Belfast Telegraph

Almac's focus will stay on expansion right through 2015

After a year in which pre-tax profits at pharmaceutical giant Almac Group soared 30%, Lindsay Fergus talks to corporate vice-president Douglas Cookson about the company's plans for the next 12 months

By Lindsay Fergus

As if 2014 wasn't an exceptional enough year for pharmaceutical giant Almac Group, 2015 promises to be just as exciting. In the past 12 months the Craigavon-based firm announced an investment of £54m over the next five years, which will enable the business to expand its Northern Ireland workforce by 15%, creating 350 jobs.

It will also allow Almac to increase the range of services it offers, allowing it to respond to key trends within the pharmaceutical industry and maintain a competitive edge.

Also in recent weeks Almac added yet another award to its collection after being named Overall Businesss Achiever of the Year at the Ulster Bank Business Achievers national final in Dublin.

Despite being a globally renowned company, and a Top 100 Northern Ireland firm, Almac still values such achievements.

Douglas Cookson, vice-president corporate marketing at the Almac Group, said: "This not only gives our employees a distinguished accolade of which we can be proud but is a further endorsement of our work to our clients and partners, building on their trust and confidence in what we do.

"It enables us to demonstrate our ongoing achievements to our stakeholders and celebrate our success while rewarding and motivating our global team to meet business objectives.

"Winning is also excellent for us in terms of recruitment at all levels, to attract the very best people to work with us and ensure our future success."

Undoubtedly the company's founder, the late Sir Allen McClay, would be delighted with Almac's continuing success.

Through organic growth, today the global organisation employs over 3,500 staff in a diverse range of activities including:

• Award-winning and world-leading prognostic and predictive cancer diagnostic tests and services

• Biomarker discovery and development

• Active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) manufacture

• Formulation development and manufacture

• End-to-end global clinical supply management with supporting technologies

• Analytical solutions to support drug development

• Commercial services to support manufacturing, testing and packaging of drug product to end-user distribution, globally.

• The commercial sale of branded generic and speciality pharmaceutical products.

Almac currently provides services to over 600 companies worldwide.

But the area that most excites Mr Cookson is the company's work in the field of personalised medicine, which is about understanding the complexities of cancer in order to realise how it can be best treated in each patient.

He said: "Within that field we have world-leading scientists working on diagnostic tests for cancer.

"These are extremely significant as they help inform discussion on the best potential treatment for individual patients, rather than a one size fits all approach.

"Importantly we have experienced significant interest from pharma companies seeking to develop companion diagnostics strategies as part of the wider personalised medicine approach.

"For example last year our technology and intellectual property for predicting which breast cancer patients are likely to benefit from chemotherapy based on their genetic make-up was exclusively licensed to a US company to further develop, validate and subsequently commercialise the test in a multi-million pound deal."

And in 2015 a world leading gene expression test for breast cancer which was developed by Almac will be available for clinical use.

Mr Cookson added: "Throughout 2015, we will also be focusing on expanding our clinical services and technologies capabilities to include on-the-ground leadership as well as technical, project and operational resources in Asia.

"We will be further establishing regional hubs in Singapore and Japan to better enable the industry's growing need to conduct clinical trials in Asia and/or manage global trials from the region."

However, one thing Almac won't be doing in 2015 is a flotation, despite recording pre-tax profits of £19.2m in 2013, up around 30% on the previous year, and seeing turnover increase by 8% from £300m to £325m. Mr Cookson said: "We have no plans to float on the stock market now or in the future."

Belfast Telegraph