Novartis is to construct a new state-of-the-art biotechnology production site in Singapore at a cost of over $500 million.

The Swiss major says that the new facility will focus on drug substance manufacturing based on cell culture technology and will be co-located with the firm's pharmaceutical production site in Tuas. In the future, Singapore "is expected to be a technological competence centre for both biotechnology and pharmaceutical manufacturing at Novartis".

Chief executive Joseph Jimenez said "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." Work on the site will begin in the first quarter of 2013 and it will be fully operational by the end of 2016.

Biologics currently accounts for 25% of Novartis' pharmaceutical research pipeline "with a trend for future growth". The company noted that it already has several operations in Singapore, including the Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases, its Asia-Pacific head offices and two production facilities for Alcon as well as one pharmaceutical manufacturing site.