Tributes have been paid to the man who created the Elan pharmaceutical giant in the midlands - Don Panoz - who has died aged 83.

The American entrepreneur set up the business in a house in Dublin in 1969.

He rented a four-bedroom bungalow and converted some rooms into a laboratory.

Later the firm set up the pharmaceutical plant in Athlone which has employed up to 2,000 workers over the last 20 years.

It is now owned by the US firm Alkermes.

Mr Panoz was best known for the revolutionary development of the transdermal patch, most readily associated with the development of the nicotine patch to aid smokers to kick their habit.

He also established Panoz Motor Sport Group with his son, Daniel. The company produces sports cars that feature in some of the world's leading endurance races.

Don Panoz died in the United States yesterday after a short battle with pancreatic cancer.

Athlone-based senator Gabrielle McFadden expressed her sadness on hearing of his death.

"Don was many things - he was a serial entrepreneur in the fields of pharmaceuticals, motorsports and viticulture, he was a husband, a father, a grandfather and a great-grandfather, he was an inventor and a pioneer and he was also a loyal friend to Athlone and to Westmeath," she said.

"After establishing a new R&D centre in Athlone in 1978, he made Athlone his real home and raised his family here. Elan not only became one of the most significant enterprises in the Midlands, but it spawned and supported many other local businesses.

"Speaking to local business people about Don, the word that comes up most often is loyalty. As well as being loyal, he was optimistic in his outlook and generous in his philanthropy and at the same time remained a very grounded man."