GlaxoSmithKline and Singapore Partner in Green Manufacturing

GlaxoSmithKline and the Singapore Economic Development Board team in advancing sustainable pharmaceutical manufacturing.
May 04, 2011

Green manufacturing is an important component for any company’s sustainability objectives. The sector-specific nature of manufacturing, however, means that developing environmentally favored manufacturing also requires an understanding of the processes, production methods, and related issues unique for a given industry. To facilitate that process, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) formed a 10-year, S$33-million ($28-million) partnership in July 2010 for green and sustainable manufacturing. Singapore is a hub for pharmaceutical manufacturing with many multinational pharmaceutical companies having operations in that country, and the partnership seeks to advance green manufacturing in the pharmaceutical and related industries, such as fine chemicals. Patricia Van Arnum, senior editor of Pharmaceutical Technology and editor of Pharmaceutical Technology’s Sourcing and Management, spoke with Beh Kian Teik, director of biomedical sciences at Singapore’s EDB to discuss the strategy and implementation of the partnership.

PharmTech: What was the rationale for the GSK–Singapore Partnership for Green and Sustainable Manufacturing? Why did the parties have a specific interest in developing projects for green pharmaceutical manufacturing? Had GSK and the Singapore EDB worked on similar projects previously?

Singapore EDB: GSK has had a presence in Singapore since 1959 when Glaxo first set up a small sales office in Singapore. In the ensuing five decades, the partnership has grown into a hub for research and development (R&D), manufacturing, and commercial operations, representing an estimated S$1.5 billion ($1.2 billion) in investments and over 1000 employees. The collaboration on green and sustainable manufacturing began in June 2009 with the announcement of the GSK–Singapore 10-year Strategic Roadmap, which charts GSK’s growth strategy in Singapore and in Asia. Nested within the Strategic Roadmap was a joint gift of S$50 million ($41 million) from GSK and Singapore, forming the GSK–EDB Trust Fund, which is dedicated to capability-building in the frontier areas of green manufacturing and healthcare policy in Asia.

The GSK–Singapore partnership is one underpinned by the building of talent. In the same spirit as the most recent gift, Glaxo gifted a S$50-million ($41-million) human resource fund in 1990 that has sponsored the training of more than 300 EDB scholars and several Glaxo employees through an EDB–Glaxo scholarship. The Green and Sustainable Manufacturing Partnership with GSK reinforces Singapore’s commitment to build future-ready technical capabilities and a research talent base in sustainable manufacturing processes in both the pharmaceuticals and specialty-chemicals sectors.

Sustainability is an important component of GSK’s activities and is widely supported by GSK senior management. In 2009, GSK CEO Andrew Witty said that GSK would increase its 2015 global mass-efficiency target from 2.0% to 2.5% (compared with an industry average of 0.5 to 1%). [Mass efficiency is a green-chemistry performance metric to aid in process design and development by measuring the efficiency of converting raw materials to product.] This goal joins an already extensive list of ongoing 2010 targets, originally set in 2006 by GSK, to reduce emissions, cut energy and water use, and improve research and development’s (R&D) material efficiency. For Singapore, Witty announced that GSK’s manufacturing flagship site in Asia (i.e., GSK Jurong) would achieve two ambitious goals in sustainability: it would be the Sustainable Factory of the Future and it would partner with Singapore to build the pool of local green and sustainable manufacturing talent.

GSK Jurong was awarded the 2008 MAXA Excellence in Environmental Management award, Singapore’s top accolade for manufacturing excellence, for the company’s approach toward energy and waste management as well as its efforts in measuring its environmental activities. In 2010, GSK Jurong also was one of the 49 pioneering companies with the National Environment Agency’s new Energy-Efficiency National Partnership, which was established to drive Singapore’s climate-change and environmental targets set at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which was held in Copenhagen in 2009.

To achieve sustainability in its operations and processes, some programs that GSK is embarking on are solvent recovery and the conversion of certain waste streams into energy and byproducts that are inputs to other processes. Some of the solvents recovered also are used in other industries, such as the coatings and paint industries.

