Specialist Waterford pharmaceutical company EirGen Pharma has formed a strategic partnership with the Pharmaceutical & Molecular Biotechnology Research Centre (PMBRC) at Waterford Institute of Technology.
The link-up will see Enterprise Ireland support close collaboration between the company and researchers.
While the new programme will concentrate largely on innovative methods for delivering drugs to the eyes of patients without the use of needles, their joint work has already yielded significant results.
The Centre facilitated clearance by the company of a potentially-terminal hurdle with a tablet impurity during the development of their early-stage breast cancer drug Eir-010. Rather than being abandoned, it has since been commercially launched in key European markets and generated revenues of €2m with sales worth €20m forecast over the next five years.
Based at a purpose-built high containment facility in Waterford, EirGen Pharma specialise in high-potency solid-dose products and, in a “milestone” breakthrough, received pan-European approval in October for Eir-010.
The company has duly expanded in just four years from a start-up to a diversified business with rapid growth in revenues and employment. Technical Director Tom Brennan is “very excited” by the potential of the programme of work now underway with their colleagues at the PMBRC.
As a small-medium enterprise “it is vital that we have access to high-calibre research capacity without incurring the overhead of establishing facilities similar to those we can utilise at PMBRC as required,” he explains.
“We have almost 30 highly-skilled staff in Waterford and intend to increase this figure by one-third in the current year having had our first commercialisation last month.
“Convenient access to the researchers and facilities at PMBRC has been crucial to our growth over the last four years and it is also these research collaborations that will allow us continue on our development path.
“It is no exaggeration to say that the team at the Centre has been pivotal to our successful growth to date,” he acknowledged.
Mr Brennan added: “We hear a lot of commentary about the ‘Smart Economy’ and the need for Ireland to move up the value chain. The research work of the PMBRC is a firm example of that going beyond rhetoric in the pharmaceutical sector.
Dr Niall O’Reilly, Manager, PMBRC, is equally enthusiastic. “Partnerships with industry are a huge part of the Centre’s work and we very much see our mandate as being to use the talent and facilities we have to support indigenous and multinational companies in this sector.
“The timeline for EirGen Pharma’s growth over the period since their formation in late 2005 has mirrored our own growth under the leadership of people like principal investigator and founder, Dr Peter McLoughlin, and the team that has grown in the same period.”
He’s looking forward to building on their ties with EirGen Pharma and other companies, as well as third-level research colleagues elsewhere – pointing out that the Centre “has worked successfully with counterparts at universities in the UK, Asia and other global locations” in sharing and applying research outcomes.
* Also see www.eirgen.com and www.wit.ie/pmbrc.