GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has opened a Research and Development Pilot Plant in Jurong, Singapore at a cost of US$116 million. The new facility takes the UK company’s total investment in Singapore up to US$1.5 billion.

Built on the same site as GSK’s existing manufacturing facility at Pioneer Sector in Jurong, the pilot plant is the sixth in the company’s Chemical Development global network, which accommodates an “extensive pipeline” of new chemical entities in the final phase of development.

By creating significant opportunities for synergies between the company’s Global Manufacturing Supply organisation and its R&D activities, the Jurong pilot plant will enhance GSK’s capacity to streamline and accelerate the delivery of new medicines to patients, it said.

The state-of-the-art facility will help the company design manufacturing processes to bring these drugs into commercial production, through new process development, scale-up and eventual process optimisation for large-scale manufacturing.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, S Iswaran, Singapore’s minister of state for trade and industry, said a number of pharmaceutical companies in Singapore were increasing their emphasis on manufacturing innovation by establishing pilot plants to complement their commercial-scale production facilities.

He also pointed out that GSK’s relationship with the city state stretched back to 1972, when Beecham Pharmaceuticals established manufacturing operations in Singapore. Since then, Isawaran added, the company’s presence in Singapore had gone “from strength to strength” and now encompassed “the entire value chain of activities, including drug discovery, clinical research, manufacturing and regional headquarters”.

Cutting-edge equipment
In line with guidance from the US Food and Drug Administration on stepping up the use of technology in the development and manufacture of pharmaceuticals, the Jurong pilot plant is equipped with the latest process analytical tools to facilitate on-line testing, GSK noted. High levels of automation, coupled with the capacity for technical experts around the world to observe the plant’s processes in real time, substantially reduce the need for scientists to travel to the site.

A team of 45 scientists and technicians from the US, the UK and Singapore will work at the Jurong plant. GSK employs more than 900 staff in total for its operations in Singapore.