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“Failte go romhat!” from Sligo and Stephen Muldoon

In Ireland , that means “1,000 Welcomes,” and is a greeting Site Director Stephen Muldoon often gives newcomers at Abbott’s new pharmaceutical plant in Sligo .  Stephen is one of the key players who took the Sligo site from conception to reality so it could be a major producer of some of the company’s top drugs and soon make Xinlay.

Ireland’s Sligo plant ready for U.S. launch of Xinlay

Coming to Sligo in northwest Ireland was almost a homecoming for Stephen.  A native of Belfast , he traveled extensively for major pharmaceutical companies setting up plants in Philadelphia , South Africa and England .

He joined Abbott in 1998 as a program manager in Ireland , came to the U.S. in 2000 and returned to Sligo two years later.  Stephen, 40, was charged with building a new plant to keep manufacturing in pace with research and development’s vision of current and future medicines.

His job represents a unique challenge because the Sligo plant is the first of its kind within Abbott to manufacture small molecules and potent drugs.  However, he is thinking beyond regulations and assembly lines.

“It motivates me that every capsule and tablet we see will affect the quality of a patient’s life,” Stephen says.  “That has a profound effect on me and gives me repose for reflection.”


As head of the plant, Stephen wears two hats including being a liaison with the public and overseeing Sligo ’s 100-employee operation.

Stephen represents Abbott, a premier company in Ireland , before the Irish government on national and local levels.  If it’s a matter affecting health care corporations, Stephen tracks it daily to understand how it affects Abbott and the community, then he makes sure the company’s position is heard.  Business intuition and social poise are a must.  Stephen uses his in face-to-face and phone discussions with officials to foster good relationships with the government.

Internally, Stephen monitors day-to-day manufacturing progress to ensure the plant meets yearly production goals.  Part of that involves frequent assessment on ways to improve the production process.

But Stephen doesn’t do it alone.  He and plant managers review weekly the expansion projects and other projects that will reduce operating costs.  He closely watches design plans, timetables, and budget reviews.


The main plant was completed in February 2003 and already produces Reductil, Hytrin, Gopten, Mavik and Tarka.  The new breakthrough Sligo will produce is Xinlay, an oral life-extending drug for treatment of metastatic hormone-refractory prostate cancer.  Currently in Phase II clinical trials and fast-tracked for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval, Xinlay is targeted for commercial sale in spring 2005.  Abbott will apply for EU approval after the FDA nods, and may submit in several years for approval in Japan .

Abbott is also enrolling clinical trials to explore whether Xinlay, which relieves debilitating pain, can be used with lung, ovarian, renal cell, and brain cancers.

Stephen’s credit list is long and diverse: he’s a father of three, a former professional soccer player for England , he represented Ireland in soccer, he’s an avid Renaissance art historian, runs to stay in shape, and speaks three languages.

His varied background helps him appreciate that the plant is a “meeting ground” for ancient and modern technologies.  During construction, cooking stones or “Fulachta Fiadh” dating back to 2000–2500 B.C. were unearthed and are on display in the plant.  Two landmark Fifth Century ringforts used as family homesteads remain preserved behind the plant.