250 jobs and €14 million investment for Athlone

US company hails region’s educated workforce

Some 250 jobs are to be created in Athlone with the establishment of a research and testing facility by an American pharmaceutical company.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen was in Athlone yesterday morning to announce that Pharmaceutical Product Development Inc (PPD ) is to expand its US operation to Athlone, opening a €14 million facility in the town’s Garrycastle Business and Technology Park.

Approximately 250 positions are to be created at the facility over five years for PhD level scientists, analytical laboratory staff, and other clinical development professionals.

Announcing the investment, Mr Cowen said PPD’s decision to choose Athlone for its facility was a major vote of confidence in the Midlands and Ireland. “PPD is a world leader in contract research, and its decision to choose Ireland for this strategically important and knowledge-driven activity is very significant for the Midlands region and for the country as a whole... This latest investment by PPD marks yet another vote of confidence in our reputation as a location for the most innovative foreign-owned companies.”

Chief financial officer of PPD, Daniel Darazsdi, drew particular attention to the role played by Athlone Institute of Technology and the readiness of a workforce in the decision to locate in Athlone. The town’s “business-friendly climate”, the proximity of AIT, and the presence of a young and educated workforce were major factors, he said.

“We are convinced Ireland is the right location for our future growth. As we seek to expand our lab operations, the Athlone Institute of Technology offers us highly qualified PhD level scientists and laboratory professionals, and we are delighted to expand into this country.

“There is a wealth of talent in the Midlands and other areas in Ireland, and we are in the process of establishing links with third level institutes,” he added.

PPD is a leading contract research organisation, providing services to pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical device companies, and academic and government agencies. It currently employs 10,500 people across 33 countries, including 3,000 in Europe.

The new cGMP (current Good Manufacturing Practice ) analytical facility in Athlone will conduct testing for clinical and commercial programs spanning all phases of drug development.

“The standards and expectations we set for ourselves are high, and we strive to be the global leader in the industry. We aim with this new facility to provide our clients with the best possible service and expertise, and look forward to meeting our growing client base in Europe,” added Mr Daradzsi.

A great day for Athlone

Welcoming the news on behalf of the local community, mayor of Athlone Egbert Moran paid tribute to the vision of chief executive of the IDA, Barry O’Leary in securing the investment. “The Garrycastle business park is a showpiece in the region. Earlier this year we welcomed Abiomed to Athlone, and we can assure PPD of the ongoing commitment of Athlone and the Midlands.

“This is a very special day for Athlone, and we wish you all the luck in the world. We hope you find Athlone a very pleasant place,” Cllr Moran told Mr Darazsdi and PPD executive director Patti McNamara.

President of AIT and of the Midlands Gateway Chamber, Professor Ciaran O’Cathain, said the decision by PPD to locate in Athlone reflected the attractiveness of the Midlands for pharma and medical device companies.

“This is a significant boost for the region and highlights the availability of highly qualified graduates, R&D support and the quality of infrastructure which is available in Athlone,” he said.

“This is particularly good news for our students and graduates, at a time when the national sentiment is decidedly negative. Yet again, it highlights the importance of programmes in the life and physical sciences, in areas such as biotechnology, pharmaceutical science, chemistry and toxicology; all of which AIT offers. We look forward very much to partnering with PPD on an ongoing basis, not only in terms of providing highly qualified employees, but also in shared research projects and ongoing training programmes.”

Local TDs Mary O’Rourke, James Bannon, and Denis Naughten were also in Athlone’s Sheraton Hotel yesterday to welcome the jobs announcement.

Describing it as a “great day”, Deputy O’Rourke said it was a mark of success for the town and the region to have PPD set up here. “It is an attractive town, particularly with the college nearby; Daniel Darazsdi told me it took them just an hour and 20 minutes to travel to Athlone from Dublin this morning,” she said.

Deputy James Bannon said the announcement was “wonderful news”, following as it did three other jobs announcements for Athlone earlier this year. However he insisted that investment needs to be spread across the region. “Mullingar and Longford are crying out for investment. We have an excellent location in the Midlands, with a well-educated workforce. Athlone has done very well in 2008, and I look forward to more announcements in 2009.”


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