BioWorld International Correspondent

SYDNEY, Australia - A major bid by the government of Singapore to become preeminent in biotechnology through a S$500 million (US$285 million) development called a Biopolis is nearing completion.

Several buildings already have been completed, including a vast purpose-built vivarium to house 250,000 mice, with the official opening scheduled for October. Major government institutes and private companies plan to move into the seven buildings totaling 185,000 square meters (2 million square feet) later this year.

But for scientists around the world the most impressive part of Biopolis is the list of names that have been attracted to the center by one means or another.

On top of the list given by government officials is Alan Colman, the British scientist who led the team that successfully cloned Dolly the sheep. Other scientists nominated by officials include Edison Liu from the National Cancer Institute in the U.S. and Yoshiaki Ito, a former director of the Institute of Virus at the University of Kyoto in Japan.

Colman is scientific director of ES Cell International, a post he took up last year. A spokeswomen for ES Cell in Australia confirmed that Colman is now based in Singapore working in the company's existing facilities. Those facilities will be transferred to the Biopolis later this year.

Singaporean officials estimate that, fully occupied, the Biopolis will host 2,000 scientists.

But the Biopolis itself is just part of a large development to be spread over 200 hectares outside of Singapore that will include a "Technopolis" and a "Mediapolis" - all designed to help Singaporean industry reinvent itself. The city-state is losing much of its staple electronics industry to China and its residents now cost as much to hire as workers in Western countries.