Double expansion to create 229 new jobs at Almac

Latest investment will deliver blending equipment, an automated packing and integrated cartoning line to enable high volume bulk commercial manufacturing

From left to right: Graeme McBurney, President and Managing Director of Almac Pharma Services business unit; Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster; Alan Armstrong, CEO of Almac; David Simpson, MP

Almac, the Northern Ireland-based pharmaceutical company, has expanded its commercial manufacturing plant in Craigavon, following the success of one of its key client partnered products. The firm has also recently completed a new non-GMP drug development facility at the site.

Together these expansions represent a total investment of £13.7m, which includes some financial support from Invest Northern Ireland. Over the next three years, Almac will create up to 229 jobs across both projects.

The firm has doubled the capacity of its line for a laxative that is packaged in sachets in the expanded manufacturing plant.

Almac says the product has seen robust sales growth year-on-year throughout the UK and Europe. With existing facilities at full capacity and further demand forecast in a number of new markets Almac has decided to focus all production in Northern Ireland, and has therefore added more equipment and resources in Craigavon.

A client investment of US$3m will deliver blending equipment and an automated packing and integrated cartoning line, which will enable high volume bulk commercial manufacturing to start in November.

Graeme McBurney, President and Managing Director of Almac’s commercial manufacturing business unit, said: ‘The laxative product has been a great success in the UK and increasingly in European markets. The marketing and promotion of the product by our contract customer has been very effective and significant growth potential in several new territories such as China has been identified. Centralising and expanding our production in Craigavon will mean more cost effective manufacturing and optimal quality control and distribution.’

Almac has also allocated 6,124ft2 of new space for additional cold and frozen storage down to -70ºC, -20ºC and 2–8ºC.

In addition, Almac has created a new 13,400ft2 formulation development facility and analytical laboratories, which focus on the development of tablet and capsule formulations for new drugs in the early stages of development, which have not yet reached the market.

The new ‘non-GMP’ facility offers formulation of batches up to 15kg across a broad range of technologies. Potent APIs are handled in a temperature and RH-controlled environment where development work can be progressed quickly and efficiently.

John McQuaid, VP Technical Operations, Pharma Services

Almac deliberately uses the same principles of operation in its non-GMP and GMP facilities at Craigavon and items of lab technology are duplicated in both suites so that there is a seamless transition between the development and GMP phases of projects.

John McQuaid, VP Technical Operations, Pharma Services, said: ‘All Almac project teams have a cradle to grave approach to product development. We build a team to manage the product to registration and its commercial lifecycle to keep a consistency of approach.’

Almac’s Clinical Services business unit has also expanded its service offering for dispensing and bottling solid dosage products by introducing enhanced containment equipment and processes in Craigavon and at its US headquarters.

Managing Director of Almac Clinical Services, Dr Robert Dunlop, said: ‘In recent years we have experienced an increase in demand for facilities equipped to handle compounds of a higher potency.

‘This development at our European and North American Headquarters is the latest example of how Almac constantly strives to advance its service offering to reflect the needs of the drug development industry.’

Following successful installation and validation, the facilities are now operational and staff are protected by air locks and can don protective air suits when handling potent APIs.

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Almac Group (more information, website)