Sigma-Aldrich opens Asia-Pacific hub in Singapore as regional manufacturing, R&D grow

Sigma-Aldrich ($SIAL) formally opened its Asia-Pacific headquarters in Singapore on Friday, becoming the latest major supplier to pharmaceutical manufacturers and research institutions in Asia to stake out a base in the wealth city-state that has seen an explosion in state-of-the-art manufacturing operations.

The facility at Biopolis Research Park brings existing commercial offices and production laboratories in Singapore into a single location, together with a new Cell Culture Technical Center, the company said in a press release.

The company also announced plans for a regional distribution center by the end of the year in the industrial sector of Tuas in Singapore.

In the past three years, Amgen ($AMGN), Novartis ($NVS), AbbVie ($ABBV) and GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) have broken ground or expanded manufacturing operations in Singapore as the Economic Development Board offered incentives from financial to talent training programs to widen an already robust pharmaceutical manufacturing base.

In turn firms such as Thermo Fisher Scientific ($TMO), which opened a plant to produce dry powder media used in the manufacture of biologic drugs in 2013, along with firms like Sigma-Aldrich, have recognized the opportunities locally and wider in Asia-Pacific to grow sales.

Takeda Pharmaceuticals and GlaxoSmithKline this year also moved to establish regional hubs in Singapore that tie in closely with the Biopolis complex and the nearby National University of Singapore's medical center.

Jason Apter, vice president and managing director for Sigma-Aldrich Asia-Pacific, said at a press conference that the company is however by no means "new" in the region.

"Singapore is a good central hub because it is regionally close to all of Asia and there is a significant ecosystem being built here that includes access to talent in multiple languages."

The technical center--the U.S. firm's first cell culture lab in the region--will support customers of Sigma-Aldrich's SAFC Commercial business in biopharmaceutical development and manufacturing in Asia.

Apter and other executives noted that there is a growing number of biotechs hubs in the region from small biotechs "scattered across China" to South Korea where biosimilar efforts are growing to startups in Australia that are capturing attention.

"It's bound to happen," Apter said of growth of biotech operations in Asia. "We do see a lot of activity in the region."

- here's the release (PDF)