The pharma giants will partner with research communities from the agency for science, technology and research (A*STAR); National University of Singapore (NUS); Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) and its innovation and enterprise company, NTUitive, alongside the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) to boost Singapore's biologics manufacturing capabilities.
The alliance will be formalized through the Biologics Pharma Innovation Program Singapore (BioPIPS), a consortium initiated by A*STAR with support from the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB).
BioPIPS seeks to use research and innovation to grow Singapore's manufacturing capabilities for biologics, which include recombinant therapeutic proteins, and vaccines.
The aim is to enhance manufacturing productivity, improve operational efficiency and achieve sustainability goals.
"New opportunities will emerge as the biomanufacturing industry undergoes major changes brought about by the rapid pace of digitalization, Industry 4.0, and the need for greater sustainability. As Singapore makes biopharma production a priority area in its Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2025 Plan, A*STAR aims to contribute our R&D capabilities through BioPIPS to help make the local biomanufacturing industry become more agile and better positioned to benefit from new products and technologies," said Professor Lim Keng Hui, assistant chief executive, Science and Engineering Research Council, A*STAR.
Specifically, BioPIPS will have three working groups.
- The sensing and modelling workstream aims to harness machine learning and mechanistic modelling technologies, together with smart sensors, to enable simplified and faster workflows. Data analytics will enable the effective translation of process knowledge gained into performance improvements, which in turn benefits the overall manufacturing process.
- The sustainability workstream focuses on tackling sustainability challenges in biologics and vaccines manufacturing, which typically utilizes single-use (disposable) equipment due to the extremely sterile environment needed for product purity. This workstream will explore the use of novel materials and circular economy approaches to address this challenge, as well as models to promote more sustainable and resilient supply chains.
- The compliant agility workstream focuses on the removal of manual tasks to achieve greater productivity in the manufacturing facilities while maintaining compliance status, by using solutions like robotics and advanced analytics.
It is hoped that the initiative will also enhance Singapore's capabilities to meet the growing global demand for biologics and vaccines, as well as equip local pharmaceutical companies with the resources to scale up and respond more rapidly to future pandemics.
"The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for the biomanufacturing industry to be innovative and agile when dealing with challenges, including future pandemics and disease outbreaks," said Professor Peter Preiser, associate vice president, biomedical and life sciences, NTU Singapore.
Sustainable manufacturing environment
GSK said that by collaborating to tackle common challenges, leveraging diverse skills and capabilities it will be possible to create a sustainable manufacturing environment in Singapore, and also develop new ways to monitor and control processes and automate manufacturing operations.
Sanofi is building a new manufacturing site, the EVolutive Facility, in Singapore, with the goal of bringing advanced digital and modular vaccine production capabilities to the Asia region. It said the BioPIPS program's focus on transforming biologics and vaccines manufacturing through pre-competitive partnerships is aligned with the company’s vision for the new site.
Echoing the other companies, Takeda said the objectives of BioPIPS run initiative correspond with its ambitions of being net carbon zero in its operations by 2035 and also tallies with its aim to leverage data and technology to transform manufacturing.