Biomedical sciences in Singapore: an Irish ex-pat’s view
01 September 2014
Singapore is one of Asia’s fastest-growing ‘bio-clusters’. It boasts several research institutes comprising corporate laboratories, public hospitals and the world-renowned A*STAR laboratories, all presenting valuable opportunities for the development of new medicines and future therapies that can be tailored to the needs of regional and global markets.
Singapore is home to more than 30 of the world’s leading biomedical sciences companies, including GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, Pfizer and Takeda. These companies are leveraging Singapore as a home base to drive innovation and product development for consumers around the world. With an integrated research ecosystem, Singapore is the ideal location for companies looking for multidisciplinary capabilities from a single location, accelerating drug discovery and improving R&D decision-making and development for some of the world’s biggest brands.
Singapore has enjoyed strong growth in this area over the course of the last five years. In 2011, the industry grew by over 30 per cent, which was particularly staggering at a time when pharmaceutical and biotechnology businesses across the globe were struggling to maintain momentum in R&D productivity. Now, manufacturing output is at about S$24 billion, nearly a fourfold increase from S$6 billion in 2000. As a result, employment opportunities in the industry have also grown exponentially.
BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES IN SINGAPORE: AN EXPAT’S VIEW
Housing around 60 biomedical manufacturing plants and employing more than 16,000 people, Singapore presents significant employment opportunities for global talent looking for a new challenge. This is triple the number of people that the industry employed in 2000, and that growth is expected to continue in the coming years.
One of the fastest-growing areas within the industry is biopharmaceutical manufacturing. Seven out of 10 of the world’s top pharmaceutical companies are located in Singapore, running production in over 60 commercial-scale biomedical facilities and employing over 6,000 people.
Paul Walshe, an engineer at Pfizer, moved to Singapore just over a year ago to take advantage of the opportunities that Singapore’s growth had to offer. He started his career with Pfizer in September 2006 as a graduate process engineer in Cork at Little Island, supervising the manufacture of active pharmaceutical ingredients (API). Between 2006 and 2012, Walshe assumed various roles covering technical transfer process, technical support and, eventually, taking on the role as a technical transfer project lead.
He made the move to the Pfizer Research and Development facility in Sandwich, Kent in the UK as an API process engineer before heading to Singapore to take on the lead engineer position for the new API manufacturing plant in Tuas. Pfizer has been successfully leveraging Singapore’s world-class infrastructure to supply key markets across the Asia Pacific region and strengthen its capabilities in manufacturing and R&D for Pfizer’s global advantage for many years.
Walshe believes that his move to Singapore has given him the opportunity to get involved in projects on a scale that would never have been possible back in Ireland, thanks to the exponential growth of the sector in Singapore.
“There are a number of new products being manufactured in the Tuas site which makes it a really exciting, dynamic place to work,” he explained. “We’re investing in new equipment and facilities to make sure we’re able to handle bigger projects, and once we’re done, the site will be much larger and even more sophisticated. As a result, we’ll be able to manufacture a wide variety of pharmaceutical products ranging from large-scale and less potent materials to very small-scale and very potent materials.”
Walshe believes that Singapore’s multi-cultural and diverse society provides an ideal platform for the understanding and appreciation of how the industry and the business can operate in Asia. “Working here is definitely helping me to gain more experience and learn more about the industry than I thought I could,” he said.
“Moving to Singapore has opened up so many different opportunities that may not have been possible back home. Nearly every major pharmaceutical company in the world has a presence in Singapore so there’s a very concentrated network of industry experts whose experience you can tap in to and learn from. It’s great opportunity to challenge yourself, as you won’t have your typical support network around you for help, so you are forced to become more self-sufficient and that builds confidence.”
Singapore was a natural choice for Walshe, who wanted an Asian experience. He felt that Singapore’s unique mix of Asian and Western culture was the perfect place to start, and he has settled into the country well.
“I heard so many good things about Singapore from other people I knew who’d lived here – the world-class public transport system, the efficiency of the country’s infrastructures and that fact that Singapore is one of the safest cities in the world. All that, plus the fact that there’s so much to do and it’s so easy to travel across the region from here, made Singapore the right choice for me. Actually, there’s quite a big Irish community here. There’s even a local GAA club called the Gaelic Lions, which holds hurling and Gaelic football matches and training throughout the year!
“Moving to Singapore also exposes you to many different cultures, people and working styles. It gives you a much broader view of the global workplace and a greater appreciation of how things operate globally. I’d thoroughly recommend Singapore to anyone looking for a new challenge and a new environment,” he concluded.https://www.engineersjournal.ie/2014/09/01/biomedical-sciences-singapore-irish-ex-pats-view/https://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Paul-1024x767.jpghttps://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Paul-300x300.jpgBiobiomedical,Pfizer,pharma,Singapore