment in Ireland, particularly outside Dublin. He says other countries’ inward investment agencies typically offer greenfield sites, a less attractive option for many because it means months or years lost in construction.
“Companies from the States are doing the global rounds. After Ireland they might be heading next to Singapore, or they might be coming under pressure at home to put their next facility in the USA,” he says.
“So you’ve got maybe a two-day window in Ireland to impress them. If you’re driving them two hours outside Dublin, they’re starting to lose interest before they’ve even arrived on site. If all you have to show them is an empty field or an old building that will need to be gutted, it’s a harder sell. But if you can walk them into a newly-built ATB, you have them hooked.”
Carney sees Waterford developing a potent cluster of pharmaceutical and medical-products companies, including GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi, Teva and West Pharma. That concentration of know-how makes the city a likely candidate for even more such investment, he says, because new employers will feel “a level of comfort from the existing pool of labour in Waterford moving between the companies, as well as local engineering companies available to do the buildouts”. To that end, the IDA plans to build another ATB in Waterford in 2019.
For more, visit idaireland.com