By: 永久浪客/Forever Vagabond

ST reported today that Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis is moving its key research facility, Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases (NITD), out of Singapore.

It will be moved to California next year as part of “a broader global strategic plan”, said Novartis.

Novartis’ infectious diseases research headquarters is in California. It wanted NITD to be sited close to its research HQ.

“Moving the NITD is really intended to empower the research through the strength of collaborative proximity,” added Novartis.

NITD was set up as a public-private partnership between Novartis and EDB in 2002. Since then, it has grown to more than 100 researchers and supporting staff. “As a major center of excellence for drug discovery, NITD will offer exceptional teaching and training opportunities for post-doctoral fellows and graduate students,” its website said.

The EDB said it is working closely with Novartis to assist affected staff. EDB tried to assure the public, saying that other global pharmaceutical companies are still doing research here in Singapore. Biomedical manufacturing has also grown consistently, it added.

EDB’s incentives ran out?

Novartis was among the first to move into biomedical hub Biopolis when it was opened in 2004.

At the time, Financial Times reported that Singapore had offered large incentives to lure Novartis into Singapore (‘Singapore incentives lure Novartis to set up big drugs plant‘).

FT reported that the Singapore government had sought to attract global drug makers with a US$1.8 billion programme that includes research financing, start-up capital, tax breaks and new facilities.

When approached by FT, Novartis CEO, would not disclose how much of the US$1.8 billion perks it was receiving from EDB to open a new plant and NITD. He would only said that Novartis had selected Singapore because of its research infrastruture like Biopolis and political stability.

FT also reported that NITD, together with the research institutes of Eli Lilly and Viacell, are partly supported by government grants.

It’s not known if part of the reasons for Novartis to move NITD back to California is because it no longer receives further EDB incentives.