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Helsinn chooses Dublin for R&D investment

Published on 14/04/09 at 11:38am

Helsinn Birex Pharmaceuticals is to invest 13 million euros in a new pilot-scale R&D facility in Ireland, to help it bring a new generation of pipeline products through to market quickly.

The new unit at Helsinn Birex's existing Mulhuddart site in Dublin will focus on final formulation studies and dosage form development for drugs in clinical trials, according to Padraig Somers, general manager at Helsinn Birex Pharmaceuticals. The focus will be products that are formulated in oral solid dose forms.

"This work was something we typically used to outsource before," he told Pharmafocus. "Bringing this new capability in-house allows us to draw on our skills in manufacturing at large-scale and make the transition of products from development to commercialisation more efficient."

Helsinn Birex Pharmaceuticals is part of the larger Helsinn group, a family owned company which has its headquarters in Lugano, Switzerland, and was established in 1976.

Helsinn's business model centres on in-licensing early stage niche compounds and acquiring rights to develop and market the products. It also offers contract manufacturing and R&D services and has its own in-house sales and marketing unit.

A key element of the new centre in Dublin will be the creation of a dedicated stability testing group that will serve the entire Helsinn group, said Padraig Somers.

The first production batches from the pilot facility should be made some time in the first half of next year, said Somers, and the overall project timeline is in the region of four years.

The 13 million euro investment will cover some capital expenditures but will also go on staffing, with 10 research positions expected to be created in the near-term, as well as other overheads such as the creation of experimental materials. Helsinn Birex currently has around 140 staff at the Mulhuddart site.

Some of the funding is coming from the Irish Development Agency in the form of grant assistance and the firm is also benefitting from tax credits, said Somers, who reiterated Helsinn's commitment to Ireland as a hub for its manufacturing activities.

The assistance on offer from the Irish government was "an important factor in the decision to locate the R&D facility in Dublin," he said.

The Helsinn group employs a total of 450 people across its operations in Switzerland, Ireland and US and supplies products to 75 countries.

Riccardo Braglia, chief executive of the Helsinn Group said: "This new investment in R&D is another important step for the Irish operation and will be of significant benefit for the future of our international business, with the aim of centralising in the new plant any scientific development for oral solid dosage products."

Helsinn's Irish operation was established in 1990, when it acquired Birex Pharmaceuticals. To date Helsinn has invested more than 55 million euros in Ireland.



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