WuXi’s new biologics manufacturing facility is located in Dundalk, Ireland. Credit: Business Wire.
The new facility manufactures biologics drug substances. Credit: WuXi Biologics.
The Dundalk facility is Wuxi Biologics’ first site outside China. Credit: WuXi Biologics.

WuXi Biologics’ biologics manufacturing facility in Dundalk, Republic of Ireland, was built with an investment of €325m ($394m).

WuXi is a development, and manufacturing company based in China.

The construction of the state-of-the-art manufacturing facility began in December 2018, and operations began in December 2021.

It is among the first and the largest greenfield pharmaceutical projects by a Chinese company in Ireland.

It manufactures monoclonal antibodies and recombinant proteins.

It has enabled WuXi to expand its commercial manufacturing capacities and strengthen its global integrated solution platform.

The project created more than 2,000 jobs during construction and over 500 highly skilled jobs for the locals of the North-East region of Ireland.

The site currently employs more than 7,000 personnel.

WuXi Biologics won the Facility of the Year Award in the operations category from the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering in May 2023.

WuXi Biologics also received the Grand Prix – Company of the Year and Best Regional Investment awards at the 2023 Invest in Ireland Awards.

The Invest in Ireland Awards honour the contributions of the foreign direct investment sector to Ireland’s economy and society across diverse industries, including technology, pharmaceuticals, the green economy, business services, and engineering.

It was also honoured with the 2023 Irish Construction Excellence Award.

WuXi Biologics facility location

The new manufacturing facility is developed on a 26ha site located in Mullagharlin between Dublin and Belfast.

The site lies close to towns such as Dundalk, Drogheda, Swords, Balbriggan, Newry, Monaghan, Cavan and Armagh.

It offers easy access to three international airports, an intercity rail service, motorway connectivity, and deep seaports.

Dundalk was chosen as the site due to the Industrial Development Authority’s (IDA) endorsement of regional and property strategy.

WuXi Biologics’ biologics manufacturing facility details

The 43,432m2 greenfield facility consists of seven buildings including a three-storey manufacturing facility with a floor area of 21,020m², an 11,051m² laboratory and administrative building and a two-storey central utility building (CUB) with a floor area of 2,230m².

The facility also includes an electrical building, security building, and wastewater treatment plant.

It features two cell culture manufacturing areas with the first one equipped with six 1,000-litre single-use bioreactors for perfusion (continuous) processing.

The second cell culture manufacturing area (MFG7) is equipped with 12 single-use bioreactors with a capacity of 4,000 litres each, offering a total capacity of 48,000 litres.

The area is designed for fed-batch, concentrated fed-batch, and intensified fed-batch techniques.

The plant is also equipped with seven eco-steam washers and eight high-performance sterilisers.

It is designed to support large-scale commercial manufacturing with disposable bioreactors, as well as next-generation continuous bioprocessing manufacturing technology.

The first 16,000-litre manufacturing run at the MFG7 facility was successfully completed by combining four 4,000-litre single-use bioreactors in January 2024.

The run opened the door for large-scale commercial manufacturing projects at the site in Ireland.

WuXi Biologics facility design details

The facility’s main structures, all steel-framed, include a laboratory and administration block, a production building, a warehouse, and the CUB.

The production building, the first structure erected, measures with three floors and two intermediate mezzanines.

It features a steel-braced frame designed with a 9mx9m column grid pattern. Simultaneously, the CUB, measuring 42m x 27m, was constructed nearby.

One end of the production building connects to the warehouse via a two-storey link, though they are structurally independent and separated by columns and a movement joint.

The warehouse measures 80m x 30m. Running parallel to the production building, the four-storey laboratory and administration building also measures 80m x 30m.

The braced structure is independent but connected to its neighbour by an atrium. The 25m-high atrium connects the laboratories and administration facilities with the industrial buildings.

The atrium features a sculptural staircase that provides access to all the floors in the building.

The building is clad with dark grey and silver-grey metal insulated panels and double-glazed aluminium windows.

