Genentech has confirmed plans to triple its investment in Singapore to around $500 million and build facilities that will see the country become a major base for production of its medicines.

The US biotechnology firm is hoping to buy a plant being built by Lonza Group AG for $360 million, reports which is next door to a $140 million plant that Genentech is building, and has just broken ground on, to make Lucentis (ranibizumab), its treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration.

Patrick Yang, senior vice president of product operations, said that more than 400 people will be employed at the two plants, Genentech's first outside the USA, and once completed in 2010, they will provide as much as 40% of the firm’s drugs. "With the great experience that we've had in Singapore, you can reasonably assume that we'll be talking in the future about other things. The right place to start will probably be in clinical development,” as Genentech is looking at globalising its facilities and operations, he told reporters.

Drugs account for around 22% of Singapore's manufacturing and the country’s bid to attract pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms to reduce its dependence on electronics manufacturing would appear to be bearing fruit. Yeoh Keat Chuan of the Biomedical Sciences Group at the Singapore Economic Development Board, said “we do have a very strong pipeline of biologics project interests from companies and we really see this to be the next wave of growth for the biomedical sciences manufacturing sector".