23 APRIL 2003

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Malta and the pharmaceutical industry

A little while ago, the Ministry for Economic Services established contact with a number of Maltese living overseas who have made a name for themselves in various lines of business activity. We have sought to tap their expertise by asking them to sit on an Advisory Council that provides strategic advice to the Malta Enterprise Board. This council has specifically identified the pharmaceutical sector as having particular potential for Malta, to the extent that they have recommended that we should actively promote Malta as an excellent location where such companies should consider locating some of their activities. This is what we have started to do, with some very encouraging results already.
Just last week, I chaired a press briefing that provided details about a new pharmaceutical company, namely Arrow Pharm Malta Limited that is due to start regular production in June, this year. This venture represents a significant, additional foreign direct investment in Malta, more specifically in the production of generic drugs.
The MDC has allocated to Arrow Pharma Malta Ltd a large factory at Hal Far, which they are now in the process of adapting and customising to their requirements. Their investment is expected to exceed Lm3 million. The refurbishment and customisation of the Hal Far factory is due to be completed by the end of April 2003, to be followed immediately by the installation and commissioning of the relevant machinery and related equipment. Trial production will commence in May, which will allow the certification of the production facilities to be carried out before June 2003, when regular production will commence.
The company has already recruited locally a Quality Assurance Manager and a Plant Engineer, who have been sent overseas for specialised training. Recruitment of additional personnel will commence shortly. It is expected that the company will provide employment for about 40 personnel by the end of this year and for around 200 persons, in total, within 5 years. Many of these will undoubtedly be qualified pharmacists.
In the meantime, another pharmaceutical company that will also be producing generic drugs, namely Star Pharma, has similarly been allocated a factory at Hal Far and is also due to start production very soon. At this point in time, Star Pharma has already recruited some local staff and is currently engaged in various pre-production activities, in preparation for the certification of its facilities.
Pharmamed itself, which has been present in Malta for many years, is now experiencing a veritable resurgence and transformation. Over a year ago, this company was taken over by the Icelandic firm Delta Ltd., which has itself been bought by another Icelandic company, Pharmaco. As a result of this take over, Pharmamed are currently upgrading their production facilities with the objective of producing many additional generic drugs, primarily for the European market. At the same time, the parent company has been allocated another premises, also at Bulebel, where it has opened research and development facilities. This augurs well for the future since it shows Malta’s potential, not only as a prime site for pharmaceutical manufacturing activity, but also as an attractive location for research activity.
There is another significant pharmaceutical presence in Malta, which I have not yet mentioned. This is Amino Chemicals. Which prompts me to bid a warm welcome to the Research and Development Director of Amino Chemicals in Malta and of Dipharma in Milan, namely Dr. Graziano Castaldi. I have been told that he will be speaking, in this symposium, on the importance of active ingredients in the pharmaceutical industry.
I have also been informed about an encouraging number of student projects, in the pipeline, that are directly connected to the pharmaceutical industry. Some of these projects are actually being carried-out in direct collaboration with the industry, such as in the case of Pharmamed. I cannot but encourage more of this kind of collaboration. This is certainly a beneficial development, to the students but also to the industry and to the university. Such projects show that our University is truly and effectively in touch with industry in Malta. Hence the very apt title chosen for your symposium this year: Tomorrow’s pharmacist - a true practice-oriented professional.
It is a very positive development indeed that our educational institutions are increasingly seeking to provide the necessary technical support to companies operating from Malta. Having attracted these companies to Malta and having provided them with the necessary trained personnel, not in the least qualified pharmacists like your selves, we all now need to ensure that we sustain our competitive edge and build upon our positive experience.
Government in general, and the Ministry for Economic Services in particular, are fully committed towards achieving this objective. We firmly believe that Malta’s potential to attract foreign direct investment will be significantly enhanced through Malta’s imminent EU membership. New opportunities will be created that Malta must be ready to tap. Hence our decision to establish Malta Enterprise that will be taking over the functions of the MDC, METCO and IPSE with the objective of delivering a more comprehensive, better integrated and more effective support service to industry in Malta. Many have identified the benefits from of a ‘one-stop-shop’ approach to industrial promotion and support services. Malta Enterprise promises to achieve that and much more.
Our objective is to secure an excellent future for those companies that have already chosen to locate in Malta as well as to attract even more pharmaceutical companies to our shores. Thereby providing significant additional employment opportunities, particularly so for you pharmacists.
Which brings me to yet another area that should be of great interest to you and which is also closely linked to my ministry. This is the National Laboratory, which has now been relocated inside new and large premises at the San Gwann Industrial Estate. This company is now catering for several different aspects of laboratory work including forensic analysis. This company already provides a number of openings for pharmacists and the opportunities will increase in the future. A significant amount of equipment at this Laboratory was obtained through EU funds, equipment that would have been prohibitively expensive to acquire, if we had been obliged to rely merely on our own funds. In addition the Laboratory has benefited also from opportunities for further training under EU funded programmes. This laboratory is also bound to expand significantly, once we join the European Union.
The opportunities are definitely there. It is up to us to make the most of them. We have worked hard to bring about the required upgrading within our industry and we have established the necessary support mechanisms to enable us to look with optimism at the changes ahead of us. These are opportunities that will promote better jobs, better conditions of work and better standards including the production of products (in this case medicines), of the highest quality for our own use and for the use of all others.
Finally, I would like to congratulate all those students who will be presenting their projects tomorrow and on Friday. I hope that my short speech will have helped to assure them that there are great openings awaiting them not, only in the traditional hospital and community services but also additional openings in the manufacturing sector. Openings that are the result of a conscious strategy to attract higher value added industry to Malta. A strategy that is already delivering tangible results and which will be significantly enhanced once Malta secures its rightful place within Europe.

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
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