28 February 2013

Facility brings total sector investment value to $2.4 billion

SINGAPORE has landed itself its first pharmaceutical company investment of 2013 with California-based Amgen agreeing to sink in US$200 million to start a manufacturing plant in Tuas Biomedical Park.

Amgen will be the eighth drug company to root a biologics production facility - where drugs are produced biologically instead of through chemical synthesis - in Singapore, bringing the sector's fixed asset investment value to $2.4 billion.

Amgen, the world's largest independent biotechnology company, said in a Jan 16 press statement that the plant will initially focus on producing monoclonal antibodies, which mimic the body's own immune system to fight diseases.

It currently manufactures monoclonal antibodies, such as bone drug denosumab and cancer treatment Vectibix.

It expects work to begin on its only Asian biologics facility in a few months. When construction wraps up, probably in three years, it will produce both commercial and clinical products.

Amgen will employ a mix of experienced staff and new hires. It said it would partner with Singapore's local universities to scout for talent in positions in manufacturing and quality.

"Amgen is pleased to be planning for a new world- class facility in Singapore as part of our global expansion strategy," said Madhu Balachandran, executive vice-president of operations at Amgen. "Singapore is an ideal location to further our manufacturing efforts based on its rich talent pool and friendly business environment."

Though Singapore made its foray into attracting biologics investments only in 2007, the Economic Development Board (EDB) has landed names like GlaxoSmithKline, Roche, Lonza, and Baxter.

Tuas Biomedical Park's most recent entrant was Swiss pharmaceutical firm Novartis, which said last October that it would pump US$500 million into a new biologics plant equipped with cell culture technology.

Kevin Lai, director of biomedical sciences at EDB, said that Singapore has more room to accommodate biologics investments in the future.

"Plans by Amgen and Novartis reflect the confidence these companies have in the Asia growth story," he said. "The research and development pipeline of many pharmaceutical companies is now in biologics, so their manufacturing plants will increasingly be centred on biologics. EDB will be fighting to capture our fair - or unfair - share of the project pipeline."


(The Business Times, 18 Jan 13)