Drug Delivery Centre Key R&D Investment for Northern Ireland

The new Warner Chilcott UK Limited Drug Delivery Centre at Larne will expand the company’s capability in the development of innovative and more effective ways of administering drugs for a broad range of health conditions, Leslie Morrison, Invest Northern Ireland chief executive, said today.

Mr Morrison was speaking during a visit to a state-of-the-art laboratory formed under the Research and Technology Development (RTD) Programme - funded by the EU PEACE II Programme and Invest NI to promote the commercialisation of R&D projects by local industry.

The new centre is developing products for women’s healthcare treatments using its unique intravaginal ring (IVR) technology, and other dosage forms.  

Mr Morrison was briefed on the company’s ongoing investment in innovation through its R&D programmes by Dr John King, Warner Chilcott’s executive chairman, and Dr Claire Gilligan, senior vice president, pharmaceutical development.

Said Mr Morrison: “Warner Chilcott is a local company which is investing extensively in R&D to develop innovative products and techniques that strengthen its competitiveness in the global marketplace. Invest NI’s strategic focus is on encouraging more companies to recognise that they achieve greater success and profitable growth through innovation in products, services and processes.

“Invest NI’s Business Development Solutions offer companies of all sizes and sectors the opportunity to tailor our extensive R&D services to enhance their overall competitiveness,” he added.

Dr King said: “The development of new products from internal R&D has long been a key factor in Warner Chilcott’s growth.  In the year to September 2003, for instance, we invested over £15 million, almost 30 per cent up on the previous year, on R&D.

We have identified an opportunity to expand our portfolio of products in dermatology and female health by modifying existing drugs and optimising the delivery of these drugs.  These have become intensely competitive sectors in an industry in which a focus on innovation and the ability to bring pioneering research to market quickly in the shape of new products are essential requirements for continued success.

“This centre is already working on a number of projects varying from early to late stage development.  Last year the first ring product developed at Larne received approval in the U.S.  Femring® delivers estrogen for the treatment of the symptoms of menopause.  However, this therapeutic area has declined in recent years and the support from Invest NI allows us to broaden the application of this important delivery technology” he added.

The centre currently employs 27 highly qualified staff, mostly graduates and postgraduates, and expects to recruit a further 7 over the next three years. Most of these research posts are likely to be filled from Queen’s University, Belfast and the University of Ulster.