Thursday, October 15, 2015

Biotech Halfway Around the World

By: Frank Cordon, Senior Director of Growth Services, New England Controls

If you were to Google “biotech hubs,” cities like Boston, San Francisco, and San Diego would certainly be first on the results page.  These centers cover our industry from early stage cutting-edge research through the highest levels of full scale manufacturing.  For those of us in the industry a bit longer, we would expect to see  centers in the Carolinas, the Midwest, the United Kingdom and smaller clusters in France, Germany, Belgium, and Denmark show up on pages 2 and 3.  With our western biases we would tend to think much less about Asian locations as full-fledged biotech centers.

Last month, I had the opportunity and great pleasure to assist in a gap analysis project for a biotech plant in Singapore.  This was my third trip to this wonderful city state in the last 10 years.  Once again, I was very impressed with the manufacturing professionals I worked with.  Not only were they excellent technically, but more impressive was their commitment to their work.  With a 12 hour time difference to the east coast USA, it’s never a good time to have a conference call or video conference.  Yet, my Singaporean counterparts are the first to offer to stay up late into the evening to accommodate a meeting at 9 or 10 or 11am Eastern Time.  I would invariably have to twist their arms to agree to a 6am or 9pm EST call so they aren’t the only ones working outside of the normal work day.

As I was flying back, I was able to reflect on the experience - and yes it’s a long trip so there’s plenty of time to reflect – and came away with a sense that the people of Singapore see high tech manufacturing and life sciences, in particular, as a strategic imperative to the long-term health of their country.  This commitment is apparent with the building boom occurring in the Tuas area of the island which is where most, if not all, of the biotech plants reside. 

During my first couple of trips, I was made aware of the strength of biotech manufacturing in Singapore.  What I didn’t realize until I attended the BioProcessing International Conference & Exposition (BPI) in Boston  in 2013, was the depth of the innovation culture and the progressive research and development commitment to the industry that companies and people in Singapore truly have.  During that 2013 conference, I attended several sessions where researchers from the Bioprocessing Technology Institute of Singapore presented their work.  Over the past 2 years, there have been so many news-worthy announcements coming out of Singapore; Medical school partnerships with Duke University and the Imperial College of London and R&D centers like the Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases have been built to name a few. There are over 30 major R&D centers on the island ( – February 2014) with new announcements coming out weekly.  The pace of growth has led to a real talent shortage as reported last week on 

You can imagine that as I browsed the program for this year’s BPI Conference & Exposition, I was pleased to see that the Bioprocessing Technology Institute of Singapore is being represented yet again.  With representatives from Amgen Singapore and other Asian-based biotech companies, speakers represent the tremendous growth of our industry in Asia.  When combined with presentations from colleagues based in Europe and the Americas, BPI is truly a global gathering. So, if you haven’t gotten the opportunity to travel halfway around the world to visit these world-class facilities, you’ve got to make it to Boston from October 26-29th for the 2015 BioProcessing International Conference and Exposition. I hope to see you there.

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