SINGAPORE - Research and development hub Biopolis will be expanded to meet the needs of biotechnology start-ups, said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon on Wednesday (Nov 27).
Industrial landlord JTC expects phase 6 of Biopolis to be completed by mid-2022.
The tender for the work was launched in August and closes on Dec 4.
This move is part of initiatives to strengthen the ecosystem to support biotech start-ups, said Dr Koh, who was speaking at the official launch of NSG BioLabs, a Singapore-based incubator founded to provide a conducive research and development environment to life sciences companies.
The incubator is also in Biopolis Road.
Dr Koh said: "Progress in biomedical sciences is accelerating. Advances in areas such as gene editing, stem cell manipulation and immunology have fuelled the development of next generation therapeutic approaches globally... These trends present significant opportunities for Singapore."
Phase 6 of Biopolis will add a further 35,000 sq m of business park space for biomedical sciences research and supporting activities and 6,000 sq m for office and retail use. This will include 2,000 sq m of fitted-out laboratory spaces with lab benches, waste drainage and exhaust provisions.
Dr Koh said this will help biotech start-ups that find it difficult to access wet labs after they graduate from incubator or accelerator spaces. Developing such labs can be prohibitively expensive for many firms, he added.
"This can reduce start-ups' upfront expenditure costs to access wet labs and shorten their time-to-market," Dr Koh noted.
Biopolis was developed in 2003 as a purpose-built biomedical research hub. It houses nine A*Star research institutes and over 60 companies, with thousands of employees undertaking research, clinical trials and commercialisation of new scientific discoveries.
Mentoring is also important for start-ups, Dr Koh said.
NSG BioLabs will give start-ups access to mentorships and networks through entrepreneurs-in-residence, together with around 1,400 sq m of wet lab and office space and funding.
Enterprise Singapore helped the biotech incubator, which has sites in Boston and Hangzhou, to set up here. Three local biotech start-ups have already moved in, with a fourth on its way.
Dr Koh noted that the industry is an integral part of the Singapore economy, making up almost 4 per cent of gross domestic product and employing over 22,000 workers.
More than 80 local biotech start-ups were incorporated from 2010 to 2018.
"In particular, start-ups are one important avenue for us to unlock the commercial value of our research and development efforts by bringing novel solutions to market," Dr Koh said.
"They complement the efforts of larger companies, and enhance the vibrancy and competitiveness of our biomedical ecosystem."