Almac's launch of Singapore APAC HQ also eyes regional growth of small biotechs

Almac's Jim Murphy and Robert Dunlop outside of the company's new Singapore office.--Courtesy Almac

Multinational biologic trials in Asia are a "big driver" behind U.K.-based Almac Group's launch of a Singapore-based Asian headquarters, but business from emerging biotechs would be icing on the cake, company executives told FiercePharmaAsia in an interview.

The company formally launched its Asia-Pacific headquarters in Singapore last week to provide packaging and distribution of clinical trial candidates as well as its suite of distribution, labeling and turnkey services after securing a nod from the country's Health Sciences Authority.

Jim Murphy, president and managing director for Asia-Pacific, Robert Dunlop, president and managing director for clinical services and Kevin Cheong, director of Clinical Operations for Asia Pacific, sat down to discuss the company's plans for the region.

Murphy noted that Singapore has not lagged in attracting most of the top multinational drugmakers to locate regional hubs or manufacturing operations here--or both--and that presence drove the choice of location over countries like China.

"Singapore is a fabulous logistics hub," Murphy said, noting that the headquarters is a short distance from Changi Airport.

"It's also no secret the companies that are operating here in manufacturing and as regional centers are a big draw as is the talent pool which includes multiple languages."

He said the logistics and talent advantages fit in with a growing number of biologic trials in Asia and the stringent regulatory handling and intellectual property laws in Singapore that make it a good base.

"The business is solid in Asia now, but, yes, as we look long-term, the emergence of small biotechs that need help taking candidates to trial--whether in Australia, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan or China is attractive too," Murphy said.

Dunlop said that list of companies now in Singapore also played a key role in establishing the locale of the headquarters, noting that 23% of global clinical trials for new pharmaceutical products are being conducted in Asia, according to company estimates.

Almac's new Singapore facility.--Courtesy Almac

"We support regional and global pharmaceutical firms by providing critical manufacturing, packaging, supply chain management and other services," he said, adding the company has close working ties to CROs also in the region that provide more flexibility in services regionally and internationally.

Singapore's Economic Development Board 2013 signed up U.S.-based Amgen ($AMGN) in January to build a state-of-the-art manufacturing mAB plant that was formally launched in November 2014 with an expansion announced as well.

In February 2013, Singapore notched up a Novartis ($NVS) manufacturing unit for respiratory, oncology and autoimmune compounds and later saw Alcon expand operations for optical products.

Thermo Fisher Scientific ($TMO) also announced a plant in Singapore in February 2013 to produce dry powder media used in the manufacture of biologic drugs. AbbVie ($ABBV) joined a year later in 2014 to build its first manufacturing plant in Asia and the first one capable of making biologics and small molecules at a single campus.

Other notable gains for the wealthy city-state include expanded manufacturing by longtime corporate resident GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) as well as a regional headquarters. And Takeda Pharmaceutical in February opened an emerging markets headquarters in the gleaming new research hub of Biopolis.

- here's the Almac release