Ireland Adventures: Letters from the Emerald Isle

An enterprising editor explores one of pharma’s most enterprising islands.

By Michele Vaccarello Wagner, Senior Digital Editor

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Day One: Touchdown Shannon

Customs and border patrol officers love to make small talk. I’m pretty confident it’s part of their job. Where you headed? Got any big plans for the week? Minutes after I landed in the Shannon airport I found myself giving my week’s itinerary to Jocelyn, a polite border patrol officer, who seemed confused by my ratty passport. But, perhaps even more confused to hear my explanation that I had accidentally thrown it in the washer with my jeans a few years back.

“A trip sponsored with Enterprise Ireland, you say? Well, welcome to Ireland. We need all the enterprise we can get!” she said as she stamped my entry. It was her comment that set the tone for my week in one of the most beautiful and culture-rich countries in the EU, but also one of the many countries feeling the pains of the recent economic downturn.

But amidst a downtrodden economy, the Republic of Ireland, with its population of no more than 4.3 million, still represents a small but advanced market for pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. 

Ireland is one of the pharmaceutical industry’s leading manufacturing bases and has attracted huge levels of investment from the industry despite having little tradition of domestic manufacturing. Most Big Pharma companies have production facilities all over the country, but many companies such as Pfizer and Schering-Plough have reduced or stopped their Irish operations in recent years, which has greatly affected the economy.

When I told some of my new Irish pub friends what industry I worked in, their first question was, “Oh my . . . are you here to fire people?” The Irish pharmaceutical industry employed around 24,500 people in 2006, according to the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA). Of these around 17,000 were employed directly by manufacturers. It is estimated that some 2,019 pharmaceutical manufacturing jobs have been lost in the past year in Ireland due to plant closings and outsourcing.  

However, many new investments have been made in Ireland, particularly in the biotech field. Companies such as Pfizer, Wyeth and Amgen  have invested millions in establishing new biotech plants in Ireland in recent years, helping create permanent jobs and further stimulate the economy.

Day Two: Celtic Compliance

After renting a car, figuring out how to drive on the left-side of the road and aging twenty years (yes, it is as hard as you think it would be), I paid a visit to two compliance

Michele Vaccarello, Senior Digital Editor, Cork, Ireland
That smile hides absolute fear.

software companies in industrial Cork: EHA Soft and Qumas. EHA Soft, established in 1992, is one of the largest consulting software companies in Ireland for environmental health and safety management. Their mai (measure, analyze, improve) software offers a modular, paperless suite for EH&S risk assessment, helping companies certify their facilities across national standards.

Managing Director Dan Gallagher sees a trend in the pharma and biotech industry that companies are not doing everything they can to manage environmental health and safety, but not without effort. “It’s always a challenge. Strictly again with the global crisis, people are losing resources, they’re not getting budgets released to them. In our surveys, most companies feel they are not doing enough risk assessment for environmental health and safety. 100% of respondents will tell you that the key factors for their companies are data protection, security, and traceability but they don’t have the resources to effectively manage these risks,” Gallagher says. To watch my full interview with EHA Soft, click here.

Enterprise compliance management software company Qumas, also headquarted in Cork, delivers a closed-loop compliance mode featuring ProcessCompliance and DocCompliance that standardizes and integrates common elements of compliance tasks on a single platform. CEO Kevin O’Leary is seeing more and more pharmaceutical companies looking for fewer systems and platforms in their development and delivery. “Companies are now looking at software and saying . . . this helps us to reach full compliance, but does this help us to get our drugs to market faster? It’s a business advantage and absolutely necessary to approach processes from a larger picture. It’s no longer accelerated delivery vs. a compliant system, it’s more integrated,” he believes.

Qumas recently rolled out MyQumas, a web-based compliance framework that provides a single point of access from which users can monitor their areas of responsibility and perform specific tasks across Compliance initiatives. MyQumas enables users to access functionality on Qumas platforms through a user-friendly interface that provides all compliance content and tasks in one view, promoting a competitive compliance advantage and allowing companies a more efficient management tool.


Day Three: Capturing the Irish Spirit

Michele Vaccarello Wagner, Senior Digital Editor in Nenagh, Tipperary Ireland
Nenagh, Tipperary

Next it was on to Nenagh, a county town of North Tipperary, which is famous for the Nenagh Castle and ruined Franciscan Abbey. (The plethora of hand-carved life-sized monks stationed throughout my hotel made much more sense to me once I learned the town history.)

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