Pic Of The Day

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British riders cycle in line during a training session at the Velodrome in Athens three days before the start of the cycling track competition at the 2004 Olympic Games

New Gleevec Plant To Be Located In Singapore

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AUG 18, 2004
Biomed boost from Swiss giant

Novartis’s $310m investment in a drug plant will help Singapore’s push to be a centre for high-value pharmaceuticals

By Narendra Aggarwal

IN A major boost to Singapore’s fledgling biomedical sector, Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis is making its biggest investment in Asia, by building a drug plant here at a cost of US$180 million (S$310 million).

Novartis, the world’s fifth-largest seller of prescription drugs, with sales of US$25 billion last year, said yesterday that when fully operational by 2008, its new Singapore facility would create more than 150 jobs.

The announcement is the latest boost to Singapore’s ambitions to become a strategic centre for the production of high-value pharmaceuticals.

The Republic is promoting the fast-growing biomedical sector as a key pillar of the country’s all-important manufacturing sector and has set a goal of achieving output of $24 billion over the next decade, as well as providing 15,000 jobs.

And the industry is well on track, with output expected to hit $12 billion this year, a year ahead of schedule.

Novartis Pharma AG’s new pharmaceutical production facility will be built in the Tuas biomedical park and will focus on the bulk production of Novartis products, such as anti-hypertension drug Diovan and abdominal discomfort treatment drug Zelnorm.

It will also produce Gleevec, a new cancer drug, which is one of the company’s leading revenue drivers.

‘The new Singapore facility will enhance and complement our existing network of pharmaceutical production plants by producing tablets for the global market,’ said the head of Novartis Pharma Technical Operations, Dr Andreas Rummelt.

‘We have been under-represented in Asia… As we needed more capacity to meet growing global demand we looked at several locations like Singapore, India and China,’ he said in a phone interview from his Basel office.

‘Singapore is an ideal location for us,’ he said, citing the Government’s strong support for the sector, intellectual property protection, political and economic stability, and the availability of scientific expertise as some of the Republic’s attractions.

Dr Rummelt said that construction of the plant is expected to begin towards the end of the year, with operations beginning in 2007.

Yesterday’s announcement follows the opening last month of the US$122 million non-profit Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases in collaboration with the Economic Development Board. And Novartis’ CIBA Vision business unit is in the process of building a contact lens manufacturing facility here.

Two key Novartis’ rivals also announced moves here recently.

Last month, United States-based Pfizer, the world’s biggest pharmaceutical company, unveiled a new $600 million plant just after closest rival, Britain’s GlaxoSmithKline opened another facility, taking its total investment here past S$1 billion.