NOVARTIS is moving a drugs research facility from Singapore to the US, as part of a shift in its research strategy.
The news first broke in Singapore’s The Straits Times which quoted the president of the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR), James Bradner, who said that the Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases (NITD) will be moved to Emeryville in the US next to an existing research centre as part of a “broader global strategic plan”.
Novartis has now confirmed to The Chemical Engineer magazine that the decision is part of a wider “realignment of resources” as it sets a new research strategy for drug discovery.
The Singapore facility, which employs around 85, was among the first established at the city state’s Biopolis biomedical hub in 2004, notes The Straits Times. Novartis’ president for Singapore Christopher Snook told the paper that the company remains committed to Singapore, which also hosts four of the company’s production plants and its regional headquarters.
The Singapore government has been incentivising pharmaceutical companies to work there in a bid to diversify its manufacturing sectors. The move will come as a blow to government efforts to boost innovation and advanced manufacturing. During a press trip to Singapore in September, Fong Pin Fen, director of the Cities Infrastructure & industrial Solutions Group at Singapore’s Economic Development Board explained that there is a target to maintain manufacturing at 20% of GDP.
“This is deliberate and we intend to keep it at 20–25% of GDP,” she said, adding that “R&D and innovation is now going to be the cornerstone for our economic development.”
In a statement sent to The Chemical Engineer, Novartis said that key elements of its new drug discovery strategy include the creation of an early discovery research group in Basel, Switzerland and Cambridge, US that will work closely with NIBR’s drug discovery teams around the world. The team will be called Chemical Biology and Therapuetics and focus on using cutting-edge technologies including CRISPR, DNA-encoded libraries and targeted protein degradation to discover new drug targets.
It will also create two centres of excellence for bio-therapeutic research in Basel and Cambridge that will “explore new directions for delivering biologic therapies”.
“The creation of these centres of excellence…will directly impact the biologics group in Shanghai as well as ESBATech, a biologics unit based in Schlieren, Switzerland, both of which are expected to close,” the company said.
It added that NITD activities in Singapore will be co-located with NIBR’s infectious diseases research team in Emeryville where it will continue to focus on the discovery of new medicines for malaria and other tropical diseases.
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