BIO 2009 Spotlight: Innovation in Ireland: Merrion Pharmaceuticals

I spent part of Monday morning in the Ireland Pavilion (#3303) talking with them about the biotechnology they’re highlighting at the BIO convention, as well as the region as well. I spoke with Jonathan O’Connell, Chief Financial Officer of Ireland’s Merrion Pharmaceuticals, about the announcement they made last week (PDF) regarding preliminary results on Orazol™, a tablet formulation of the Novartis drug Zometa®. The company acquired a unique drug delivery technology from Elan in 2004 which boosts absorption in the intestine. As a result, therapeutics that are normally given only by injection can be formulated as tablets, leading to many benefits, including safer treatment, less pain, and improved pharmaeconomics. At BIO 2009, Merrion is focused on partnering their Phase 2 compounds, and continues to develop and seek out therapeutics which are amenable to their technology, including, notably, insulin, which they are working on with Novo Nordisk. Personally, I found the technology to be very promising and I suggest that you seek them out in the Ireland Pavilion.

I also spoke with Sean Davis from Enterprise Ireland (EI), which ‘fosters’ companies like Merrion in their early development phase. Davis says that EI has been around for 35 years and currently takes on 70-80 companies per year. The EI does 5-6 months of due diligence for each company and covers R&D aspects, commercialization, and technology transfer. EI benefits from the Irish government’s commitment to promote biotechnology in the region, stemming back 20 years ago when they began to focus on education. Their goal at BIO 2009? Presenting six of their ‘success stories’ from the region and partnering with US entities who realize the potential of companies who have been well-positioned for success by EI. I highly suggest visiting the Ireland Pavilion, #3303 in the exhibit hall.

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