US biopharmaceutical company AbbVie on Wednesday (Oct 4) opened a biologics manufacturing facility within its plant located at the Tuas Biomedical Park.
Biologics are commercial products, such as vaccines, derived from biotechnology.
The opening marked the completion of AbbVie`s S$400 million plant at Tuas its first manufacturing plant in Asia that was officially opened last September.
The 120,000-sq m plant is also home to a small molecule active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) facility, which is already up and running, making it the only site in AbbVie`s global manufacturing network to house both API and biologics manufacturing capabilities.
Together, the two facilities have created about 250 jobs in various roles, such as supply chain management, technical operations and manufacturing. About 83 per cent of the employees at the plant are Singaporeans.
Moving forward, the US pharmaceutical giant plans to add another 50 to 100 positions over the next 12 to 18 months given an ample pool of local talents, said AbbVie Singapores site director Marc ODonoghue.
AbbVie, which manufactures therapies for oncology and immunology treatment, currently employs about 400 workers in Singapore. Apart from the manufacturing plant, it has about 150 employees at its Asia-Pacific commercial headquarters located at Buona Vista.
He cited the government-sponsored Professional Conversion Programmes (PCPs) as one platform that has provided the company with a very deep and strong technical pool of employees to fill headcount needs.
Jointly developed by Workforce Singapore (WSG) and the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), the PCP for the biologics manufacturing sector helps mid-career professionals to reskill and acquire necessary knowledge to take on jobs in different or adjacent sectors.
The scheme includes the Biologics Overseas Skills Training (Boost) programme where participating companies like AbbVie provide trainees with on-the-job training in its biopharmaceutical manufacturing facilities in Singapore and overseas.
At the moment, AbbVie has 47 trainees from the Boost programme.
We`ve engaged during the early stages of our project here with the local and overseas Boost programmes, which provides us with new graduates as well as employees that are in transition from other industries like oil and gas, Mr ODonoghue told Channel NewsAsia.
Over the next few years, we hope to continue with the program, support employment in Singapore and utilise the strong skill-based employees that are coming through the program, he added.
One of them is biotechnologist trainee Ong Shin Ran, 37, who joined AbbVie in February following a three-month academic course in biotechnology at Temasek Polytechnic. Before that, the 37-year-old was the deputy general manager of a small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) in the marine logistics sector.
A combination of factors, such as the cyclical downturns in the marine logistics sector, prompted Mr Ong to make the career switch. Despite having to take a significant pay cut, he said his new job has been fulfilling.
It takes a bit of courage but the biopharmaceutical industry in Singapore is growing and theres prospects for advancement and a fulfilling career, he told Channel NewsAsia.
MORE THAN 350 BENEFITED FROM JOB CONVERSION PROGRAMMES: ISWARAN
Speaking at the launch, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S Iswaran said the Government remains committed to training and up-skilling the local workforce.
He revealed that more than 350 individuals have benefited from the PCPs for the pharmaceuticals and biologics sectors since their launch in 2014.
Mr Iswaran added that the new biologics manufacturing facility comes at an "opportune moment" when ageing populations, growing healthcare demand and technological changes are changing healthcare paradigms.
"While these shifts will disrupt existing business models, they also present significant new opportunities," Mr Iswaran said, adding that Singapore will continue to invest in innovation and work closely with the industry to strengthen the country`s competitiveness.
For one, the Government will invest S$4 billion in health and biomedical sciences, as well as another S$3.2 billion in advanced manufacturing and engineering under the Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) 2020 plan.
"A strategic goal of RIE 2020 is to strengthen linkages between public research performers and private enterprises to create greater value from our investments in R&D," he said.
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