Local industry Charles River Laboratories has just announced an €8m expansion of its Ballina plant to facilitate batch release testing for Covid-19 vaccines in partnership with AstraZeneca.
The development will facilitate the creation of 90 new, high-skilled jobs.
The contract research organisation’s investment will result in the creation of an additional 1,500m2 of lab space as well as the additional recruitment which will be implemented over the next three years.
A statement issued this afternoon explains that Charles River Laboratories and AstraZeneca have maintained a strategic partnership since 2012, providing AstraZeneca with outsourced regulated safety and development support on a range of treatments and vaccines, including testing and facilitating the deployment of the vaccines Vaxzevria for COVID-19 and Fluenz for seasonal infleunza.
This project is supported by the Irish Government through IDA Ireland.
Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar TD undertook a private visit of the facility this afternoon and welcomed the investment plans, saying he was really pleased that Ballina will play such an important role in the production of COVID-19 vaccines, which have saved millions of lives around the world:
“Charles River looks forward to continuing its ongoing partnership with AstraZeneca. It was great to join the team today, to see the facility for myself and congratulate them on this really significant expansion.
“Ireland is globally recognised as a hub for the Life Sciences sector and this news is a real vote of confidence in us and our capacity.”
Today’s announcement follows earlier expansions at the Ballina plant where additional Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) facilities and capabilities have been added in analytical, cell culture, vaccine support and other specialised Biologics services.
The Ballina facility was first established in 1974 and was acquired by Charles River in 2002.
It now employs 230 people across two facilities – one in Ballina and one in Dublin.
Today’s investment announcement is the latest in a series of positive developments at Charles River Laboratories including recently announced plans to establish a dedicated laboratory space with Biosafety Level-3 (BSL-3) containment to handle testing of SARS-CoV-2 (the viral strain causing COVID-19) and other similar pathogens that cause human disease.
The latest planned expansion and staff development provides the company with the increased range of testing services required by the international biopharmaceutical industry.
Liam McHale, site director for Charles River Ballina said: “We are incredibly proud of the transformational changes we have implemented on site and the role that Charles River has played in supporting the safe and timely rollout of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine. Throughout the pandemic, our site remained fully operational while keeping our employees safe and having a positive impact on human health. Our expanded facility will provide us with the increased capacity needed to continue the essential services we provide to our clients”
Through its Corporate Citizenship programme, Charles River Laboratories has continued to support worthwhile causes in the local community and has funded a number of organizations, including the Mayo Roscommon Hospice, the River Moy Search & Rescue and the Ballina Community Clean Up volunteer organisation.
Additionally, Charles River provides paid time-off for its employees to volunteer for charitable and community organizations.
Local FF Dail Deputy Dara Calleary TD has warmly welcomed the announcement:
Dan Wygal, Country President for AstraZeneca Ireland, congratulated Charles River on its exciting expansion plans, saying the company has provided Astra Zeneca with critical support in response to the pandemic:
“Our COVID-19 vaccine, Vaxzevria, undergoes extremely robust safety and quality testing prior to becoming available for patients. We are committed to bringing safe, effective vaccines to Ireland and other markets as quickly as possible, and Charles River will continue to be an important partner in this regard.”
IDA Ireland Executive Director Mary Buckley commented: “Charles River is an employer of long-standing in Co. Mayo. The enhancement of its product lines and the development of additional capability at the Ballina facility is most welcome. Today’s announcement is strongly aligned to IDA Ireland’s Regional pillar and its continued commitment to winning jobs and investment in regional locations. I wish Charles River every success with this expansion.”