Singapore Transforms into Pharma and Medtech Hub

Posted: 10/26/2017

Singapore is undergoing a significant infrastructure upgrade as its regional and international reach gains prestige.

Research and consulting firm, GlobalData estimates Singapore’s pharmaceutical market at $948 million and increasing to $1.2 billion by 2021. With an estimated population of just shy of 6 million, Singapore’s domestic pharmaceutical market is small. However, its regional and international reach is well noted thanks to its pro-business environment and strong government support.

Over 30 of the world’s leading pharmaceutical and medical technology firms including Abbott, GlaxoSmithKline, Lonza, MSD, Novartis, Pfizer and Sanofi-Aventis, have established their manufacturing, R&D and headquarter functions in Singapore.

pills falling

In 2015, GlaxoSmithKline designated Singapore as its Asia headquarters. The rapid growth of sales in the five biggest economies of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) prompted the company to concentrate more business units in Singapore.

US-based healthcare firm MSD opened an $8 million center also in 2015 to focus on innovation through data mining as well as conduct cyber-security surveillance. In addition, the company plans to develop mobile applications that help people live healthier lives and improve how patients follow their doctors' instructions on taking medication.

Pharma partnerships

In September 2017, Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research, the National University of Singapore and pharmaceutical companies, GSK, Pfizer and MSD, signed a memorandum of understanding to launch an initiative to develop the country’s pharmaceutical sector. 

The initiative, the Pharmaceutical Innovation Programme Singapore, aims to transform the manufacturing operations and technologies of the industry including embracing such initiatives as enabling green and sustainable manufacturing and developing a fully automated supply chain that can predict and react to patient needs and market trends.

Logistics hubs

The logistics community has responded to Singapore’s plan to grow its pharmaceutical industry. One such example is the partnership between Singapore’s airport, Changi Airport Group and several airfreight providers including Bollore Logistics, CEVA logistics Singapore, DHL Global Forwarding, dnata Singapore, Expeditors Singapore, Global Airfreight International, SATS, Schenker Singapore and Singapore Airlines Cargo to create the Pharma@Changi initiative. All of the airfreight providers have achieved the IATA Center of Excellence for Independent Validators Certification for Pharmaceutical Handling (IATA CEIV Pharma).

"Over the last three years, pharmaceutical cargo has consistently ranked among the top five cargo types transported via airfreight globally, in terms of total value. 

As part of Pharma@Changi, the companies have promised to jointly pursue the best standards in pharmaceuticals handling, and promote Singapore Changi Airport as a trusted and reliable pharmaceuticals air freight hub in the region. According to Changi Airport Group’s Managing Director for Air Hub Development Mr Lim Ching Kiat, “Over the last three years, pharmaceutical cargo has consistently ranked among the top five cargo types transported via airfreight globally, in terms of total value. In the first eight months of 2017, Changi Airport handled more than 15,500 tonnes of pharmaceutical cargo.”

The Changi Airport Group is also part of Pharma.Aero, an alliance founded by the Brussels and Miami Airports. The group is committed to sharing best practices and market knowledge to improve pharmaceutical handling for the air cargo industry worldwide.

In early 2016, global logistics provider, Kuehne + Nagel opened its Singapore Logistics Hub facility. Within the facility, 46,000 sqm of the 50,000 sqm facility is dedicated to warehousing space, and 40% of the facility is furnished with advanced chilled storage, redressing and postponement facilities to support the growing base of pharmaceutical and healthcare companies in Singapore.

Also in 2016, DHL Supply Chain opened its logistics center in Singapore in anticipation of increases in pharmaceutical and high-tech air cargo traffic in the Southeast Asian region. The 90,000-square-foot facility incorporates 130 robotic shuttles to retrieve and store products from up to 72,000 locations arranged in 26 levels.

Other logistics providers including UPS, CEVA and Schenker have also established a pharmaceutical logistics presence in Singapore.

Singapore’s medical technology sector is also a major contributor to Singapore’s life sciences industry. Due to a lack of domestic competition in other ASEAN markets and the strategic geographical location of Singapore in the region, medical device companies often decide to set-up their headquarters in the city state. According to consultant group, Dezan Shira & Associates, 10% of the world’s contact lenses, over 70% of microarrays, and roughly half of the world’s thermal cyclers and mass spectrometers are currently produced in Singapore.

Singapore is well-positioned to be Southeast Asia’s hub for not only pharmaceuticals but also medical technology solutions.

Currently most of the products are destined for international markets, as the region matures, domestic demand will increase and balance demand and thus logistical requirements.

Posted: 10/26/2017
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