Albert Bourla said the firm’s operations in this country are a key element in both its growth strategy and its ambition to change a billion lives a year by 2027.
Speaking in Dublin Mr Bourla said he believes the world is on the cusp of a scientific renaissance, which coupled with previously unimaginable advances in technology willl enable more medicines to be brought to more people in more places more quickly than ever before.
“We are now treating diseases that in previous decades had no treatment and are making significant progress towards bringing potential cures for devastating diseases as well,” he said.
“Innovative Ireland is critical to all of that. Simply put Ireland’s life science industry is an industrial powerhouse that is helping to make the world a healthier place.”
Mr Bourla said Pfizer has remained attracted to Ireland since its first day here, due to its pro-innovation environment.
“Ireland has a strong track record of championing open trade, having the highest IP protections, maintaining the highest quality standards in manufacturing and in investing in innovative healthcare,” he said.
“Thank you for your steadfast support of these and other policies.”
He added that Ireland is also an “incredible place” to do business because of its people.
The CEO said the area which Pfizer is putting most of its resources now is the treatment of cancer.
He said the company is investing heavily in a new drug technology platform called Antibody Drug Conjugate (ADC) which Pfizer believes holds significant promise for cancer medicine.
“Because antibodies as you know, its a biological product, I see a clear role of our Irish manufacturing network here in this battle because here we have our largest manufacturing capacity in the world in producing biologic products,” he said.
The Pfizer boss made the comments to an audience of around 500 people from the pharma, life sciences and wider multinational sector at the National Concert Hall in Dublin, where he and his company was presented with the IDA Special Recognition Award 2023 by the Taoiseach.
The company has been operating in Ireland for over 50 years, employs more than 5,000 people here and has invested over €9bn in the Irish economy since it first arrived here.
The award comes just weeks after Pfizer announced it was cutting around 100 jobs at its Newbridge manufacturing plant in Co Kildare, as part of a restructuring arising from a fall off in demand for its Covid-19 vaccines and treatments.
However, at the same time, the company also said it was planning to expand its workforce at its production plant in Grangecastle, Co Dublin and Ringaskiddy in Cork, adding a further 230 new roles.
The drop in demand and resultant production of Covid related medicines here has been generally pointed to by economists as one of the reasons behind a recent drop in the value of Irish exports and a dip in corporation tax receipts.
But speaking to RTÉ News following the event, Michael Lohan, the IDA chief executive, said he sees continued growth ahead in the wider life sciences sector in Ireland based on innovation.
“That’s going to continue, that is a continuous process, and Ireland, which as it was mentioned this morning, is a powerhouse of manufacturing and commercialisation,” he said.
“So there is growth opportunity for us here both in the research side and in the operational delivery.”
Mr Lohan said the fall-off in pharma exports is reflective of the tailwinds dragging back global economies and a correction post-Covid.
But he added that the number of investments in life sciences and pharma this year speaks to the potential for growth through innovation in the sector.
The IDA boss also predicted that export levels from life sciences are likely to settle back closer to pre-pandemic levels, with more “measured growth.”
In relation to the wider foreign direct investment (FDI) pipeline, Mr Lohan said the IDA’s annual results to be published in a few weeks time, would show continued strong growth in the FDI sector here.
“As we look to 2024, as I mentioned, there still are those sort of headwinds, in terms of international markets. But Ireland’s proposition remains strong, we’re stable, we’re pro-business and we are a proven location,” he said.
“So I’m confident that as we go into 2024 we willl continue to see strong growth in the areas that’s key to us, in terms of high value manufacturing, high value global services, financial services and tech.”
But he added that there are a number of policy areas, particularly around bringing certainty and clarity to the planning process, and the development of artificial intelligence, that require progress.
In relation to a KPMG report published today that claims most wind energy industry experts do not believe Ireland will reach its renewable electricity targets due to a range of factors, Mr Lohan said everyone recognises that there are both opportunities and challenges facing the offshore wind sector.
“That’s where the upcoming and ongoing change at a planning level is actually to address that,” he said.
“So I think Government are getting out ahead of this. The key is now is that we bring those legislation into place and that we resource the associated agencies to deliver.”
Also addressing the gathering, the Taoiseach said the Government is not complacent about success of the multinational sector.
Leo Varadkar said it recognises the importance of investing in skills and talent and will continue to invest further in education.
He said capital investment is starting to yield results, in areas including housing, transport and energy infrastructure.
“But we need to make sure that that happens faster and more effectively,” he added.
He also pointed to the overhaul of the planning system and increases in resources in regulatory authorities as well as “ambitious plans” for offshore and onshore renewable generation.