PharmTech: Can you outline the funding for the partnership and the type of projects that the funding will target?

Singapore EBD: The GSK–Singapore Green and Sustainable Manufacturing Partnership is committed to an estimated S$33 ($28 million) million over 10 years. Funding is dedicated to annual calls for proposals in problem-statement areas drawn up by GSK around the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry, an industry standard framework that characterizes some of the most pressing problems the industry faces. This program has currently awarded eight principal investigators and is in the midst of evaluating responses from the second call for proposals. The second round of awardees is expected to be announced in July 2011 during a scientific symposium organized around the partnership.

The second call for proposals was open in the following problem-statement areas:
• Chemical transformations
• Biotransformations
• Physical transformations
• Unit-operation selection and optimization
• Controls selection and optimization
• Equipment and technology selection
• Solvent and reagent selection
• Recovery and reuse
• Waste treatment and minimization
• Facilities and supply-chain management
• Life-cycle analysis.

PharmTech: The partnership has already awarded funding to eight principal investigators at the Institute of Chemical and Engineering Sciences, Nanyang Technology University, and National University of Singapore. Can you provide further details on these research projects?

Singapore EDB: The following proposals have received funding from the GSK–Singapore Green and Sustainable Manufacturing Partnership:
• Two proposals for the development of green and efficient methods for amide synthesis to reduce production costs and waste generation
• Research to enable oxidation processes to potentially eliminate the use of heavy metals and other chemicals that require controlled waste-disposal conditions
• Development of new sustainable methods of producing chemical structures common in fine chemicals and pharmaceuticals to minimize or eliminate use of hazardous reagents and waste generation and to improve production efficiency
• Development of new technologies essential in improved bioreactor design and cell immobilization to enhance the rate of biotransformation and to ensure sustainability through minimal use of petrochemicals
• Development of green, selective, and efficient biotransformations for the production of pharmaceuticals and fine chemicals to improve production efficiency, avoid the use of hazardous reagents/catalysts, reduce the formation of byproducts, minimize waste generation, and save production energy
• Development of stable and more water-soluble forms for pharmaceutical products to potentially reduce the amount of drug needed for patients and therefore reduce the amount of materials and energy required in their production
• Development of single-step crystallization processes for fine chemicals, pharmaceuticals, food products, and cosmetics to reduce the need for postproduction refinement of product.

PharmTech: Is the project work directed specifically at GSK facilities in Singapore or will the work apply to pharmaceutical manufacturing overall or in a specific area, such as active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) manufacturing or finished-product manufacturing?

Singapore EDB: Project work is directed not only at GSK facilities in Singapore. In fact, each awarded principal investigator will have an active GSK mentor to guide the industrial applicability of research outcomes. The GSK–Singapore Green and Sustainable Manufacturing Partnership also has convened an industrial advisory group that is comprised of representatives from companies in the fine-chemicals, consumer goods, and process-technologies sectors to provide additional input into the development of the problem statements to broaden the work’s applicability to other related industries.

PharmTech: Does the Singapore EDB have other such green manufacturing partnerships with other pharmaceutical companies or fine-chemical companies?

Singapore EBD: No, the Singapore EDB does not currently have other such partnerships with other companies.

PharmTech: Are there overall green-manufacturing incentives or facilitation that the Singapore EDB or the Singapore government provides to encourage companies to invest in green manufacturing? Any specific programs for the pharmaceutical industry?

Singapore EBD: At the national level, Singapore has a number of programs focused on developing innovative solutions to support sustainable development. Areas under sustainable development include reducing carbon emissions, exploring biorenewables, and improving energy efficiency. For example, the S$1-billion ($810-million) National Innovation Challenge is aimed at developing cost-competitive energy solutions that can be deployed within 20 years.

PharmTech: Will the research and advances from the GSK–Singapore partnership be available to GSK only or will it be shared or made available to other pharmaceutical companies that operate in the region?

Singapore EDB: Any intellectual property derived from the project will belong to the institution of the awarded principal investigator and not to GSK.