WATCH: Donegal businessman features in video on the work and life opportunities in the north west

The video was made for leading pharmaceutical firm AbbVie

A Donegal man is among those taking part in a video which shows that people can be at the cutting edge of global industry and still enjoy the benefits of living in the north west of Ireland.

John Ward owns and runs Sligo-based tech firm Ward Automation. He has welcomed the video made by one the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies, AbbVie. 

The video is part of the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association’s ‘Innovate For Life’ campaign, a series of videos showing the many dimensions to pharma’s impact on Ireland. The latest video showcases the opportunities AbbVie provides in the north west. 

Ward Automation is a leading manufacturer of world-class bespoke automation solutions for the medical device, pharmaceutical and high-end manufacturing industries. Based in Sligo and Galway, Ward, which supplies AbbVie, is renowned for delivering innovative, high-quality automation equipment and robotic machine solutions for multinational customers all around the world. 

John Ward, Managing Director of Ward Automation, features in the video and said the region was honoured that one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies would highlight the potential of the West and give business to local firms.

“AbbVie employs over 2,500 people, with many located at its manufacturing sites in Sligo," he said. "The firm has world-leading medicines innovation happening in Sligo, proving this can be done successfully outside the traditional hubs of Dublin and Cork.

“AbbVie’s success has come because it has developed partnerships with local businesses and educators who produce the right graduates for their needs. This means a whole generation of young people from the west of Ireland, especially from my home Donegal and adopted home Sligo, no longer have to leave the region to secure careers in this ground-breaking industry. Furthermore, these young people have the chance to positively impact the lives of patients in Ireland and around the world through the development of innovative medicines because AbbVie located here."

The video certainly shows the north west at its best. Outside of the workplace, it shows surfing and hiking destinations are just minutes away, although many of AbbVie’s employees simply enjoy the allure of a more serene lifestyle and the beautiful views of the north west.

The #InnovateForLife campaign opens a window on the world of medicines innovation right across the lifecycle – showing the process from discovery and development through to manufacturing and adoption by the health services. It is organised into three pillars – Patients, Places and Pioneers – capturing the economic and societal impact of the biopharmaceutical industry on patients’ lives, on communities, and on science and medicines development. 

West of Ireland native Bernard Mallee, Director of Communications and Advocacy at IPHA, said: “We are delighted to launch inspiring new content for ‘Innovate For Life’ ­­­– the campaign IPHA leads which draws together the many strands of our impact in patients’ lives, in communities across the country, and in science for the development of new treatments. During Covid-19, the role of our industry in the economy and in healthcare has been starkly revealed.

Like other biopharmaceutical innovators, including Pfizer, Janssen, Takeda, Novartis and Astellas, AbbVie is part of ‘Innovate For Life’. We are proud of AbbVie’s contribution to the industry. It is making medicines for global supply, creating jobs in the region, improving patients’ health outcomes and helping to position Ireland for foreign direct investments.

"The new film helps to tell that important story for AbbVie as part of a wider industry narrative.”

Dr Jerry Bird, Head of the Science Faculty at IT Sligo also features in the video. He says he is proud that his former students are positively impacting the lives of patients in Ireland and around the world through the manufacture of innovative medicines with AbbVie – medicines of great value and significance to the medical industry, patients and their loved ones.

Dr Bird said: “It’s important that parents and families understand that when their sons and daughters come to us and train in pharmaceutical science and in medical biotechnology, what are they going to do? They are going on to work in an international company that is producing drugs that are changing the lives of people, changing the lives of people with extremely high-risk diseases, changing their outcomes and giving them new lives.”

Andrés Rodrigo is General Manager at AbbVie (Ireland) which employs many highly skilled Donegal people at its Sligo plant, allowing many of them to commute from their home county.

Mr Rodrigo said: “AbbVie roots in Sligo stretch back more than four decades. Over time, our two separate sites there have scaled as the world of medicines innovation turned. With that came demand for more people with new skills. IT Sligo has been key in helping us to source that new talent. We are a partner for Sligo’s economy. More than that, we have become part of the community. Our people in Sligo are supporting the global supply of innovative medicines in immunology, haematology and for Parkinson’s disease, to mention just a few. We are proud of their contribution to the economy and to society. We wanted to tell that story as part of ‘Innovate For Life’.”

AbbVie employee Matt Kavanagh features in the video too. He left commuting hell behind to embrace a new pharmaceutical career in the north west of Ireland. He is still at the forefront of global medicines innovation, but community appreciation of his company’s work is at a whole new level in his adopted home.

He said: “My work-life balance is pretty good at the moment. The fact that I can go hiking, even after the day’s work, having no traffic and very little crowds means everything’s very accessible and doesn’t take a whole lot of planning to go surfing or hiking. I get to do all that, as well as being in the front-line of innovation.”

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