Singapore's biopharma industry: Where the jobs are

Hays Recruiting in Singapore says jobs in biopharma niches in manufacturing, regulatory and sales are up for grabs in the island nation, topping its latest quarterly regional outlook of skills in demand through September 2015, according to a press release.

The release from the recruiting firm squares with official data released on June 15 of first-quarter unemployment at 1.8%, a dip from 1.9% in the previous quarter, though not in all sectors, leading Hays to note what it terms "life sciences" as a particular bright spot.

"The market is active and there are more permanent jobs being created," Christine Wright, managing director of Hays in Asia, said in a press release in reference to the life sciences sector.

Hays' Asia managing director Christine Wright

"Recent M&A activity will impact vacancies and hiring intentions in the coming quarter. Despite the ongoing restrictions placed on companies looking to employ foreign workers, there are still opportunities for people from abroad who are looking for life sciences opportunities in Singapore."

The restrictions refer to the Fair Consideration Framework that requires employers to show they have sought qualified local candidates for any jobs before hiring from offshore.

Hays said Singapore's employment needs in pharmaceutical-related companies are linked to the establishment of regional sales hubs and manufacturing in the wealthy city-state as part of an aggressive policy by the Economic Development Board to offer incentives for companies to locate here.

Multinationals such as Novartis ($NVS), Amgen ($AMGN) and AbbVie ($ABBV), for example, announced state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities in the past three years, joining established operations by GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK), Lonza and others.

Singapore as such has emerged as a main manufacturing base for international pharmaceutical and biologics companies in Asia, Hays said.

"Employers are focusing on candidates with a clear understanding of industry-specific ways of working," Hays said in the release. "These include compliance with (U.S.) FDA regulations, ICH-GCP guidelines, GxP requirements, HACCP requirements and meeting ISO13485 standards."

Several companies such as Mundipharma have also established emerging market sales and operations headquarters that look for candidates that have "intercultural work experience and come with the ability to work in a matrix environment," Hays said.

Jobs in major pharma R&D, or biotech startups, lag, however. But a growing need for medical affairs and regulatory affairs experts was noted by Hays as companies use Singapore as a base to expand in Asia.

- here's the release