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AbbVie unveils its first Asian manufacturing plant

$320m facility set for Singapore

US drugmaker AbbVie has said it plans to spend $320m setting up a manufacturing facility in Singapore that when completed will be its first Asian plant.

AbbVie's business is currently driven by blockbuster anti-inflammatory therapy Humira (adalimumab) - which accounts for more than half its total turnover with sales of more than $10.6bn last year - but the new plant is intended to build capacity for its pipeline drugs.

The Singapore facility will be used to manufacture both small-molecule and biologic active drug substances, and will provide capacity for "emerging compounds within AbbVie's oncology and immunology pipeline."

AbbVie has a portfolio of around 20 new drugs in mid- to late-stage development, targeting hepatitis C, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, central nervous system disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's as well as chronic kidney disease (CKD).

The company - which spun out of Abbott Laboratories last year - currently operates 12 plants in North America and Europe.

The location of the plant has not been decided yet but, once it comes online in 2019, it is expected to employ some 250 workers. AbbVie already employs around 120 commercial and operational staff in Singapore.

Singapore has emerged as a major biopharmaceutical production hub in Asia over the last decade or so, thanks to a skilled and cosmopolitan workforce, modern infrastructure and increasing focus by the global pharma industry on building a presence in emerging markets.

Aside from AbbVie, companies such as GlaxoSmithKline, Lonza, Merck & Co, Novartis, Pfizer and Sanofi have all chosen to locate manufacturing facilities in Singapore, and the headcount in the country's biomedical manufacturing sector has almost tripled since 2000 with around 17,000 employees now in the field.

A just-published survey by Singapore's Economic Development Board (EDB) indicated that the biomedical manufacturing industry is the most buoyant of all sectors polled, with 19 per cent of firms expecting an improved business situation in the next three months "in anticipation of strong demand from overseas, as well as increased capacities".

Kevin Lai, director of biomedical sciences at the EDB, said: "Singapore will be investing heavily in human capital development, and new programmes will be put in place to train biologics manufacturing talent ahead of demand."

Article by
Phil Taylor

7th February 2014

From: Sales



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