Embracing Irish roots
I was born and raised in Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland, which is about an hour and a half’s drive from the Regeneron Raheen site. My father had a farm in Beaufort where we raised cattle and sheep. I have many fond memories of working for free every weekend and during school breaks. As good as waiting in the rain for a cow to calve was, I decided to concentrate on my education. I had an affinity for science, studying physics, chemistry and biology for my Bachelor’s in Biotechnology at Dublin City University. After graduation, I soon discovered that there were very few local opportunities in the industry (unlike today), so I packed my bags to work in Boston, one of the prominent biotech hubs in the U.S.
To be honest, after spending more than 20 years stateside, I never thought that I would return to Ireland in a working capacity. I had spent a couple of years helping to manage the Industrial Operations and Product Supply (IOPS) Inspection Management Team in Rensselaer, N.Y., and in 2013, my boss Dan Van Plew asked me if I would be interested in returning home to build a manufacturing plant in Ireland. In April 2014, I landed at the derelict site in Raheen, on the outskirts of Limerick in Ireland.
Getting to work in Ireland
The challenge was immense: 1) hire the most talented people in the industry and lure them away from the biotech/pharma hubs of Dublin and Cork (while lacking local name recognition for Regeneron); 2) build a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in record time and within budget; and, 3) start making Regeneron’s key medicines at the same high level at which they were being produced by the U.S. site.
With this move, I became proof that not only can you go home again, but that the new perspective you bring back with you can make all the difference. Truth be told, at the time I was probably more American than Irish in my attitude and approach, which turned out to be a blessing and a curse.
I’ve been asked many times: how do you make an American company work in Ireland?
My answer is simple: build on the shared and complementary values.
Yes, constructing a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility, 3,000 miles from the mothership, comes with a long list of challenges, but it was also the start of a beautiful marriage between the American spirit of innovation/drive and Irish ingenuity/practicality. None of this would have been possible without the existing Regeneron IOPS template of operational excellence and the support of the U.S. team.
Building our Irish team
It wasn’t all a bed of roses. To get our state-of-the-art production facility – the largest bulk biologics manufacturing site in Ireland – up and operational, we had to push hard and make tough decisions. We consciously and proactively selected people who are a solid fit for our unique culture that values contribution over hierarchy. Our 800-plus Irish team is among the best and brightest in the industry.
As site head, finding shared values and bridging any gaps between the American and Irish cultures was an important task to ensure our success, and I was also tasked with making sure the values that define Regeneron’s unique culture made their way across the pond.
Unlike other, more traditional companies in Ireland, Regeneron does not manage based on title – we look for great ideas and new ways of improving our business from every single person. We don’t wear a shirt and tie or necessarily roll out the red carpet when someone from the U.S. visits, because our work matters more. This can be seen as an oddity in Ireland where three-piece suits are commonplace, but at the Raheen site (as it is across Regeneron), any employee can walk into the canteen on any given day and sit down next to a vice president, or, just as I did a few weeks ago, the visiting Chief Financial Officer dressed in jeans and a polo shirt.
At the end of the day, we are all here to make the highest quality medicines we can because we know they could one day be injected into somebody we love. We help make a difference in the lives of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and grandparents.
A collective mindset
The reason that Regeneron Ireland (including the Dublin office, led by Muriel O’Byrne whose team has contributed significantly to Regeneron’s European presence) has been so successful to date is that we weave our collective Regeneron values through everything we do.
One of the major goals is to ensure that both our U.S. and Irish IOPS sites are as closely related as possible.
We manufacture our medicines using the same standard operating procedures, utilize the same quality system, and most importantly, live by the same culture of getting the basics right and seeking out opportunities for continuous improvement.
I am honored to be back in my homeland, spearheading an impressive site for a company committed to always striving to be the best. My team and I are proud to provide life-changing medicines that impact patients AND all the people in their lives. Our Raheen team is also tremendously proud of our growing impact on Limerick’s revitalization. Our presence has provided a much-valued injection of capital into a region that was once desperate for jobs. Indeed, there’s a lot more to Regeneron than just the science!