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Baxter unveils biologics facility

It plans to add a second production suite and have 450 employees by 2015

[SINGAPORE] American healthcare company Baxter yesterday declared open its first biologics facility in Asia here.

And even as it officially opened the 14,000 sqm plant in Woodlands Industrial Park, it announced the setting up of a second production suite, also in Singapore.

Both plants will manufacture products created through biologics, the field which develops treatments derived from living cells instead of chemicals.

The S$370 million facility which opened yesterday employs about 400 people; the second production suite will raise Baxter's employment figure here to 450 by next year.

Juergen Wagner, the manager of the Singapore facility, asked about the challenges of hiring suitably skilled labour amid Singapore's tightened manpower supply, replied: "We're working very, very closely with the EDB (Economic Development Board) and the WDA (Workplace Development Agency) on a lot of training programmes.

"We're hiring a lot of fresh grads and running them through very intense training programmes."

Despite the challenges, the Singapore facility is set to be a cornerstone of Baxter's manufacturing arm: It will be producing the company's flagship product, Advate; the second production suite will produce Rixubis. Both are treatments for patients suffering from haemophilia, a rare genetic blood-clotting disorder.

The Woodlands facility, the third in the world to support Advate processing, is expected to increase global capacity of the treatment by up to 50 per cent. Its annual output 1.4 billion units of Advate will go to Europe.

Baxter is applying for a licence for its facility to supply the treatment to Singapore and other parts of Asia as well.

Meanwhile, the company expects the upcoming second production suite to gain the licence to export its product by 2017.

Baxter is the latest company to join the steadily expanding biologics arm of Singapore's biomedical sciences industry.

Since 2006, nine biologics manufacturing facilities, including those of big industry players such as Novartis and Lonza, have anchored their operations here, building up Singapore's reputation as a biologics hub and a biopharmaceutical manufacturing base.

EDB managing director Yeoh Keat Chuan, who was at the opening ceremony, said of the success of the biomedical sciences industry here: "The sector has grown by almost four times in output since we began this effort in the year 2000. It employs about 16,000 people in Singapore today. . . Overall, we expect at least 700 to 1,000 new jobs to be created in the next two to three years in this sector."