The world’s largest biotechnology company Amgen has postponed indefinitely plans to open a $1-billion manufacturing plant in County Cork, Ireland.

The shock move, which comes after a relatively turbulent year for the firm, eradicates all 79 company posts in the country, 65 of which are based in Cork, not to mention the planned 1,000 plus new positions the plant would have housed.

“We understand that this is a very disappointing development for our employees, the government, the neighbours around our site and the broader Cork community,” commented Mark Sawyer, general manager and vice president of operations at Amgen Technology Ireland. “This decision is based purely on developments relating to Amgen's global business, and is in no way reflective of the business environment in Ireland or of the high calibre staff we have hired,” he explained.

This is not the first delay faced by the plant; in April, the group announced that it had put back the scheduled opening date by two years to 2012, following a global review of it’s business operations.

This was followed, in August, by Amgen’s announcement of an aggressive global cost-cutting effort - including the loss of between 2,200 and 2,600 jobs - to save between $1 billion and $1.3 billion in 2008.

The move followed a spate of hits to its share price, largely because of safety concerns over the erythropoietin stimulating agent class of anaemia drugs, including its top-selling Aranesp (darbopoietin alfa), in addition to new Medicare guidelines for ESA use restricting their reimbursement.

GSK sinks 14.6m euros into Alzheimer’s research

Meanwhile, Ireland’s Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Micheal Martin has announced that GlaxoSmithKline, with the support of IDA (Industrial Development Agency) Ireland, is investing up to 14.6 million euros in a collaboration with the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience and the National University of Galway on a major R&D programme for the discovery of new therapies to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

“This high-level collaboration is yet another example of how Ireland is rapidly becoming a leading global location for drug discovery and translational medicine,” commented Martin. “The status, reputation and capabilities of the parties involved are well matched to the strategic objectives of this ambitious, indeed ground-breaking project.”

GSK already has a strong heritage in Ireland, with over 1,600 people in sites across Cork, Dublin and Waterford, and the partnership is its second academic collaboration in Ireland, having worked with the IDA and Science Foundation Ireland in a joint investment worth up to 13.7 million euros with the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre for research into gastrointestinal diseases.