The laboratories are designed with an open-plan concept, collaborative furnishings, and a clean aesthetic.

The interiors of the facility feature a bio-resin terrazzo floor. A woven vinyl flooring was installed in the offices while high-density bakelite-core floorboards were installed in the maintenance rooms.

The site achieved a weather-tight seal for its main facility in December 2019, utilising 5,500 tonnes of structural steel and 8,000m2 of wall cladding.

Unlike most similar facilities, the clean rooms at the site feature extensive windows facing the outer corridor, allowing natural light to benefit workers and enabling visitors to view manufacturing processes without entering the area, thereby reducing contamination risk.

The manufacturing lines are highly automated to minimise the need for personnel to enter clean areas, further reducing cross-contamination and bioburden.

The design ensures an efficient good manufacturing practices (GMP) environment while maintaining a comfortable, energy-efficient workspace.

Sustainability features

The facility has adopted sustainability concepts in the site construction and operations such as reduced use of energy and recycling resources.

The site is completely powered by 100% renewable energy sources, achieving a 1.7GWh decrease in electricity usage and a 3.4GWh reduction in natural gas consumption.

The site has consistently implemented various waste reduction initiatives to mitigate its environmental impact.

WuXi Biologics facility certifications

The Dundalk manufacturing facility received its first GMP certificate from the Irish Health Products Regulatory Authority within nine months of the start of operations.

In May 2023 the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering recognised their production facility in Dundalk, Ireland, with the 2023 Facility of the Year Award in the operations category.

In March 2024, the Ireland facility received three International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) certifications: ISO 50001 – Energy Management Systems, ISO 14001 – Environmental Management Systems, and ISO 45001 – Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems.

It has also implemented comprehensive Environment, Health & Safety programmes in line with ISO 45001 to ensure a safe and healthy workplace.

Financing for the WuXi Biologics facility

The Irish government supported the project through the IDA and Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, a sovereign development fund managed by the National Treasury Management Agency.

Contractors involved

Scott Tallon Walker Architects (STW), an architecture company based in Ireland, designed the facility, ensuring IDA general planning permission and WuXi’s global design excellence.

Jacobs, an engineering, construction and consulting company based in the US, provided construction management services for the facility development using Integrated Project Delivery methodology.

Kiernan Structural Steel was the steelwork contractor for the project.

PJ Hegarty, a construction company, was awarded the contract to construct the facility while Ardmac, a construction specialist, was contracted to undertake cleanroom installation.

LPI Group, a lighting protection systems supplier, was subcontracted by PJ Hegarty to provide an external lightning protection system for the facility.

IPS, an engineering, procurement and construction management company based in the US, provided detailed design services.

Lawler Consulting, a building services and sustainability consulting services provider, was responsible for the mechanical and electrical design services.

Mercury, a construction solutions company, was contracted for design completion, mechanical and electrical works, and equipment installation while Wilec, a fire, safety, and security systems installation services provider, was awarded the life safety and security systems contract.

Capcon Engineering, a rainwater drainage specialist, was awarded the contract to design, develop and install a rainwater drainage system.

ABEC, a biopharmaceutical manufacturing systems and solutions provider, supplied 12 bioreactors for the facility.

GDCL Consulting Engineers, a civil and structural engineering services provider, was responsible for the civil and structural engineering design.

Cost control services were provided by Linesight, a construction consultant while Suir Engineering, an engineering company, handled the electrical and instrumental package.

Fedegari Autoclavi, an equipment and systems supplier, supplied 15 high-performance process machines, including washers and autoclaves.

Collen Construction, a construction company, provided fit-out services for the headquarters building of the facility.

DCT, a construction technology company, was subcontracted by Collen Construction to provide building information modelling services for the fit-out.

CORE Solutions, a prefabricated electrical solutions provider, installed an IoT-based wiring and lighting control system at the facility, in addition to electric vehicle charging solutions.

Furniture for the facility was supplied by furniture manufacturers Casala and Bene Ireland.