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Asian hub’s ambition attracts Amgen into Asia biomanufacture

By Dan Stanton , 22-Jan-2013
Last updated on 22-Jan-2013 at 13:07 GMT

The Singapore Economic Development Board (SEDB) says it wants to nurture industry, academic and institutional alliances to attract further global investment in ‘Asia’s fastest growing bio-cluster.’

After Amgen announced plans to invest $200 m (EUR150m) into a new biomanufacturing facility in Singapore last week, in-PharmaTechnologist.com spoke to the Director of Biomedical Sciences at the SEDB, Kevin Lai, who explained to us the increasing appeal of the Asian island for the biopharmaceutical industry.

Lai said that “EDB’s vision is for Singapore to become a leading international biomedical sciences cluster, where companies can innovate, commercialise and produce medical drugs and devices, services and solutions to impact the future of global healthcare.”

He hoped "to achieve this vision by attracting more investments from global and Asian companies, fostering collaborations between industry, academia and government.”

Amgen’s first major manufacturing investment in Asia sees the Californian company join an international hive of biotech companies. Biomanufacturing is represented with over 50 commercial scale plants present, including facilities operated by Pfizer, Lonza, Roche and Baxter.

According to Lai, the sector “has grown over the last ten years from 6,000 to 15,000 employees. Manufacturing output has increased four-fold —from $6bn in 2000 to $27 billion in 2011.

“Singapore has positioned itself as an attractive location for biologics manufacturing by providing a strong and highly qualified base of local talent, demonstrating a proven track record in manufacturing activities, reliable infrastructural base and trusted supply chain network as well as stable and friendly business climate”

The rich talent pool was also a reason stated by Novartis’ CEO, Joe Jimenez after they announced a $500m new cell-culture based facility on the island last November. Amgen too has partnered with local universities in order to recruit a number of positions at its new plant.

As an entry point to Asia, the regional headquarters of Pfizer, Novartis, Sanofi and Abbott are based in Singapore. Lai explained: “Global multinational companies and mid-cap firms need a Home in Asia to manage their pan-Asian operations, while fast growing Asian enterprises need a location from which to internationalise.”

Lai did not mention financial incentives but was guardedly upbeat about the future of the industry. “Despite the uncertain global environment, Singapore is cautiously optimistic about the outlook for 2013 as we remain flexible and responsive to meet the changing needs of global biopharmaceutical companies.”

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