US-based contract research organisation (CRO) PPD has officially opened a contract research facility in Athlone, Ireland, making good on the plans for new laboratory services it announced in December 2008.

The company is investing up to US$19 million in the facility, US$1 million more than the figure cited more than a year ago. The new unit, which includes an 18,000sq ft analytical testing laboratory and a clinical supplies business, was originally expected to start operations by the second half of 2009.

PPD has already hired 21 employees at the site and plans to create around 250 jobs in total at the laboratory, including PhD-level scientists, analytical laboratory staff and other clinical development professionals.

The CRO had previously expanded its medical communications safety call centre operations into Athlone and said the new facility “represents PPD’s initial investment toward continued growth” of its contract research business in Ireland.

The Athlone site widens PPD’s global scientific expertise, laboratory capacity and clinical supplies network to meet growing client demand in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, the CRO noted. PPD opened a global central laboratory facility in Singapore last September.

The Athlone site will offer full integrated product and analytical development services, including method development, validation, stability, release and quality control testing; and global clinical supplies services including secondary packing, labeling and storage. The cGMP (current Good Manufacturing Practices) laboratory will conduct testing for clinical programmes and marketed products spanning all phases of drug development.

The facility will also provide regulatory services, product licensing and marketed product support, including qualified person services for all drug dosage forms, with particular emphasis on inhalation and biopharmaceutical products.

“Expanding our laboratory operations into Europe enables us to continue to deliver on our strong history of providing quality work and customer service to our growing client base in this region,” commented Magdalena Mejillano, PPD’s vice president of laboratory services.

“The Irish government, through IDA Ireland, has provided us strong support, and we continue to benefit from Ireland's highly skilled work force and business-friendly climate,” Mejillano added.

PPD has applied to the Irish Medicines Board (IMB) for manufacturer’s licences to support both investigational and marketed medicinal products, as well as for laboratory certifications for quality control of medicines at Athlone. As of 1 March, the IMB had assessed the licence applications and inspected PPD’s quality systems and premises.