German biotechnology firm BioNTech, which partnered Pfizer to develop a COVID-19 vaccine using messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, will set up its regional headquarters in Singapore, along with a manufacturing facility.
The new facility will provide "regional and global supply capacity of BioNTech's mRNA-based product candidates" and serve as "a rapid response production capability for Southeast Asia to address potential pandemic threats”, the company said on Monday (May 10).
The facility could be operational as early as 2023 and create up to 80 jobs in Singapore.
In its media release, BioNTech said the new facility, supported by Singapore’s Economic Development Board (EDB), "will leverage cutting-edge manufacturing and digital infrastructure".
It will be equipped to "produce a range of novel mRNA vaccines and therapeutics for infectious diseases and cancer", it added.
Singapore's Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, speaking at an online press conference after the announcement, said the new investment is “a boost” to the local biopharmaceutical ecosystem.
Noting that the new mRNA technology has “drastically reduced” the time needed for vaccines to be produced, the new facility will also strengthen the portfolio of different vaccine production technologies in Singapore, he added.
“There will be new viruses that will emerge in time to come and what we need is a strong R&D partnership to make sure that we continuously evolve our products in a timely fashion to serve our local and regional markets.”
The site will be highly automated with "end-to-end mRNA production capabilities across drug substance, drug product and fill-and-finish, with an estimated annual capacity of several hundred of million doses of mRNA-based vaccines depending on the specific vaccine", the company said.
BioNTech did not release any information regarding the total sum of investment in Singapore.
Noting that Singapore provides an "excellent business climate" with a growing biotechnology industry and rich talent base, BioNTech co-founder and chief executive Ugur Sahin said: “Having multiple nodes in our production network is an important strategic step in building out our global footprint and capabilities.
"With this planned mRNA production facility, we will increase our overall network capacity and expand our ability to manufacture and deliver our mRNA vaccines and therapies to people around the world."
EBD chairman Beh Swan Gin said the investment will enable Singapore to "develop capabilities in an important new therapeutic modality" as part of its strategy to grow the biopharmaceutical industry here.
“In particular, BioNTech’s mRNA manufacturing facility will contribute significantly to the region’s ability to address future pandemic threats," he said.