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AbbVie’s First Manufacturing Facility in Asia
On 29th September 2016, AbbVie officially opened the first phase of its global manufacturing facility – the small molecule active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) facility in Singapore. The opening ceremony attended by the media and its employees, marked AbbVie’s first manufacturing presence in Asia. Also in attendance was Mr. S. Iswaran, Singapore Minister for Trade and Industry.

AbbVie was formed in 2013 following the separation from Abbott. It is a global research-based biopharmaceutical company which employs approximately 28,000 people worldwide and markets medicines in more than 170 countries.

AbbVie’s mission is to use its expertise, dedicated people and unique approach to innovation to develop and market advanced therapies that address some of the world’s most complex and serious diseases.

To support AbbVie’s mission to provide life-changing products to patients, AbbVie’s first manufacturing facility in Asia was set to be built in Singapore. This new facility will focus on the growth of its oncology and women’s health pipeline, and expand its global operations for the manufacture of small molecules (API) and biologics.

There are two manufacturing facilities: one for the small molecule API facility, and another site for the biologics. The API facility has started to operate whereas the biologics facility is expected to be completed by 2018. The combined facilities will increase AbbVie’s headcount by more than 250 new employees, including skilled positions across manufacturing, technical operations, administration, quality, information technology and supply chain. The 120,000 m2 site located in the Tuas Biomedical Park, a dedicated space for biopharmaceutical manufacturing related activities in Singapore.

AbbVie's global manufacturing network includes locations in:
  • Barceloneta, Puerto Rico (AbbVie Biotechnology Ltd and AbbVie Pharmaceuticals Ltd);
  • Worcester, MA (AbbVie Bioresearch Center)
  • Jayuya, Puerto Rico
  • Wyandotte, Michigan
  • Lake County, Illinois
  • North Chicago, Illinois
  • Campoverde, Italy
  • Ludwigshafen, Germany
  • Ballytivnan, Ireland
  • Cork, Ireland
  • Sligo, Ireland

At the opening ceremony, Site Director Marc O’Donogue, Ph.D., said that Singapore was chosen by AbbVie because of its robust infrastructure, highly educated and skilled workforce and supportive environment for manufacturing industry.

The opening of first phase of its Singapore facility strengthens AbbVie’s manufacturing capabilities and provides geographic balance in AbbVie’s manufacturing network to ensure continuity of supply. In addition, AbbVie has an established research and development (R&D) function in Tokyo, Japan and commercial operations throughout the region.

AbbVie's early-stage pipeline will focus on immunology, oncology, immuno-oncology, multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury and Alzheimer's disease. The expansion provides manufacturing capacity for the emerging compounds within AbbVie’s pipeline in the areas of immunology, oncology and women’s health to serve global markets. It is an important part of AbbVie’s biopharmaceutical manufacturing strategy.

Over the next five years, AbbVie intends to advance the treatment of patients with cancer, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, psoriasis, HCV, endometriosis and uterine fibroids.

Interview with Dr Marc O’Donoghue, Site Director, AbbVie Operations, Singapore

Marc O’Donoghue is Site Director for the Singapore Manufacturing Facility where he has responsibility for all operations on site. Prior to this role, he was Site Director for the Sligo Manufacturing Site in Ireland.

Marc joined AbbVie in 2010 as a Technical Project Leader in Sligo, Ireland. He was subsequently appointed Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) manufacturing manager. In this position, he oversaw the manufacturing validation and launch of AbbVie’s hepatitis C virus treatment as well as the transformation of the API team to supporting round-the-clock manufacturing. In 2014, Marc took on a new role as Technical Operations Manager, covering all key disciplines for both API and drug product support for commercial and pipeline products.

Prior to joining AbbVie, Marc held roles in technical support and operations for Corden Pharmachem and Yamanouchi Pharmaceuticals (now Astellas).

Marc received his PhD in Synthetic Organic Chemistry from the National University of Ireland, Maynooth and was awarded a B.Sc in Analytical Chemistry from Dublin City University.

1. Why Singapore was chosen by AbbVie to base its first manufacturing facility in Asia?

AbbVie’s primary mission is to serve our patients globally. This facility in Singapore gives us the opportunity to reach out to our patients worldwide, allowing us to initiate our footprint in Asia. Singapore has a very strong talent group in the biotech industry and business environment, and thus it is a prime location for AbbVie to start our first footprint in the Asia region.

2. What leads to the decision of shifting manufacturing to Asia, where AbbVie’s manufacturing is primarily in Europe and America?

The move to Asia is due to the aspect of pretty active pipelines within AbbVie. The Asian region also gives us access to tomorrow, which also gives us excess capacity to launch so many more key therapies, enabling us to better serving our patients globally.

3. Are there any differences between the manufacturing facilities in Asia and that in the West or other regions?

No, the requirements for all the AbbVie’s manufacturing facilities in Asia and globally are similar. From the manufacturing perspective, the capability that we have here (Singapore) would be in line with the capability of AbbVie group elsewhere.

4. Please elaborate more on these 2 phases of manufacturing facility.

Sure. Phase I which was happily launched today (29th Sept) is ready to serve small molecules, conventional API & API markers. With a very strong pipeline in both oncology and women health medicines, the launch today will allow us to get those products to market globally. It is not only capable to manufacture the whole compound at large scale, but also delivers some of the key oncology therapeutics which come into the pipelines to the market. AbbVie’s oncology pipelines treat various cancers, chronically leukaemia and some sorts of tumours.

We hope to launch our second phase of AbbVie’s manufacturing facility, i.e. biologics (large molecule) facility in 2018. That will serve the immunological pipeline products to treat immunological and illness for our patients globally.

5. Have you started to operate the first phase of manufacturing facility (i.e. API facility)?

Currently, we are in qualification for some processes. We had started manufacturing within the last months, and we hope to launch one of our products in late 2018.

6. Are there any future plans for AbbVie to build more manufacturing facilities in Asia or in other parts of the world?

We are constantly looking at the volume and capacity within our network. We will review on a yearly basis to assess the needs.

7. Does AbbVie have any collaboration/programme with Singapore Government or academia such as public universities and research institutes?

Yes, we are actively engaged with all the local universities in training and hiring programme including the training for new hires as well. I am engaged with Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) in these programmes and this will help to fill the need/role we will be generating over the next couple of years.

This interview was conducted by APBN editor,
Carmen J.W. Loh.

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