This story was updated on 14 April 2021 with inputs from Sanofi.
This "first-in-Asia, digitally-enabled" factory is expected to create up to 200 local jobs in Singapore's manufacturing sector, and enhance the country's position as a "regional innovation hub for the healthcare industry."
Global biopharmaceutical firm Sanofi has announced that it will be investing a total of €400mn (about SGD$638,428,000) to create a "unique" vaccine production site in Singapore, over the next five years.
In partnership with the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), the new site, located at Tuas Biomedical Park, will mainly supply the Asia region and complement existing manufacturing capacities in Europe and North America. This project is expected to create up to 200 local jobs and enhance Singapore's position as a regional innovation hub for the healthcare industry, it noted in a media release on 12 April (Monday). In response to queries by Human Resources Online, a spokesperson said the roles that are expected to be available include the traditional roles in vaccines manufacturing from operations, to quality control and assurance, "but all these roles will be heavily digitalised."
"For example, when it comes to quality control, technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence will help us to reduce quality control cycle times, and collect data to identify trends that support quicker action and decisions." The organisation structure for the new facility is currently under development.
Commenting on this "milestone" move, Thomas Triomphe, Executive Vice President and Global Head of Sanofi Pasteur, said: "As a major healthcare player, it’s our responsibility to act and to meet the unprecedented growing demands for vaccines. By investing in a new production site in Singapore, Sanofi is aiming to strengthen production capacity to meet ever-growing global demands on vaccines, and answer more rapidly to future pandemics.
"We are very pleased by the strong collaboration with the Singapore Economic Development Board to achieve this exciting milestone."
On Singapore being chosen for the centre, Dr Beh Swan Gin, Chairman, EDB, said: "Sanofi’s decision to locate its first-in-Asia digitally-enabled vaccine production centre in Singapore, to supply markets in the region and beyond, is an endorsement of Singapore’s position as a leading centre for advanced manufacturing.
"EDB will continue to promote digitalisation, automation and innovation to transform the manufacturing sector and create good jobs for Singaporeans."
In a Facebook post on Monday, Singapore's Ministry for Trade and Industry, Chan Chun Sing, highlighted that when this facility launches in 2026, together with other companies such as GSK Biologicals and Thermo Fisher Scientific, "we will have the full capability for end-to-end production of almost all kinds of vaccines in Singapore, for ourselves and for the world."
"It will make us more resilient, physically and economically. It will also strengthen our position as part of the global vaccine value chain."
Additionally, speaking to Human Resources Online, Sanofi shared: "Singapore is renowned for being an innovation hub, and subsequently has a great pool of talent, especially in digital innovation, and shares our spirit, willingness and ambition to be fully digital.
"This ambition and the corresponding digital skills that are readily available make Singapore the partner of choice for us."
Details on the upcoming Sanofi vaccine production centre in Singapore
According to Sanofi, the site will be designed around a central unit housing several fully digitalised modules that allow production of three to four vaccines simultaneously, versus only one in current industrial sites. In addition, the factory will have the flexibility to leverage multiple vaccine manufacturing technology platforms based on different cell types.
This modularity and flexibility, it noted, will allow the production of a specific vaccine to be prioritised in a faster timeframe depending on public health needs.
The project is currently entering its design phase with construction expected to begin in Q3 2021. The site is expected to be fully operational in Q1 2026, once all qualifications and validations of the first manufactured vaccine have been completed.
In the context of Sanofi’s environmental strategy, the site is designed to be carbon-neutral, and to drastically reduce both resource consumption and waste production.
Photo / Sanofi