Belfast Telegraph

How hard work helps our best export firms get ahead from North Carolina to Middle East

Jonathan Calderwood, Almac Group’s director of clinical services marketing

Almac managing directors Jim Murphy and Dr Robert Dunlop in Singapore.
Almac managing directors Jim Murphy and Dr Robert Dunlop in Singapore.

As a world-leading drug development and commercial services provider, at Almac we offer an extensive range of integrated services to over 600 customers in the pharmaceutical and biotech sectors globally. Our services range from research and development, diagnostics, drug discovery, manufacture of active pharmaceutical ingredients, formulation development and clinical trial supply through to commercial-scale manufacture.

We now employ over 3,900 highly-skilled staff across our global operations, with the bulk of these, around 2,400, at our Craigavon headquarters.

Our clinical services business unit is recognised as one of the top global solution providers within the niche and complex market of clinical trial supply packaging, distribution and management. Along with our clinical technologies business unit, which offers software solutions for clinical trials, this represents around 70% of our global group revenue.

Almac's market remains concentrated in North America (45%) and Western Europe (50%) which includes Switzerland, Germany, Scandinavia and the UK. Our US operations include our North American headquarters in Pennsylvania, as well as facilities in North Carolina and California, with the focus very much on serving the biotech hubs with the latter.

In the past five years our market in the Asia and Pacific region has grown rapidly and in the next three years we hope it will represent almost 15% of our business.

To help us achieve that, in July we opened our new Asia Pacific headquarters in Singapore to enable us to better serve our pharmaceutical clients (in their own time zone and language) conducting regional trials.

Demand has been driven primarily by the top 10 global pharma companies who are entering the region - currently 23% of global clinical trials are being conducted there.

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Our services are also in demand by biotech clusters in Korea and Japan which wish to enter US and European markets and that is driving more employment back in Craigavon. Overall we intend to create at least 350 new jobs in Northern Ireland in the next four to five years to support our global business.

Breaking into new markets is a brave step, even for an established global business like ours, but since the Galen days we have had a strong vision and an ethos of pushing boundaries which emanates from our late founder and chairman, Sir Allen McClay.

A key change we've observed is that our clients are now seeking a more comprehensive range of services from one provider including improved supply chain management and more efficient development of new drugs. They simply don't want to work with up to a dozen partners. Almac is well placed to respond to this demand because of its reach and capability, the range and depth of its services and ground-breaking research.

Support provided by Invest NI and UK Trade and Investment has been helpful in breaking into the Asia Pacific region and we'd certainly encourage other companies seeking to expand internationally to take advantage of their resources, including trade missions and help to set up meetings on the ground.

Of course there are cultural differences which we must respect in new countries, but traits like trust, collaboration and openness are universally important and these are qualities which people from Northern Ireland generally have in abundance and which help us build relationships easily.

Being named Overall Ulster Bank Business Achiever of the Year at the all-island final of the awards in Dublin last year was a special moment for us. It not only gives our employees a distinguished accolade of which we can be proud but was an endorsement of our work to our clients and partners, building their trust and confidence in what we do. We also believe it helps to motivate our global team to meet business objectives.

At a time of rapid expansion it has also been excellent for us in terms of recruitment at all levels to attract the very best people to work with us, which is ultimately the key to ensuring our future success.

Almac was the overall winner of the Ulster Bank Business Achiever Award in 2014

Belfast Telegraph