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AstraZeneca reveals plans for a billion-dollar cancer plant in Singapore

n this Saturday, July 18, 2020 file photo a general view of AstraZeneca offices and the corporate logo in Cambridge, England.
n this Saturday, July 18, 2020 file photo a general view of AstraZeneca offices and the corporate logo in Cambridge, England. Copyright Alastair Grant/Copyright 2020 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Alastair Grant/Copyright 2020 The AP. All rights reserved
By Indrabati Lahiri
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The new factory highlights a rising trend by pharmaceutical companies to develop production facilities in local markets, to ensure a smoother supply chain and further cement their regional influence.

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Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca is to open a $1.5 billion (€1.38 billion) cancer manufacturing plant in Singapore, as part of a plan to develop and strengthen its  presence around the world.

The factory is expected to be the company's first antibody drug-conjugate (ADC) plant to manufacture the drugs from end-to-end, following AstraZeneca's recently setting up a vaccine factory in Liverpool at a projected cost of about £650 million.

ADCs use targeted antibodies to take powerful cancer-battling agents to cancer cells directly. The treatment has been given several monikers such as a "biological missile", a "magic bullet" or a "precision treatment" by cancer experts, due to its ability to target cancer cells without impacting other nearby healthy cells. 

Production of ADCs involves several steps, such as chemotherapy drug and linker synthesis, the making of antibodies, the drug-linker and antibody conjugation, which will all take place at this new facility on a large-scale commercial basis.

The new Singapore factory highlights a rising trend by pharmaceutical companies to make sure that they have production facilities in local markets, to ensure a smoother supply chain and further cement their regional influence.

Building on the plant will start by the end of the year, and is expected to have zero carbon emissions when it is operational, which will potentially be by 2029. 

Pascal Soriot, chief executive officer (CEO) of AstraZeneca said in a press release: "AstraZeneca has built an industry-leading portfolio of cancer medicines including antibody drug conjugates which have shown enormous potential to replace traditional chemotherapy for patients across many settings.

"Singapore is one of the world's most attractive countries for investment given its reputation for excellence in complex manufacturing, and I am excited for AstraZeneca to locate our $1.5 billion ADC manufacturing facility in the country."

Png Cheong Boon, chairman of Singapore's Economic Development Board (EDB) also said: "We welcome AstraZeneca's decision to establish a manufacturing presence in Singapore for the first time. It will also be a first for AstraZeneca - an end-to-end manufacturing facility for novel antibody drug conjugates that enables precision therapy for cancer.

"This greenfield investment is a strong show of confidence in Singapore's biopharmaceutical manufacturing capabilities and talent, strengthens our ecosystem in supporting the development and manufacturing of precision medicines, and creates meaningful jobs and economic opportunities for Singapore."

AstraZeneca also has a significant presence in other key Asian markets, including China, having recently announced a new global research and development centre and an artificial intelligence centre in the country.

Enhertu, the company's breast cancer therapy drug, is made in Japan, by AstraZeneca's partner, Daiichi Sankyo. The company also has a strong base in Indonesia, being named the "Best Place to Work" in the country for the second year running in 2024.

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