A talent-training programme has been set up to build up Singapore's pool of specialists in the field of biologics, or the science of designing drugs harvested from living cells.

The programme, the result of a collaboration among the Economic Development Board (EDB), the Workforce Development Agency (WDA) and Temasek Polytechnic, aims to set individuals on the path to becoming, for example, manufacturing biotechnologists, quality-assurance and quality-control specialists.

Called the Biologics Overseas Skills Training (Boost), it will complement the WDA's existing Development and Apprenticeship (DNA) programme, which started in 2012.

The EDB and WDA will commit close to $25 million for the two programmes.

Trainees undergoing Boost will undergo the Process Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications (Process WSQ) programme and overseas training at top biologics companies in the United States and Europe.

The programme is to last up to 21 months, with the first batch of trainees starting in July. They will graduate with a WSQ Higher Certificate in Process Technology (Biologics Manufacturing) awarded at the WDA. The programme is expected to benefit 150 Singaporeans and Singapore permanent residents in the next three years.

Meanwhile, the DNA programme is training more than 160 Singaporeans and permanent residents.

The WDA's director for manufacturing and construction, Ang Chai Soon, said Boost will complement DNA by kickstarting trainees' careers in the sector through skills upgrading and real-life work experience.

Boost is being set up on the back of notable investments in the biologics cluster in the last five years: Novartis has invested US$500 million, while Amgen has put in US$200 million, and Abbvie, US$320 million. They bring the number of biologics facilities here to nine. Collectively, the plants represent about $2.7 billion in investments and hire close to 2,000 people.

This industry is expected to grow strongly over the next two to three years, adding between 700 and 1,000 jobs.

Kevin Lai, the EDB's director for biomedical sciences and consumer business, said: "We want to ensure talent with the right skills and experience is available in Singapore to support the continued growth of this cluster."