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Biopharmaceutical industry calls for national strategy to fulfil promise of innovation

Simon Coveney TD, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade officially opens conference

BioPharma Ambition 2020, a partnership of IPHA, BPCI and NIBRT, urges focus on:

  •  Cell and gene therapy to bring forward new treatments and cures for serious illnesses
  • New data architecture to track health outcomes, personalise care and measure ‘value’
  • Tripling of the number of clinical trials, from 125 studies to 375
  • Faster access to new medicines through a new industry-State Agreement
  • Application of Industry 4.0 principles in advanced biologics manufacturing

Ireland needs a biopharmaceuticals strategy to fulfil the promise of innovation right across the medicine’s lifecycle, BioPharma Ambition 2020, a Conference focused on the future of medicines innovation and investments, heard in Dublin today [Wednesday]. 

Some 400 delegates from Ireland, the UK, Europe and the US attended the event at Dublin Castle. BioPharma Ambition, which is a partnership between the industry bodies, IPHA and BPCI, and NIBRT, the bioprocessing research and training institute, is supported by the government and was officially opened by Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, TD who discussed Ireland’s potential as a globally networked bio-innovation hub.

The partners behind BioPharma Ambition, IPHA, BPCI and NIBRT, called for a Strategy that supports the development, production and provision of 21st century medicines. The envisaged Strategy, proposed by the industry, would need to be developed in conjunction with the State. It could include the following action areas:

  1. A focus on realising Ireland’s potential in cell and gene therapy, including how the development of skills, new production sites, and designated research and therapy areas could help foster innovation, create jobs and draw investments.  
  1. The development of a sophisticated data capture and analysis architecture in the HSE so that health outcomes can be tracked and measured, creating the foundation for more tailored treatments and precision medicine, improving patient outcomes using existing medicines, and establishing ‘value’ metrics for the pricing of new medicines.
  1. The raising of Ireland’s voice in Brussels and in Dublin so that it is an influential advocate for intellectual property rights for biopharmaceutical innovators, especially in the development of new drugs for rare diseases.
  1. The tripling of the number of clinical trials conducted in Ireland, from 125 studies to 375, so that patients can benefit from better health outcomes. This would bring us to closer to Denmark through the standardisation of site contracts that shorten patient recruitment delays and save on legal fees for hospitals and companies.
  1. The application of genomics for medicines discovery and development, guided by a White Paper that deals with issues around data privacy, ethics, regulation and research priorities.
  1. The development of new higher education programmes, co-designed by industry, academic and clinical leaders, that deliver a new generation of biopharmaceutical innovators with expertise in the intersection of areas like artificial intelligence, machine learning, CGT, genomics and digital therapeutics.
  1. The resolution of Ireland’s poor performance in the speed of access to new medicines through a new Agreement between industry and the State that funds innovation in a way that is sustainable and predictable.
  1. A focus on sustaining the existing biopharmaceutical manufacturing base through the application of advanced manufacturing, including leveraging Industry 4.0 principles such as connecting information technology and operational technology systems.

The Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD, said the government was delighted to support BioPharma Ambition, given the scale and reach of the biopharmaceutical industry over several decades.

“Foreign direct investment is a key engine of economic growth in Ireland. A significant proportion of that growth is powered by the biopharmaceutical industry. The government wants to work with the industry and others to ensure that Ireland has the best operating environment to retain and attract investments and keep the country competitive for ground-breaking research and development,” said Minister Humphreys.

Oliver O’Connor, Chief Executive of IPHA, said: “BioPharma Ambition 2020 is about bringing together people with a stake in the future of a deeply consequential industry for Ireland. We are debating the industry right across the medicines lifecycle, including adoption where we need to improve dramatically to be on a par with our peers in western Europe. We would urge politicians and policymakers to work with the industry on a solution to the funding problem, relying on both the State and industry contributions.” 

Matt Moran, Director of BPCI, said: “Our industry is evolving at pace, bringing both opportunities and challenges. Ireland has potential in emerging areas like next-generation therapies, Industry 4.0, immunotherapies and genomics. With the right collaboration between industry, government and other stakeholders, we can catch the new wave of biopharmaceutical innovation while sustaining the progress we have made in attracting investments in small and large-molecule medicines manufacturing.”

Killian O’Driscoll, Director of Projects at NIBRT, said: “NIBRT is delighted to work with the broad partnership of key stakeholders to enable this third edition of BioPharma Ambition. We look forward to contributing to the biopharmaceutical strategy, with a particular focus on developing the skills and research capability to support next-generation biopharmaceutical manufacturing investment in Ireland.”

About BioPharma Ambition 2020

BioPharma Ambition, held at The Printworks, Dublin Castle, is a partnership between the industry bodies, IPHA and BPCI, and NIBRT, the bioprocessing research and training institute. It is supported by the government.

The event is an international stage to explore the themes defining biopharmaceutical innovation right across the medicine’s lifecycle. This year, like in 2016 and 2018, we are positioning Ireland at the nexus of globally networked innovation. The two-day agenda, made up of workshops, keynotes and moderated panels, covers some major industry themes, including cell and gene therapies, factory 4.0, tax, data and connected health, and the policy environment for a thriving industry.

BioPharma Ambition is sponsored by McKesson and PwC, with several agencies supporting the event, including Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland, InterTrade Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland.

Ireland hosts all 10 of the top 10 global biopharmaceutical companies and the industry accounts for 62% of Ireland’s goods exports. In Europe, 2.6 million jobs are generated by the biopharmaceutical industry, with Ireland accounting for 45,000 of them, according to PwC.

The jobs are regionally distributed and most of them are in small and large-molecule manufacturing. The industry contributes €14.7 billion to Ireland’s economy.

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