Engineers Ireland vice-president John Power officiated at an 'in person' function (11/11/2021) to mark 10 years of growth by the Chemical and Process Engineering division, held in the magnificent National Maritime Museum in Dun Laoghaire. 

L-R: Vice-president John Power, Prof John Kelly, Pfizer Irl technical director; Ger Kierans, KPC International CEO; John Devlin and Chemical and Process Engineering division vice-chairperson Martin McCarthy

The event featured a variety of speakers – looking back and looking ahead – with many major sites in Ireland represented – Pfizer, MSD, BMS, Glanbia, Abbvie, Intel – in addition to the IDA and prominent engineering firms KPC International, Jacobs and PMG.

Author Dr Pat McCarthy, who has just completed the definitive book, History of the Irish Pharmaceutical Industry, talked about some key decisions which led to the progression of the industry from cottage industry scale (803 total sector employment and £IR1.25 million annual exports) in 1960 to today, where the industry exports more than €60 billion worth of medicines and employs hundreds of thousands of people, directly and indirectly.

Industry icon

Prof John Kelly, an industry icon who taught generations of Irish chemical engineers, was guest of honour. He told of graduating from one of the very first classes of Irish chemical engineers in University College Dublin (UCD) in 1957 and early work experiences in that era.  A former vice-president and registrar at UCD, he has just completed a gripping tale about the Ulysses author James Joyce – The College Years 1898-1902.

Division vice-chairperson Martin McCarthy then introduced two practitioners working at the coalface, who discussed delivering Covid-19 medicine facilities during the pandemic.

John Devlin, CEO of KPC International, who leads Commissioning, Qualification and Validation (CQV) teams on sites around the world, discussed the schedule pressures of designing and building lab and production facilities for Covid-19 vaccines and cures – and getting them fully operational. Current timelines can only be met if planning starts at the beginning for the back-end startup and CQV phases.

One of the world’s finest biopharma facilities

Engineers Ireland vice-president John Power

Pfizer Grange Castle, Co Dublin, is one of the world’s finest biopharma facilities and technical director Gerald Kierans described how its plant and sister plant in Poors, Belgium, have been compressing project schedules to meet the production demands for Covid-19 medicines. Reimagining the relationship with the regulatory authorities and close working with them, is among the steps which helps bring safe medicines to the public – and in a more expeditious fashion.

McCarthy then invited the delegates to share refreshments and raise a toast – the first in 20 months – to thank the committees of the division over the past 10 years, especially founder members Brendan O’Callaghan, exececutive VP of Sanofi and David Shanahan, CEO of Adagio. Exciting plans for 2022 were outlined and include site visits, technical talks, educational visits to schools (STEPS) and Transition year programmes.

The division now has more than 1,000 members, and is growing.

Tours of the National Maritime Museum, followed – and included the telling of the story regarding the world’s first 'ship to shore communication', by Guglielmo Marconi, which occurred in Dun Laoghaire harbour in1898.