irish flag with black text saying 2018 irish pharma year in review

What Was New in 2018?

Several new facilities opened across Ireland in 2018, including…


On November 16th, Agilent officially opened its new purpose-built R&D extension within its Little Island, Cork site. This new facility will allow both cell analysis and biosensor development.

The opening also marked the company’s integration of the newly acquired biotech start-up Luxcel Biosciences. The company celebrated the day by allowing academic and industry experts to tour the new facility.


Early in the year, Almac opened its new cold storage facility at its Craigavon headquarters. The 95,000 sq ft facility has been “purpose built in response to customer requirements”, with a focus on meeting the needs of new client product areas, changes to industry regulations and compliance in supply chain data.

This is one of largest such facilities in Europe and brought an estimated 100 new jobs to the area.


BD opened its new R&D site in Limerick in July, after a €21m investment. The site, known as BD’s Research Centre Ireland (RCI), brought 100 new jobs to Limerick.

The site was “established to serve as a global R&D hub” and is seen as key to the company’s long-term growth plans.

For more information about the site, check out this video from Silicon Republic with R&D site director Kieran O’Gorman…

Gilead Sciences

In May, Gilead opened a €9.5m expansion of its Cork operations. The new quality control lab is expected to lead to increased production serving Europe, Middle East and Africa. The manufacture of 11 new products was moved to the Irish site recently, leading to this increase in demand for quality control testing.


In November 2017, Shire announced a $400m investment in a new biotech manufacturing facility in Dunboyne, Co Meath. A year later they held an “official site dedication event” to mark the progress on the 120 acre site. The facility is expected to be fully operational by 2020 and bring 400 jobs to the area. Recruitment for some roles has already begun.

Hear from Susan Hynes, Dunboyne Site Lead about the site and the type of candidates they’re looking for …

SK Biotech

SK Biotech became the first South Korean pharmaceutical company to invest in Ireland as it officially opened its Swords manufacturing site at the start of 2018. The site will be manufacturing active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) on a contract basis. Although the company does intend to bring R&D and additional manufacturing, in the longer term.

West Pharmaceutical Services

West opened its new site in Waterford in July. The facility will serve as a Global Centre of Excellence within the company’s manufacturing activities. Initially the plant will employ approximately 100 people but there are already plans to increase this number over the next few years. The site will be producing packaging material for insulin used in pen injectors, as well as finishing for other components.

To find out more about West’s decision to invest in Waterford, check out this video from the the initial investment announcement in 2014…

Job Announcements

There were 4,440 pharma and medtech jobs announced in 2018.

Some of the biggest announcements included:

Wasdell Group is opening a new facility in Dundalk that will create 800 new jobs. The facility, which represents a €30m investment, is expected to open in Spring 2019.

Edwards Lifesciences is creating 600 new jobs in Castleroy, Co Limerick. The €80m investment and the site is expected to be completed in 2021.

Abbott is creating 500 new jobs at its site in Donegal. This adds to the 500 people already working at the site, manufacturing blood glucose test strips.

Chanelle Group announced further €86m investment and 350 new jobs at its Galway site over the next 5 years. Construction is expected to begin in 2019.

MSD announced 350 new jobs at a new biotech manufacturing facility in Swords, Co Dublin. It also announced 170 new jobs at a new manufacturing plant within its Carlow site.

Rockshel Life Sciences announced 200 new jobs in Cashel. The jobs come as the company invest €14m to renovate a former pharmaceutical plant.

*** If you’re looking for a new pharma job in 2019 – be sure to check out Ireland’s biggest pharmaceutical jobs board (updated every 2 weeks) ***

Investment Announcements

Several companies also announced big investments in their Irish facilities:


Early in the year, AbbVie announced a €113 million expansion of its sterile manufacturing capabilities at its Sligo site. Once complete, the expansion will be used to manufacture cancer drugs. This investment comes on the back of a previous $115m expansion, announced in 2014.

See more about working in AbbVie Sligo in this video…

Edwards Lifesciences

In October, Edwards Lifesciences announced Castleroy, Limerick as the home of its new €80 million Irish facility. Earlier in the year, the company had announced the investment but hadn’t yet decided on a specific “mid-west” location.


BioMarin announced a €37 million investment in its Shanbally site in September. The Co Cork site was first opened 7 years ago and has been expanding almost continuously ever since. This most recent investment is to develop finish and packaging facilities.


In January, Almac announced it was investing €34 million in its new Dundalk campus. The site, due to open in January 2019, will include a clinical trial distribution centre, packaging and laboratory facilities.


Takeda announced a €25 million investment to build a new regenerative medicine facility in Grange Castle. The expansion of the current site will provide a modular cell therapy facility which will manufacture stem cell therapies.


In May, Helsinn announced a €6m investment in its Dublin drug product supply centre. The investment will provide additional anti-counterfeiting processes such as adding tamper evidence features and application of unique serial numbers.

*** Remember you can see all the factories in your area on this table that tracks job numbers by company, and also on this interactive factory locator map (best viewed on desktop). ***

Award Winners

Pharma Awards 2018

Winners on the night included:

  • Chanelle Pharma – Pharma Industry Company of the Year
  • GetReskilled & DIT – Pharma Education & Training Award

Irish Medtech Excellence Awards 2018

Winners here included:

  • Merit Medical – Medtech Company of the Year
  • axial3D – Emergin Medtech Company of the Year

Other awards of note:

And although it’s not an award – special mention to Stryker, who celebrated 20 years in Ireland.


Looking Forward to 2019

2019 is already looking to be a busy year for many of Ireland’s BioPharma/MedTech companies…

The industry in Ireland is expected to keep growing…

It’s going to be a busy year – be sure to keep an eye on our monthly news updates to keep up with all the latest developments.

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