US-based ophthalmic specialist Alcon has given a boost to the flagging Singapore pharmaceutical manufacturing industry by building a plant there.
The site, construction of which will commence in 2009, will manufacture pharmaceuticals for distribution throughout Asia. In 2012 the site will become fully operational, by which time 150 people will be employed there.
Travatanz (travoprost ophthalmic solution), Patanol (olopatadine) and Vigamox (moxifloxacin) are among the pharmaceuticals to be manufactured on the site, the cost of which is not being disclosed by Alcon.
Alcon is to lease a 20-acre plot of land in the Tuas Biomedical Park on which to build its 250,000 sq ft facility which the company expects to have a manufacturing rate of more than 53m units per year by the end of the third operational year.
The Tuas Biomedical Park has proven popular with pharmaceutical and biotech companies, with Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline and Genentech among those with operations there.
Despite these household names operating in Singapore the nation's biomedical manufacturing industry has been buckling under the weight of the potential US recession.
Output in December was down 34 per cent on the previous year and any fresh investment will be welcomed amid fears that the heavily trade-reliant economy will collapse as US financial activity slows.
Regardless of these concerns Singapore still presents an attractive location.
Ed McGough, Alcon's senior vice president, global manufacturing and technical operations said: "After a lengthy and careful analysis of potential plant locations and through close collaboration with the Singapore Economic Development Board, we selected Singapore due to its highly skilled and reliable workforce and well-established government infrastructure."
Alcon already has a manufacturing site for surgical intraocular lenses in Beijing but at present its pharmaceutical plants are in Europe, the US, Mexico and South America.
By establishing a manufacturing base in Asia Alcon is hoping to improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of its deliveries to the regions high growth markets.
The manufacturing plant appears to have been launched too soon after Novartis acquisition of a stake in Alcon for them to have influence over the move.
Speaking to in-PharmaTechnologist.com Kat Golden, manager of corporate communications at Alcon, said: "Several years ago and well before the deal was finalized which made Novartis a minority shareholder in Alcon, we began researching and analyzing various Asian countries for this manufacturing facility. This location selection was approved by our current board of directors."
The current board of directors includes a Novartis representative and the Asian plant is in keeping with speculation that Novartis would use its long standing operations in Asia to expand Alcon's activities in the region.
Alcon has been doing increasing levels of business in Asia and has enjoyed 20 per cent growth in the market in the last few years.
Competitors are also seeking to establish in the Asian market, with eye care specialist Bausch & Lomb buying China's leading ophthalmic pharmaceutical company, Shandong Chia Tai Freda Pharmaceutical Group in 2005.
However, the growing prosperity in the region, with the lifestyle and age-related ailments this entails, means there should be a sizeable market for Alcon to take a share of.