Singapore has been making its case as a great place to invest for drugmakers, especially for those developing biologics, at the 2007 BIO Convention being held in Boston, USA.

The Asian nation says that having established “a reputation as the most competitive and trusted site for pharmaceutical bulk activities and secondary manufacturing,” it is now aggressively pursuing investments in protein-based drugs. In the last two years, it has already attracted “four major biologics investments” totalling close to $1 billion.

Genentech is building a $140 million microbial-based manufacturing facility to produce Lucentis (ranibizumab), its treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration, while Lonza is building two mammalian cell-based production plants. The first, which cost $250 million has been outsourced to produce Genentech's cancer drug Avastin (bevacizumab), while the second $350 million facility “will support the needs of additional customers.” GlaxoSmithKline is also constructing a $200 million plant to produce paediatric vaccines against meningitis and typhoid.

Yeoh Keat Chuan of the Biomedical Sciences Group at the Singapore Economic Development Board said these projects are a strong endorsement of the country “as the choice site for world-class biologics manufacturing. He added that building critical mass in biologics “will enhance our status as a global hub for biomedical sciences manufacturing, and raise the bar for competing locations because of the highly-skilled manpower and complexities associated."

Singapore has invested considerable resources “to create a pool of skilled manpower in biologics,” it was claimed, and about 3,500 university graduates and 3,000 technicians are trained in life sciences every year.

Threat to branded sector in Singapore

Meantime, Irish data specialists Research and Markets have issued a report on Singapore's pharmaceuticals and healthcare industry, which notes that its drug exports are performing well, on the back of strong European demand after a production slump earlier this year. “An increased multinational presence and the country's growing status as a regional R&D and manufacturing base will continue to be key export drivers, although the majority of finished medicines for the local market will remain imported,” the study notes.

Growth in the domestic pharmaceutical market is expected to be 4.5% in 2006 and its value is likely to exceed $660 million by 2010, up from $530 million in 2005. However R&M notes that Singapore will fail to perform as well as some other neighbouring markets, such as Malaysia, noting that while presently on hold, the proposals to contain pharmaceutical expenditure through a variety of measures (such as the encouragement of parallel imports and the introduction of direct price cuts) “continue to pose a threat to the branded sector.”