Schering-Plough fuels Singapore’s life sciences fire

Four facilities beef up production, create Asian market center

Mark A. DeSorbo

SINGAPORE—Schering-Plough Ltd. (Kenilworth, NJ) will build four new facilities here to increase the production capacity and bolster the country's effort in developing its life science sector.

According to the company, the $465 million expansion project will bring the wholly owned subsidiary of Schering-Plough Corp.'s total investment in Singapore to approximately $750 million.

George Yeo, Singapore's minister for trade and industry, told the South China Morning Post that the city-state is committed to making life sciences “an important pillar of Singapore's economy in the coming decades.

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Leaders in Singapore, like Senior Minister Lee Kuan, spent much of last year bolstering the country’s technology and life sciences sectors.

“Biotechnology is a knowledge-intensive industry which Singapore is keen to promote,” he added.

Other government officials in Singapore have said that they want to host the world's top 15 life science firms and become the Asian center for clinical trials and drug testing. “As life sciences research will extend into new areas like genomics, genetic screening and embryonic stem cells,” Yeo says, “we must put in place an ethical framework to guide research and maintain standard.”

In late November, Dr. Philip Yeo, Singapore's economic development board chair who shares the same last name as the minister for trade and industry, announced that the country had planned to invest $14 million to develop the life sciences sector in the city-state.

Schering-Plough says funding will be used to build a $215 million bulk chemical manufacturing facility; a $125 million sterile biotechnology plant; a $100 million pharmaceutical manufacturing facility for oral, solid dosages; and a $25 million research and development facility.

At the company's launch ceremonies in early December, John E. Nine, president of technical operations, said the new facilities will strengthen Schering-Plough's ability to compete in worldwide markets by providing additional production capacity needed for new product lines. It was Singapore's commitment to the life sciences that solidified Schering-Plough's decision to invest there, Nine added.

“Singapore is a Republic that has been growing technologically and in life sciences, and the government has been working to encourage investment,” says Robert Consalvo, director of external communications.

According to Schering-Plough, the multi-product bulk manufacturing plant will be a primary production facility to manufacture active pharmaceutical ingredients for new Schering-Plough products, including ezetimibe, a cholesterol absorption inhibitor that is currently in Phase III clinical studies.

The biotechnology sterile facility will provide additional capacity for manufacturing two new biotech products, peginterferon alfa-2b, a longer-acting form of alpha interferon, and Remicade (infliximab), an anti-inflammatory agent for Crohn's disease and rheumatoid arthritis licensed from Centocor. The technology employed at this facility will be modeled after Schering-Plough's current biotech production site in Brinny, Ireland.

The oral solid dosage manufacturing facility will produce finished pharmaceutical products using active ingredients manufactured in the primary production facility. The oral solid dosage facility is expected to manufacture ezetimibe tablets and a combination of loratadine and montelukast sodium, both of which are the subject of U.S. joint ventures with Merck & Co. Inc. and are undergoing clinical trials.

The research and development facility will house a pilot plant and development laboratories to facilitate technology transfer from Schering-Plough Research Institute in New Jersey and will supply materials for late-phase clinical trials.

When completed, the four new facilities, together with Schering-Plough's existing facilities, will occupy an area of 50 acres in Tuas, reportedly making it the largest pharmaceutical site in Singapore. The facilities are expected to house an additional 400 employees when fully operational in mid-2002 to mid-2003. Currently, 300 employees work at the company's Singapore site.


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