More good news for the Irish pharmaceutical industry has come with the official opening of Merck & Co's new 100 million euro R&D facility at Ballydine, Co Tipperary.

The US giant, known as Merck, Sharp & Dohme (MSD) outside North America, noted that construction on the facility at the existing Ballydine site began in September 2007 and since then "70 new high calibre roles have been created". This number could increase to 120 as new innovative medicines are developed at MSD and an additional 6 million euro investment is already in the planning phase to extend the new site.

_There are currently six new drugs in development at MSD Ballydine,  including a cholesterol/type 2 diabetes combination and a treatment for hepatitis C. Willie Deese, head of Merck's manufacturing division, said the decision to locate this new centre in Tipperary was due to a number of factors, "chief among which was the credibility, track record and expertise of the Ballydine team, the technology and infrastructure at the site and the support we have received from the Irish Government and IDA Ireland,” the country’s investment promotion agency.__

Irish Taoiseach (prime minister) Enda Kenny said that "tis strategically important development for MSD which brings R&D and high-value jobs to our economy is a significant endorsement of Ireland’s wealth of talent and expertise". MSD employs 2,300 people directly in Ireland through its eight operations at sites in Carlow, Cork, Dublin, Tipperary and Wicklow - there are over 450 staff at Ballydine and the site represents an annual spend of 240 million euros.

The MSD news comes days after Pfizer announced it is to invest $200 million at its Grange Castle biotechnology manufacturing facility in Clondalkin, Co Dublin.