BioNTech Buys Novartis Singapore Plant for Asia HQ

15.11.2022 - German Covid-19 vaccine specialist BioNTech has acquired a production facility in Singapore from Swiss drugmaker Novartis that will serve as a manufacturing base in addition to being its Asia-Pacific headquarters.

Financial terms of the purchase, which will lead to the creation of Singapore’s first dedicated mRNA production, were not disclosed.

In May 2021, BioNTech announced it would establish its first regional Asia-Pacific hub in the island nation. Along with producing vaccines and therapeutics, the facilities are planned to include a rapid response capability for southeast Asia against potential future pandemic threats.   

With the former Novartis plant in Tuas Biomedical Park expected to be fully operational under the BioNTech flag in late 2023 chief operating officer Sierk Poetting said the Mainz-headquartered firm will be able to more quickly create capacity for potential clinical studies and commercial supply of mRNA vaccines and therapeutics for infectious diseases.

For the Singapore project, BioNTech is currently recruiting staff for positions in engineering, operations, quality control, finance, human resources and supply chain management. It expects the Asian complex that is planned to employ 100 people by 2024 to be capable of producing “several hundred million doses” of mRNA-based vaccines.

Singapore output may include oncology drugs

Initially, the Singapore output could include the Comirnaty-branded Covid vaccine the biotech produces and markets together with Pfizer, as well as oncology product candidates – if the latter are successfully developed and approved or authorized by regulatory authorities.

Expanding beyond Covid, BioNTech recently announced a collaboration with Pfizer to develop an influenza vaccine based on the German partner’s suite of mRNA platforms as well as another link-up of the two companies to develop the first mRNA-based shingles vaccine candidate. A clinical trial for this is set to begin before the end of 2022.

For its investment in the park that is described as becoming “the epicenter of biopharma activity in Singapore,” the German company is receiving funding from the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), which for years has supported much of the investment in the chemicals mecca of Jurong Island.

In October this year, US Merck opened a new secondary packaging facility at Tuas. The drugmaker is also building a plant for inhalers at the site, planned to start up in 2026.

As regards investment, Singapore has profited greatly from the coronavirus pandemic, regional reports note. Before 2020, GSK operated the sole vaccine plant in the country. This past April, French pharma Sanofi began construction of a $475 million Evolutive vaccine complex there, a project that is also receiving EDB aid.

Author: Dede Williams, Freelance Journalist