Notes from BIO 2009: Irish Pharma--Can Innovation and Quality Trump Cost and Infrastructure Considerations?

Some slighting asides were made during one session at BIO, on biopharma capacity...they weren't part of the official powerpoint presentations, but came unofficially during the Q&A, and they showed that some people in the industry may continue to see Ireland as an expensive place to do business.  One wonders whether the speaker was looking only at short term costs.

For their part, scientists in Ireland are confident that innovation and quality, and a close-knit and global scientific community will ensure Ireland a firm footing in a highly competitive  environment. At BIO 2009 in Atlanta yesterday, the Irish Development Authority and Enterprise Ireland hosted a morning meeting that offered a glimpse into why the island nation should continue to attract foreign investment and pharma and biopharma partners. Among the ambitious projects, a venture between Novo Nordisk and Merrion Pharmaceuticals to develop what has long been a "holy grail "for pharma: an oral dosage form for insulin.

John Lynch, Merrion's CEO discussed this project at the event.

Meanwhile, offering glimpses into Ireland's transformation into multi-cultural research center were two scientists who have been based in Ireland for the past few years, who have lived, studied and worked in the U.S. and around the world: Davinder Gill, V.P.of biological technologies at Wyeth Research, and Professor Lokesh Joshi, Stokes professor of glycosciences at the National University of Ireland, Galway and associate director of the Center for Bioanalytical Sciences.  I wanted to ask them about the cultural adjustments (and whether their children enjoyed learning Gaelic, but figured that might be just a bit too informal). 

However, they both mentioned the strong emphasis on education within Ireland----something that the U.S. could definitely learn from, as another BIO presentation made clear.  Commenting on the fact that the average Irish citizen has a well-informed  world  view, Joshi quipped, "I enjoy cab rides now more than I ever have." It was also mentioned that researchers on his team hail from different parts of the world.  Several speakers noted that scientists' pay (too little, around the world) was still quite a bit lower than it is in the U.S. and there had recently been some salary cuts (another sad global phenomenon that we all hope ends soon).

We'll have audio (and perhaps some video----too many people moving in front of the camera!) clips of their presentations on our site soon.


But our entrepid senior digital editor Michele Vaccarello visited Ireland a few weeks and spoke with some top scientists in Ireland first hand, videotaping brief interviews with some of them, including scientist/entrepreneur Ivan Coulter, CEO of Sigmoid Pharma and John Lynch.  Her travelogue is fun to read and offers insight into the promise that Irish innovation continues to show, despite the rocky economic climate.   Click here to read and watch.