Pharma giant Sanofi investing in $638m vaccine production centre in Singapore

The production centre in Tuas Biomedical Park will supply vaccines mainly to Asia. PHOTO: SANOFI

SINGAPORE - Pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur is investing €400 million (S$638 million) over five years to build a vaccine production centre in Singapore, giving a boost to the Republic's growing biomedical manufacturing cluster.

Announcing its investment on Monday (April 12), the French multinational corporation said the project is expected to create up to 200 local jobs and enable the firm to quickly respond to future pandemic risks.

The production centre will supply vaccines mainly to Asia and complement the firm's existing manufacturing capacities in Europe and North America.

The factory in Tuas Biomedical Park can produce three or four different types of vaccines simultaneously, as compared with current industrial sites which usually allow for the production of only one vaccine at any one time, Sanofi noted.

This is because the new facility will tap digital technologies and single-use systems (SUSs) in vaccine manufacturing, said Sanofi Pasteur senior vice-president Vincent Hingot, who is also head of global vaccines industrial affairs.

SUSs allow multiple vaccines to be made in a single suite at reduced costs, among other benefits.

The facility will be able to leverage multiple vaccine manufacturing technology platforms based on different cell types.

Sanofi did not elaborate on what vaccines will be manufactured in the new plant, which has the capabilities to manufacture both cell culture-based vaccines and mRNA vaccines.

Construction of the factory is slated to begin in the third quarter of 2021. It is expected to be fully operational in the first quarter of 2026, once all qualifications and validations of the first manufactured vaccine have been completed.

"This new site will provide Sanofi with the ability to produce innovative vaccines on a massive scale in Asia for Asia, with the flexibility and the agility to quickly respond to future pandemic risks," said Mr Hingot.

The capacity of the facility, which will be a regional centre of excellence for vaccine production in Asia, could also be expanded in the future with the right level of partnership in Asia, he added.

The firm's new investment in Singapore follows its recent commitment to build a new facility in Canada, which will increase the global supply of its Fluzone high-dose influenza vaccine.

Economic Development Board chairman Beh Swan Gin noted that when completed, Sanofi's facility in Singapore will be one of the most technologically advanced vaccine-manufacturing facilities globally.

Such a production facility is a very important infrastructure that will enable not just Singapore, but also the region to address future pandemics and health crises, he added.

At the same time, the facility will also contribute to Singapore's ambitions in advanced manufacturing in the pharmaceutical sector. Dr Beh said: "So this will also create opportunities for local companies to co-develop new solutions with Sanofi to help the facility evolve and challenge the boundaries of advanced manufacturing for years to come."

In a Facebook post, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said that when the facility is complete in 2026, it will, along with other pharmaceutical firms' facilities here, contribute to Singapore's capabilities in end-to-end production of almost all kinds of vaccines.

"It will make us more resilient, physically and economically. It will also strengthen our position as part of the global vaccine value chain," he said.

Singapore is home to Sanofi's Asia headquarters, regional export centre and a manufacturing plant in Tuas for pharmaceutical products. More than 400 employees are based here and work across various fields, including clinical research.

Besides working on two Covid-19 vaccine candidates separately with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Translate Bio, Sanofi is also providing manufacturing support to Johnson & Johnson and BioNTech, which have successfully developed Covid-19 vaccines.

The biomedical manufacturing cluster was a linchpin of Singapore's manufacturing growth in 2020, and output rose 24 per cent for the full year on the back of strong performance in the pharmaceuticals and medical technology segments.

It contributed 4.2 percentage points to the manufacturing sector's rise in 2020, behind only the key electronics sector.

Many of the world's largest pharma companies, including GSK, Pfizer and Roche, have set up research and development as well as manufacturing hubs here.

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