With more than 50 years of experience in pharmaceutical manufacturing, Puerto Rico is today a manufacturing base for 11 of the world’s 20 largest pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical companies. However, considering its economic struggles and rising competition both from US states and international manufacturing hubs such as Ireland and Singapore, the island is now attempting to strengthen its pharmaceutical sector even further.
We know that our strategy of bringing new companies to the island is quite aggressive, but it is necessary as it takes time to attract new companies
Manuel Laboy, DEDC & PRIDCO
As Manuel Laboy, secretary of Puerto Rico’s Department of Economic Development and Commerce (DEDC) and executive director of the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company (PRIDCO), told Pharmaboardroom at BIO 2019 in Philadelphia, Puerto Rico’s strategy for remaining a leading player in the industry is based on three pillars.
The first pillar is attracting new companies to invest in Puerto Rico. Laboy explains that the government follows an ambitious plan of attracting two to three companies per year. In 2018, this strategy worked out well, as Puracap Caribe invested USD 7.3 million to expand its facilities in Dorado, while Italian medtech Copan plans to establish a new facility in Aguadilla with an investment of USD 13 million. “We know that our strategy of bringing new companies to the island is quite aggressive, but it is necessary as it takes time to attract new companies,” acknowledged Laboy.
The second pillar of Puerto Rico’s biopharma strategy is retaining the companies that are already present on the island, including global heavyweights such as Amgen, Lilly and AbbVie. Laboy noted that there is, “a great set of existing companies in Puerto Rico and we want to make sure that these companies stay and further grow on the island”.
The third strategic pillar is helping local companies grow, not only to create international pharmaceutical players but also to create a strong middle market of associated industries, strengthening the local supplier industry. This area of the value chain has been neglected by previous governments, but Laboy underlines the ambition of Governor Roselló to make a change. He explained that Puerto Rico wants “to support local companies that can become global players in the bioscience industry, while also helping local ventures in the middle market, supplying these companies”. In the wake of this new wave of support for local enterprises, MBQ Pharma has emerged as the first biotech start-up from Puerto Rico, focusing on metastasis blocking cancer treatments, while receiving funds from government agencies such as PRIDCO.
Overall, Secretary Laboy emphasized the ongoing commitment of Puerto Rico to supporting the pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical industry and its affiliated industries.