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Novartis revives delayed Singapore biotech plans

Aims to have biotechnology facility up and running before 2017

Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases Research Singapore

Research at the Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases in Singapore

Novartis has put its plans to build a new biotechnology facility in Singapore back on track and says construction of a $500m plant will begin next year.

First announced five years ago as a $700m investment, the facility was put on hold after Novartis formed a biologics production partnership with Lonza in 2008.

Now the Swiss pharma company says the new biotech production site will be up and running by the end of 2016 and a spokeswoman told PMLiVE it plans to have 250 associates working there during 'steady state' operations.

The Lonza partnership “helped to bridge and take on certain capacity needs of biologics for Novartis Pharma in the past years”, the spokeswoman added.

Explaining the reasons behind the decision to reduce the investment by $200m she said the delay “helped us to better align our capacity needs and scope requirements with the future pipeline”. 

Based at the same location as Novartis' existing pharmaceutical production facility in Tuas, Singapore, the new biotech facility will focus on drug substance manufacturing based on cell culture technology.

It will be designed to operate in a flexible manner to handle small and large scale volumes and will support clinical and commercial production of potential new products. These include monoclonal antibodies treatments for cancers and autoimmune and respiratory diseases.

Novartis already has several operations in Singapore, including its tropical diseases institute, Asia-Pacific head offices and two production facilities for its eye-care unit Alcon.

Joseph Jimenez, CEO of Novartis, said: "This investment further strengthens our strategy to establish key strategic sites based on technological competencies. Singapore will be strengthened through a new state-of-the-art facility for biotechnology which is a growing segment of our business.

"We have chosen Singapore as strategic supply point as it offers a wide range of advantages due to its strong local biomedical presence and knowledge, skilled labour as well as proximity to growth markets in Asia." 

The company said the investment would support its biologics portfolio, which already accounts for 25 per cent of its clinical pharmaceutical research pipeline.

Novartis already has several important biologics products on the market, including eye drug Lucentis (ranibizumab) and asthma treatment Xolair (omalizumab), both of which saw blockbuster sales of more than $1bn last year.

1st November 2012

From: Research, Sales

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