Novartis unit opens $200m manufacturing plant in Tuas

A $200 million manufacturing facility built by a subsidiary of Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis officially opened at Tuas Biomedical Park II on Monday.

The 3 ha facility produces vision-saving medical products under Alcon, Novartis' eyecare arm.

Five top-selling ophthalmic drugs that treat eye maladies including conjunctivitis and glaucoma are made at the facility, including eye drop Systane and allergy solution Patanol8.

Production at the plant started in July 2013, with more than 25 million units distributed yearly to countries across Asia and Europe.

Novartis' Singapore country president Christopher Snook, said that the country's "robust biomedical presence and the highly skilled and knowledgeable workforce made it easy to choose Singapore for our new site"

Alcon's new facility houses about 150 high-skilled employees. The company plans to increase this to over 190 in the next five years.

The new plant also features an innovative system that uses a "single, seamless process" for its drugs, said Alcon in a statement.

Unlike others which keep processes in separate facilities, the Alcon site combines production, packaging and distribution processes in one location using "state-of-the-art" technology with computerized systems operating in a highly sterile environment.

The new facility in Tuas Biomedical Park - which also houses other drug giants such as Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline - will bring Novartis' total investment in Singapore manufacturing to $1.2 billion.

Novartis' other facilities here are supported by about 1,500 staff, including another plant in Tuas Biomedical Park that makes the popular Dailies contact lenses.

The company also jointly developed the Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases based in Biopolis with the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) in 2002.

Founded 1945 in Texas, Alcon is one of Novartis' largest divisions, with over 20 facilities and 25,000 staff in 75 countries. Alcon alone generated US$10.5 billion (S$13.1 billion) - about 18 per cent - of Novartis' total sales last year.

At the site's opening on Monday, EDB managing director Yeoh Keat Chuan said that "Alcon's decision to site (its plant)... in Singapore further enhances our position as a global biomedical manufacturing hub".

Singapore houses close to 60 biomedical manufacturing facilities which employ more than 16,000 people in total.

The government has invested significantly in the biomedical industry and supporting infrastructure. Future developments include Tuas Biomed One, a medical vendors' hub opening early 2015, and a $3.5 billion extension to the East-West MRT line to reach the Tuas area.