BioNTech to set up mRNA plant in S’pore by end-2023, offering more than 100 jobs

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BioNTech's Chief Operating Officer Dr Sierk Poetting discusses the company's plans to establish its first mRNA facility in ...

SINGAPORE – BioNTech on Monday confirmed that its first mRNA manufacturing plant in Singapore will be operational in late 2023, with the facility also serving as the German company’s regional headquarters.

Located at Tuas Biomedical Park, the facility is currently owned by pharmaceutical company Novartis and will be acquired by BioNTech. The transaction price was not disclosed.

The acquisition is part of BioNTech’s strategy to expand its footprint in Asia and will be its first such facility in the region. The company has offices in Singapore and Shanghai.

It will retrofit the facility with its mRNA production capabilities.

The plant is expected to have a production capacity of up to several hundred million doses of mRNA-based vaccines after a full build-out, the firm said in a media statement on Monday.

It is also expected to create more than 100 jobs by 2024 in Singapore in areas such as operations, engineering, quality control, finance, human resources and supply chain management. Recruitment for these positions has started.

On why Singapore was chosen to house this facility, BioNTech chief operating officer Sierk Poetting said: “Having multiple nodes in our production network is a strategic step towards building our global capabilities.

“Singapore has a very well-established ecosystem, talent, infrastructure and, geopolitically, it is in the middle of everything. It is a perfect distribution hub, and coming to Singapore makes perfect sense for us.”

In 2020, BioNTech similarly acquired a production facility from Novartis in the German city of Marburg. The Singapore acquisition is the company’s second such facility in the world.

Besides manufacturing Covid-19 mRNA vaccines and boosters at the plant, BioNTech also plans to develop and manufacture other therapeutics and vaccines – such as cancer vaccines – on clinical and commercial scales.

The company also plans to expand to other drug classes, such as cell therapies.

Dr Poetting said: “mRNA is a technology that is very versatile and can be used over a broad range of vaccines and therapeutics. Since mRNA manufacturing is also an area of synthetic biology, operations within the laboratory can also be digitalised.

“This means that within a single production site, you will find lots of different types of products or therapeutics being developed at the same time. 

“For this site, we plan to manufacture mRNA-based vaccines and cancer treatments based on our growing pipeline and potentially add other modalities as well, such as cell therapies.” 

mRNA, or messenger RNA, is genetic material that cells read to make proteins. mRNA technology is used in vaccines to deliver a genetic code to special cells in the body, instructing them to build a protein that triggers an immune response to defeat an enemy, such as virus or cancer cells.

BioNTech’s acquisition is supported by the Economic Development Board.

Ms Goh Wan Yee, senior vice-president and head of healthcare at the EDB, said: “(BioNTech’s) investment demonstrates confidence in the strong talent base and deep manufacturing capabilities of our biopharmaceutical ecosystem.

“BioNTech’s presence will enhance Singapore’s mRNA capabilities and enable us to strengthen future pandemic preparedness across the region.”

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