Full steam ahead for APC and VLE Therapeutics

Self-reliance and well executed strategy has seen continued strong growth for this New Winner

Mark Barrett, co-founder and group CEO, APC and VLE Therapeutics: “What we do at APC and VLE Therapeutics, combining R&D, digitisation and GMP manufacturing, is unique and that experience is not available at any other Biopharma company

Pharmaceutical research and development firm APC has a busy schedule ahead.

The Dublin-based company, a new winner in the Ireland’s Best Managed Companies awards, develops medicines including vaccines and advanced therapeutics. It has grown rapidly in recent years and is planning further expansion.

Mark Barrett, co-founder and group chief executive, said that the company is planning to build a new campus to house expanded functions for developing new medicines and expects the company’s headcount to double from 300 to 600 in the coming years.

“The business has scaled considerably over the last number of years. We put a huge effort into everything from our cultural prowess to our business process, lean operating systems, communication and so on. We really feel we transformed the business,” Barrett said.

“We felt that the Ireland’s Best Managed Companies process, and subsequently the recognition, would be a good way to recognise that effort for the entire team.”

Taking part in Ireland’s Best Managed Companies programme can help a company take stock of its strategies and growth, he said.

Spun out function

In the last few years, APC spun out its drug manufacturing unit into a separate business called VLE Therapeutics. While the two units are now separate, they very much work in sync, with APC purely on researching and developing drugs and VLE handling the GMP manufacturing operations and all of the compliance work that goes with that.

Coupled with a €25 million expansion investment in 2021, the last few years have been busy for Barrett and the team, and it is showing no signs of slowing down.

“[The programme] puts you through a set of hurdles that you have to navigate when you're assessing your financial performance, your communication, your culture and so on,” Barrett explained.

“It shone a light on the business in a different way than how we would critically look at ourselves on an annualised basis. The entire process was a good way to health check what standard we are at, we're delighted to get the recognition from Deloitte that we are at a good standard. That in itself is a huge recognition.”

Solid process

The process helped APC and VLE Therapeutics hone its own processes around key performance indicators and how they are communicated.

“That would probably be an area that we want to double down on, trying to give the organisation the right set of information with the right frequency and with the right context. We have a solid process there, but that's definitely an area that we want to really improve on.”

For companies that are considering applying to the Ireland’s Best Managed Companies programme, Barrett said that there are a few things to consider, namely that the application process is extensive and requires commitment for completion.

Readiness indicators

“When you look at the application process, if you don't have initiatives or business processes live within your organisation to give you this content, it’s probably an indication that maybe it's not the right time to go for it,” Barrett said.

With the recognition of Deloitte and the Ireland’s Best Managed Companies programme, APC and VLE Therapeutics are focused on continued growth.

Barrett sees the business growing by a factor of three in the next three to four years.

“We're building a research and manufacturing campus for accelerating the development of new medicines. Building of that campus is the next stage for the business and I think it'll be the largest research and manufacturing centre of excellence out of any indigenous company in the country,” he said.

Medicine frontiers

APC has worked on Covid-19 vaccine research and manufacturing and is researching and developing many other medicines and treatments for cancer, respiratory diseases, and Alzheimer’s disease.

“Both APC and VLE, we feel are really at the frontier of these new medicines and trying to catapult them and accelerate them to patients, that's where we find the business developing and continuing to grow,” Barrett said.

“What we do at APC and VLE Therapeutics is unique, combining R&D, digitisation and GMP manufacturing, and that experience is not available at any other Biopharma company in the country. That allows us to create a different value proposition for our employees and has helped us to attract, retain and grow our talent,” he said.

The location for the new R&D centre is yet to be decided but “our focus is to keep the business in Ireland”.

Sectoral pride

Barrett said he is very proud of the status that APC and VLE Therapeutics has achieved as an indigenous Irish company in the pharmaceutical and life sciences space.

“We’re incredibly proud that we're in a sector, the pharmaceutical sector, that perhaps isn't known for many indigenous success stories. We're really proud to have grown the business to the scale that it is, not being a foreign direct investment company. Being an Irish company is quite rare within our sector but with our ambition we actually see ourselves as an Irish Biopharma Multinational,” he added.

“We’ve grown the business independent of any venture capital or private equity. There’s been no fast cheque or financial cheque from some VC or private equity to help us build it out. It's been built out from hard work and incredible innovation from the team.”