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AbbVie to build S$400m manufacturing plant in S'pore

US drugmaker AbbVie will invest about S$400 million (US$320 million) to build a manufacturing plant in Singapore.

SINGAPORE: US drugmaker AbbVie will invest about S$400 million (US$320 million) to build a manufacturing plant in Singapore.

The plant will be AbbVie's first manufacturing facility in Asia, and is expected to be fully operational by 2019.

AbbVie is a biopharmaceutical company formed in 2013 following separation from Abbott.

It produces some of the world's best-selling drugs, including Humira, a rheumatoid arthritis treatment with annual sales of about S$15 billion (US$12 billion).

The firm is now looking to increase manufacturing capacity to support a product pipeline that it says "is the strongest it has ever been".

Azita Saleki-Gerhardt, senior vice president (operations) at AbbVie, said: "We evaluated a number of locations around the world. Based on key factors, AbbVie decided that Singapore was an ideal location in terms of its stability, educated workforce, and collaborative nature of the environment."

AbbVie wants to hire more than 250 people for its new plant in Singapore, which will produce drugs for the global market for use in cancer and immunology treatments.

The plant will be the first in Singapore that combines both biologics and small molecule, or chemical-based drug manufacturing, in a single facility.

Biologics, which are drugs harvested from livings cells, make up about a third of AbbVie's pipeline, and is a fast-growing sector in the biopharmaceutical space Singapore is keen to get involved in.

Kevin Lai, director, Biomedical Sciences & Consumer Businesses at EDB, said: "We just want to keep up with what's happening globally. If you look at the global R&D product pipeline, a lot more drugs are actually in the area of biologics, as opposed to small-molecule, chemical-based drugs.

“So it's important.. if you want to capture new investments, the growth is going to be from the biologics (sector)."

The Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) said excluding AbbVie's investment, the biologics sector has attracted about S$2.4 billion worth of investments in the last seven years.

The sector employs about 1,700 people, and up to 1,000 jobs are expected to be added over the next three to four years. 

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