COVID-19 may have the world’s attention, but Pfizer hasn’t forgotten making investments elsewhere.
The New York pharma will invest €300 million ($350 million) to upgrade three Irish manufacturing sites in Grange Castle in Dublin, Newbridge in Kildare and Ringaskiddy in Cork, and add about 300 jobs over the next two to three years, the company said Monday.
The investments will be used to add new manufacturing capacity and lab space, as well as “new technologies to ensure Pfizer is ready to support the next wave of medical innovations,” it said.
The three Irish sites manufacture drugs and vaccines in the areas of arthritis, inflammation, cancer, anti-infectives, hemophilia, pain and stroke, according to the company
The Ringaskiddy site, which was Pfizer’s first foothold in Ireland, will install a drug development operation to produce compounds for clinical trials. “This is a very important development, as it expands Pfizer’s role in Ireland from the manufacture of already approved medicines into the support of an earlier phase of new medicine development,” Paul Reid, Pfizer Ireland’s country manager said, as quoted by The Irish Times.
Pfizer’s currently in the spotlight for developing a COVID-19 vaccine with German partner BioNTech. The pair’s mRNA candidate, BNT162b2, is among four programs currently in phase 3 efficacy trials in the U.S. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla previously said the company could have preliminary efficacy data as early as October, but that didn’t come through.
Right now, the firm doesn’t intend to discuss any interim efficacy analysis until it has a “conclusive readout” from the data monitoring committee, Bourla told investors during a conference call last week. It will also accrue two-month safety data from half of the trial participants following the final dose of the vaccine, as the FDA requires. “Based on our current trial enrollment and dosing pace, we estimate we will reach this milestone in the third week of November,” he said.
In July, the company nabbed $1.95 billion from the U.S. government to supply 100 million doses of the vaccine upon emergency use authorization, with potentially an additional 500 million doses down the line. In the EU, where the BNT162b2 shot is under the European Medicines Agency’s rolling review, Pfizer and BioNTech have penned an agreement to provide 200 million doses, with an option for 100 million more.
To make those shots, Pfizer has designated three U.S. sites and a Belgium facility as its COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing centers. The Grange Castle operation in Ireland is helping with quality testing batches for the Belgium plant, according to The Irish Times. Bourla has said the company will have relevant manufacturing data before the safety readout to support its COVID-19 application in the U.S.
The Irish investment comes as Pfizer is planning to exit a sterile injectables manufacturing site in Perth, Australia. The company intends to wind down operations there by 2023 and move its functions to its Melbourne, Australia, facility and other plants overseas.