Date: 30 Sep 2009

Singapore Biopolis: Bare Life in the City-State


In late 2003, the Singaporean government launched Biopolis, a life sciences technopole that brings key Singaporean biomedical research institutes together with global and local biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies and governance bodies. The government has allocated generous funding to a range of biomedical research at Biopolis and adjacent academic and clinical institutes. Its stated aim is to make Singapore the Biopolis of Asia, the premier life sciences hub in a region where several much more populous states, notably China, India, and South Korea, are rapidly scaling up public investment in regenerative medicine and genomics. This paper will tease out what is at stake in the creation of Biopolis for the Singaporean state and population and what it can tell us about South East Asian governmentality and its bioeconomic and biopolitical aspirations and anxieties. In particular the paper engages with the implicit utopian vision of a regenerative bioeconomy evident in the Biopolis project. Biopolis is a site which brings together local and imported scientific expertise with the biological productivity of the multi-ethnic Singaporean population, who are understood as surrogates for the SE Asian population more generally. The ultimate aim of Biopolis, I argue, is to recalibrate the relationships between the biological and political life of the Singaporean population, and secure the economic future of the city-state, through the advanced research and development of Asia-specific medical biotechnology.