SINGAPORE -- German pharmaceutical company BioNTech plans to set up a vaccine manufacturing facility in Singapore as early as 2023 to meet future demand in Southeast Asia, the company announced Monday.
BioNTech will invest "hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars" in the new facility, which it said would produce a range of messenger-RNA vaccines and therapeutics for infectious diseases as well as cancer. Company CEO Ugur Sahin did not specify during a press briefing that the Singapore facility will be used to produce COVID-19 vaccines.
The facility is meant to "provide a rapid response capability for Southeast Asia against potential future pandemic threats," according to BioNTech.
Construction of the factory will start this year, and up to 80 jobs will be created when operation begins, the company said.
In China, BioNTech will establish a joint venture with a unit of Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group, for the local production and commercialization of its COVID-19 vaccine, the Chinese company announced last week. BioNTech and Fosun Pharma will each provide up to $100 million of capital into the joint venture.
Last December, Singapore became the first country in Asia to approve the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech. The city-state, which has also approved the Moderna vaccine, is ahead of many other countries in the region in terms of vaccination, with 23% of its population having taken at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine as of mid April, according to Our World in Data site.
With the vaccination rate in many other Southeast Asian countries still low, regional production could help hasten governments' inoculation drives.
Singapore, as a regional financial and business hub, has been attracting investment from value-added manufacturing such as pharmaceutical companies and semiconductor producers, by capitalizing on its well-developed infrastructure and business-friendly regulations.
Exports of Singapore's pharmaceutical products have grown since the pandemic. Singapore's Changi Airport has also played a role as a regional distribution hub for COVID-19 vaccines by building up its cold-storage capacity.
BioNTech is starting to expand its footprint in Asia, spurred on by the pandemic. BioNTech's revenue grew more than fourfold last year to 482 million euros ($586 million) for a net profit of 15 million euros, compared with a net loss of 179 million euros in 2019.
Singapore will be the company's Southeast Asian headquarters, BioNTech said on Monday.