Asian pharmaceutical and health care students and professionals who are hoping to acquire some specialized training have much to look forward to. Come early 2003, they will not need to travel all the way to Europe or the United States for that training. That's when the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE; see box) will begin delivering its world-class courses, which currently are only available in the United States and Western Europe, to interested individuals right here in Singapore. The new ISPE regional training hub--the first of its kind in Asia--is set to open its doors in February with a course on Good Manufacturing Practice.

ISPE also plans to start its first Student Chapter in Singapore in 2003 and will be opening its membership to students at that time. "ISPE supports the efforts of the Singapore educational system to provide better education and training support for the biomedical hub," says Roberto Gardellin (pictured above), president of ISPE's Singapore affiliate. "The students of today are the professionals and the managing directors of tomorrow," he adds. ISPE has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Singapore Polytechnic and is working out a curriculum for training technical pharmaceutical professionals.

About ISPE

ISPE is one of the world's most comprehensive providers of pharmaceutical and other health care technology-based training. ISPE courses, which are already well recognized in Europe and the United States, offer individuals at all stages of their careers opportunities for life-long learning. Targeted to various levels, each of these courses is composed of individual learning modules that align with the trainee's career focus. The modules are designed to be continuous from one area to the next, with overlap to allow for transition between areas.

As the biotechnology industry in Asia--and Singapore's own biomedical sector--continue to grow and as Singapore increases its investment in drug development, ISPE's move into the professional education and training of the pharmaceutical workforce is most timely. There is an urgent need to train more technical workers in this discipline. Gardellin notes that the biomedical industries in Singapore are going to need large numbers of highly skilled professionals to fuel continued growth over the coming years. By 2004, he says, six drug production plants, employing a total of 800 highly skilled workers, will be in operation. "We want to support the training and development of the professionals required by this dramatic increase in throughput and help the growth of local R&D companies," he declares. Highlighting the need to invest more in professional training and development, Gardellin stresses, "you can have the best plant in the world, but if you don't have the right people, you won't be able to produce consistently good pharmaceuticals."

Singapore was chosen to be ISPE's regional training hub largely because of its strategic location, good infrastructure, and ample facilities. "Singapore is a single flight away from any place in Asia. It is well provided with logistics for organizing large training programs and conferences, and we will try to leverage that," explains Gardellin. The ISPE training hub is therefore expected to play an important role in workforce training and development across the region. In fact, ISPE's Singapore affiliate already has almost 400 members, 250 of which are in Singapore with the remainder hailing from the Philippines, Thailand, India, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

The Singapore training hub is set to save local and regional businesses, as well as individuals, a great deal of money by bringing down the costs associated with training. "Pharmaceutical companies here often have to send their staff to the United States for training. You spend about $1000 for the training and $10,000 for logistics, and your staff have to take an average 1 week away for a 2-day course," states Gardellin. "But with the training conducted here, you could get more training for the same amount of money and train many more people." ISPE members might save even more, because they are entitled to special privileges and benefits.

Indeed, for smaller businesses--and particularly for individuals--the costs associated with overseas training have often been prohibitive. But with the training now available regionally, access to the world-class education and training that ISPE delivers will come into the means of most people in the region. "This is a terrific savings for us," says Derrick Tan, a manager in a local firm who has spent no small amount of his company's funds to train staff on similar courses overseas. "It underscores how much an established pharmaceutical training provider such as ISPE could do for Singapore and the rest of Asia," he points out.