Puerto Rico Builds a Foundation for Biopharmaceuticals - Pharmaceutical Technology

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Puerto Rico Builds a Foundation for Biopharmaceuticals
Puerto Rico, long a mainstay of solid-dosage manufacturing, intensifies efforts in biopharmaceutical manufacturing and research and development.


Pharmaceutical Technology
Volume 6, Issue 34

R&D investment. Puerto Rico is also building its position in biopharmaceutical development, which includes providing the infrastructure and related support network for incubator companies as part of a development plan for Science City, which would be part of the Puerto Rico Knowledge-Base Economy Cluster in San Juan. The plan for Science City involves the addition of mixed-used development, which includes commercial laboratory space, residential housing, and infrastructure improvements to attract emerging pharmaceutical and research-based companies. The goal of the project is to create educational and research campuses with commercial laboratories for science-based research, including drug R&D such as cancer research, as well as to provide a platform for incubator companies and related research companies, according to the Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust, a nonprofit focused on increasing research and the commercialization of technology in Puerto Rico. The trust, which was founded in 2004, receives support from the government of Puerto Rico, which included the transfer of approximately 70 acres for Science City.

The Knowledge-Based Economy Cluster Corridor will be made of more than 2000 acres and include a mix of public and private private properties, including several medical and research facilities. These include: the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) at Rio Piedras; the University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences campus; the San Juan Medical Center; the University of Puerto Rico Botanical Gardens; the Puerto Rico Cancer Center, a partnership between UPR and the MD Anderson Cancer Center (Houston), which involves clinical research; the Biomolecular Sciences Laboratory; and Science City. The Biomolecular Sciences Laboratory, which will conduct molecular research, including life-science molecule research, is currently under construction and is scheduled to be completed later this year.

Biopharmaceutical manufacturing. Puerto Rico is also seeking to strengthen its biopharmaceutical manufacturing base. Since 2003, companies have invested approximately $4 billion in biomanufacturing assets, according to PRIDCO's Vázquez. In 2008, with funding from PRIDCO, UPR at Mayaguez, and the US Department of Commerce, a Bioprocess Training and Development Center opened in Mayaguez. The facility provides local companies with training facilities and technical support. It includes bioprocess research laboratories, microbial and mammalian cell-culture suites, purification capabilities, and bioanalytical and biochemical characterization laboratories.

Building the supply chain. Puerto Rico is also seeking to diversify its life-science base by attracting suppliers and companies involved in the pharmaceutical supply chain. "We are also focusing on the pharmaceutical supply chain by responding to pharmaceutical companies to source locally or for near offshore outsourcing," says Vázquez. "As part of that effort, we will look to incubate new companies from the island as well as bring in supply-chain companies," he says. In 2009, UPS, through its Healthcare Logistics business, opened a new 150,000-ft2 FDA-regulated facility in San Juan. The facility provides validated warehousing, distribution, and sampling facilities and allows for the expansion for cold-chain storage. The facility, which is part of 26 facilities in UPS's global healthcare logistics operations, serves as a strategic distribution point for the Americas region, including the United States, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean, explains Juan Colón, healthcare logistics manager for UPS.

Sharing current and future goals

The efforts being made by PRIDCO to diversify its manufacturing base is shared by the Pharmaceutical Industry Association of Puerto Rico (PIA-PR). PIA-PR consists of 18 research-based multinational pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies with manufacturing operations in Puerto Rico. PIA-PR includes representation from Abbott, Amgen, Bristol-Myers Squibb (New York), Eli Lilly, J&J, GlaxoSmithKline (London), Merck Sharp & Dohme, part of Merck & Co. (Whitehouse Station, NJ), Novartis (Basel, Switzerland), and Pfizer.

Listen to the podcast with Javier Vazquez, executive director of the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company, the economic development arm of Puerto Rico about the region's pharmaceutical manufacturing sector.


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