GSK has appointed US firm Jacobs Engineering to head up its plans for two manufacturing facilities in Singapore, awarding the company a two-year, multi-million dollar contract. Jacobs, who last week let slip that it had also been awarded a contract by Pfizer for a biotech plant in Ireland, has been selected as GSK's Alliance Partner in Singapore, taking responsibility for engineering, procurement, project management, construction management and validation services. GSK Biologicals broke ground on its new S$300m (€145.6m) site on the Tuas Biomedical Park in Singapore in 2006. The site covers 8.8 hectares and when it becomes fully operational in 2009, will be the first large scale bulk biologics manufacturing plant in Singapore. In March the company also opened a new medicinal chemistry lab in one of the region's other biomedical hubs, Biopolis, having invested S$20m in the new operations. Pharma firm MSD also announced yesterday that it has opened the regional headquarters for its Asia Pacific business, located in Singapore's Parkview Square. According to the firm, the move "signifies a new stage of growth for the Asia Pacific region," and reflects the company's strategy to focus on emerging markets. Merck is already well-established in the region, having made its first footprint in Singapore in 1993 when it set up a sales office in the country. Since then the company has become one of the largest pharmaceutical investors in the country, having ploughed over S$1bn into its various facilities in the region. Merck has one of the largest plots on the Tuas Biomedical Park, and was the first tenant to move onto the site back in 1998. Its first plant on the site covered 12 hectares and was used to produce the active ingredients for ill-fated drug Vioxx (rofecoxib) and asthma/allergy drug Singulair (montelukast). A second plant was added in 2000, and the company has recently completed a S$152m investment at the site to support new product launches, with future plans to install new technology platforms at the site. Singapore strides ahead Singapore has experienced incredible growth over the past few years, establishing itself as a prime location for companies seeking to identify a competitive location for biopharmaceutical and biotech-based activities. The country's government has been supporting schemes to create an appealing business environment in the biomedical sciences, and has succeeded in attracting a number of big pharma players to its shores. Over 2006 the manufacturing output from such companies hit S$23bn - a hefty 30 per cent increase over 2005. Manufacturing in this sector grew four-fold between 2000 and 2006, with pharmaceuticals accounting for 91 per cent of this output. Biopharmaceuticals were responsible for the majority of growth in the manufacturing base in the region, with Lonza, Genentech, GSK and Abbott all having been active in increasing their presence in this field in Singapore over the last year. The country's aim is for Singapore's biomedical sciences industry to reach S$25bn by 2015, and employment in the sector to increase by almost 50 per cent to 15,000. As the region's reputation as a competitive, highly technological, highly skilled and high quality manufacturing location grows, it is likely to achieve this target as companies continue to invest in a region that offers a cost-effective and supportive environment for their growing biopharmaceutical activities.