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GlaxoSmithKline, EDB also pump $50m into fund for students

Updated 11:03 AM Jun 10, 2009

SINGAPORE’S hopes of exploiting the emerging health and wellness markets in Asia have just received a $30-million shot in the arm.

That is the amount that pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) will be contributing to an endowment fund to sponsor Singaporean students who want to study green chemistry or public health policy.

The endowment fund is part of a new 10-year roadmap that GSK has agreed with the Economic Development Board (EDB). Under it, GSK will build a stronger research and development presence in Singapore, and develop new capabilities in green manufacturing.

For its part, the EDB will add $20 million to the fund, making it a $50 million-programme, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

“With this roadmap, we can better support GSK to develop and exploit the emerging health and wellness markets in Asia,” Mr Lee said in a speech to mark the opening of GSK’s new $600-million vaccine plant in Singapore, its largest in Asia.

Mr Lee described the opening of the state-of-the-art facility as “the result of many years of hard work to lay the foundation for biologics manufacturing” here.

He noted that Singapore - which had a well-established track record in “traditional” chemical molecule drug manufacturing - decided to break into biologics manufacturing in 2000 because biologics drugs were increasingly driving global pharmaceutical market growth.

“... Besides this plant by GSK, five other biologics manufacturing plants have been announced and four are under construction,” Mr Lee said.

“Together, they will employ over 1,000 highly-skilled workers and make Singapore the key biologics manufacturing location in Asia for global pharmaceutical and biotech companies.”

Still, despite the promising outlook for the industry, Mr Lee cautioned that the road ahead will be difficult.

“First, we have to see through the global economic storm. Beyond that, we face a new world, with new market dynamics and tougher competition.”

Mr Lee said Singapore needs to find more niche areas for itself in order to prosper in the new world.

“Ours is a small island with no natural resources,” he added.

“We must therefore invest in knowledge and R&D, recruit and groom talent, and focus our efforts to excel in niche areas.

“Then, we can transcend the limitations of physical size and punch above our weight class among the global competition.”

GSK’s new vaccine plant - which also marks the company’s 50 years of operation here - sits on an 85,000-square metre site at the Tuas industrial area. It houses production buildings, quality control labs, a utility plant, a warehouse and other support buildings.

The plant aims to produce GSK’s pneumococcal conjugate vaccine from 2011. The vaccine protects infants and children under age of two from the bacterium streptococcus pneumoniae, which causes diseases like pneumonia, meningitis, bronchitis, acute sinusitis and inflammation of the inner layer of the heart or endocarditis. Such diseases kill nearly a million children worldwide each year, 90 per cent of them in developing countries.

GSK’s chief executive Andrew Witty, who was also present at the opening ceremony, said the global economic downturn has not significantly affected his company’s operations. “Vaccines are a particularly important, potential product line for the emerging markets and for Asia,” Mr Witty said. “With very strong growth in population, there is a tremendous need for high-quality vaccines, so that’s an area where I think we will see a lot of growth.” He said GSK will seek to grow organically in the region and add to its portfolio of drugs so that the company can address different income groups.

To date, GSK has invested $1.5 billion in Singapore, employing more than 1,000 people. CHANNEL NEWSASIA, AGENCIES

From TODAY, News – Wednesday, 10-Jun-2009

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