PARIS: French drugmaker Sanofi said on Monday (Apr 12) it would invest €400 million (S$637.8 million) over five years in a new vaccine production site in Singapore.
The new facility at Tuas Biomedical Park would provide Sanofi with the ability to produce innovative vaccines on a massive scale for Asia and respond to future pandemic risks, the company said in a statement.
The project is expected to create up to 200 local jobs, it added.
Sanofi said it expected to start the construction of the site in the third quarter of 2021 and be fully operational in the first quarter of 2026.
"The Singapore site will complement Sanofi's existing manufacturing capacities in Europe and North America and will become a regional centre of excellence for vaccines production in Asia," the company said.
"We are very pleased by the strong collaboration with the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) to achieve this exciting milestone," said Mr Thomas Triomphe, executive vice president and global head of Sanofi Pasteur.
EDB chairman Beh Swan Gin said: "Sanofi's decision to locate its first-in-Asia digitally-enabled vaccine production centre in Singapore, to supply markets in the region and beyond, is an endorsement of Singapore's position as a leading centre for advanced manufacturing."
EDB will continue to promote digitalisation, automation and innovation to transform the manufacturing sector and create good jobs for Singaporeans, he said.
The factory in Singapore will house several fully digitalised modules that allow production of three to four vaccines simultaneously, versus only one in current industrial sites, said Sanofi.
"In addition, the factory will have the flexibility to leverage multiple vaccine manufacturing technology platforms based on different cell types.
"This modularity and flexibility will allow the production of a specific vaccine to be prioritised in a faster timeframe depending on public health needs," said the company.
The site is also designed to be carbon-neutral and to reduce both resource consumption and waste production.
In a Facebook post on Monday, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said when the facility is ready in 2026, together with the likes of GSK Biologicals and Thermo Fisher Scientific, Singapore will have the "full capacity for end-to-end production of almost all kinds of vaccines" for both the local and international market.
"It will make us more resilient, physically and economically," he added. "It will also strengthen our position as part of the global vaccine value chain."
READ: Singapore in talks with several pharmas to manufacture vaccines, therapeutics locally: Chan Chun Sing
Mr Chan said last week that Singapore is in talks with several pharmaceutical companies to manufacture vaccines and therapeutics locally.
"Pharmaceutical companies including Amgen, Pfizer, GSK and Sanofi, have invested here to leverage our skilled talent, commitment to research and development, strong manufacturing capabilities and excellent global connectivity," said Mr Chan.
The minister was responding to a parliamentary question on how Singapore is facilitating the manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and how the Government is ensuring the country has the capabilities to produce vaccines for citizens' use in future pandemics.
In Monday's Facebook post, Mr Chan highlighted the rigour of Singapore's intellectual property framework and its workforce.
"Companies like Sanofi and GSK invest here because they trust Singapore as a place where they can be sure that their ideas can be protected and executed on, and where we have dependable and skilled workers to deliver," he said.
Sanofi has been developing a protein-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate with British pharmaceutical company GSK.
The two drugmakers are aiming to reach final testing of the vaccine in the second quarter of 2021, and to see it approved in the fourth quarter.
Sanofi is also working with US therapeutics company Translate Bio on another COVID-19 vaccine candidate based on messenger RNA technology.