BioWorld International Correspondent

DUBLIN, Ireland - IDA Ireland, the industrial development agency responsible for attracting overseas investment into Ireland, has invited Ireland's universities to tender for a contract to establish a national institute for bioprocessing research and training.

The agency, which normally courts overseas investors and works with those already with a base in Ireland, held an information day for interested stakeholders Friday. Although it has long played a behind-the-scenes role in influencing the country's education and research agenda, it was the first direct intervention in the research sphere.

The agency is seeking proposals from Irish colleges that would pool their resources in order to build capabilities in all aspects of biopharmaceutical manufacturing. In recent years, Ireland has explicitly begun to focus on biopharmaceutical production, adding to its traditional pharmaceutical production. Its biggest coup to date has been to persuade Wyeth, of Madison, N.J., to establish a $1.6 billion facility near Dublin to produce the rheumatoid arthritis blockbuster Enbrel and other biological drugs.

Last week, it disclosed another incoming project. Centocor Inc., a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, of New Brunswick, N.J., is establishing a biomanufacturing "center of excellence" at Ringaskiddy, near Cork City. The facility, which will employ 330 people when it is completed about five years from now, will have process development, as well as production functions. However, the actual products involved were not disclosed.

"They're pipeline products, they're not existing products," said IDA Ireland spokesman Brendan Halpin.

The bioprocessing initiative stems from a consultation the agency conducted with pharmaceutical firms. The main issues it identified included a global skills shortage in the area and a need for achieving greater cost efficiencies.

"Nowhere in the world has a surplus of skills in this area," said Eamonn Sheehy, head of education skills research at IDA Ireland. The new institute will form part of its bundle of incentives for attracting the next wave of investors.

"There are a number of projects we are aware of. It's less than 10 and more than three," Sheehy said.

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