Global biopharmaceutical company, AbbVie plans to hire 250 new employees as it expands its facilities in Singapore.

According to a press release, the majority of the 250 new employees will be hired locally in Singapore, including skilled positions across manufacturing, technical operations, and administration to name a few.

The biopharmaceutical company had recently unveiled the small molecule active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) facility of its Singapore manufacturing site, late last month.

The new facility will support the the growth of AbbVie's oncology and women's health pipeline, reflecting progress from AbbVie's two previous announcements for manufacturing investment in Asia in 2014.

Located in the Tuas Biomedical Park, the new 120,000 square-meter site is AbbVie's first manufacturing facility in Asia and will also include a biologics manufacturing facility that is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2018.

"Combined, the API and biologics facilities represent a more than S$400 million investment in Singapore that will employ more than 250 new employees, the majority of whom will be hired locally in Singapore, including skilled positions across manufacturing, technical operations, administration, quality, information technology and supply chain," the press release stated.

"Our goal as AbbVie is to assure patients around the world have access to new and innovative medicines when they need them and where they need them," said Azita Saleki-Gerhardt, Ph.D., senior vice president, operations, AbbVie.

"Today, with the opening of the first phase of our Singapore facility, we will further strengthen our manufacturing capabilities and continue to enhance our support of AbbVie's pipeline in the therapeutic areas of oncology and women's health for patients around the world."

Speaking at the opening ceremony, site director Marc O'Donoghue, Ph.D., added, "Singapore is recognised as a leader in the biopharmaceutical industry and AbbVie is excited to open its facility and begin operations. Singapore has a robust infrastructure, a highly educated and skilled workforce and provides a supportive environment for manufacturing.

"Our presence in Singapore establishes AbbVie's footprint in Asia and provides geographic balance in AbbVie's manufacturing network to ensure continuity of supply."

"AbbVie's choice of Singapore for its first in Asia manufacturing facility is testament to our capabilities as a high-quality, global biopharmaceutical manufacturing hub. Given our track record of providing a world-class business environment and skilled talent pool to companies, we enable companies such as AbbVie to develop and manufacture innovative products to deliver value for patients worldwide," said Weng Si Ho, director, biomedical sciences, Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB).

"EDB will continue to commit strong investments in talent, infrastructure and technology to support the strong growth in the biopharmaceutical industry."

AbbVie's manufacturing network now includes 13 locations across the United States, Europe, Asia and Puerto Rico, as well as strategic partnerships with third-party manufacturers.

Novartis moves out of Singapore

On the other hand, Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis has announced that it will be moving a key research facility out of Singapore next year as part of "a broader global strategic plan".

According to The Straits Times, the NITD currently employs about 85 scientists, physicians and business professionals and was

set up as a public-private partnership between Novartis and the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) in 2002, when the biomedical sciences industry in the island nation was in its infancy.

President of the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research James Bradner told The Straits Times that the Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases (NITD) will be moving to Emeryville, California, next year - to be located next to Novartis' infectious diseases research headquarters in Emeryville - as part of "a broader global strategic plan".

The move is part of Bradner's first strategic plan as the company's head of research. "It's a difficult decision," said the former Harvard Medical School professor, who took on this role in March.

"Moving the NITD is really intended to empower the research through the strength of collaborative proximity," added Dr Bradner, who was in Singapore on Monday to speak to government officials and staff here about the move.

The NITD, which was among the first to move into biomedical hub Biopolis in 2004, has "accomplished a tremendous amount" in Singapore, including coming up with two new malaria drugs now in clinical development, Bradner told The Straits Times.

Novartis hopes to continue working with Singapore researchers in areas such as digital medicine, which applies digital technology to healthcare, for example, the use of sensors to track health indicators.

Novartis' Singapore country president Christopher Snook said the company will work with affected staff one-on-one - hopefully to apply for positions at the Emeryville facility, or transfer within the company in Singapore.

He added that Novartis is still fully committed to Singapore - it has expanded its presence here over the years and intends to continue doing so. Novartis has invested over US$1.2 billion (S$1.6 billion) in Singapore and employs more than 1,500 people here. Aside from its regional headquarters and commercial operations, it operates four production plants here making drugs and eyecare products, among other things. The EDB said it is working closely with Novartis to assist affected staff," The Straits Times wrote.

Ho Weng Si, the EDB's director of biomedical sciences, noted that other global pharmaceutical companies are still doing research here to develop new products, and biomedical manufacturing has also grown consistently.

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