The Rise of China ‘s Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Industry

The Rise of China ‘s Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Industry

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) conference, the biggest global annual event of cancer research, is considered as the “Super Bowl” of the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry. Every year, people from all over the world come here to showcase their most promising clinical trial data to the public, no matter they are major pharma giants or biotech start-ups. Meanwhile, all the industry investors are watching closely, in an attempt to weed out mediocre performers and find the future superstars among them.
Nanjing Legend Biotech, an unknown firm from China, attracted a great amount of attention during this meeting, showing that their CAR-T candidate can be a safe and effective therapy for relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma. In a clinical trial involving 35 patients with recurrent or drug-resistant multiple myeloma, the objective response rate has reached 100%.

“Their data is very impressive.” Commented by Brad Loncar, a well-known independent investor in the field of oncology. “Tumor immunotherapy is a tough sector to compete in. Nanjing Legend Biotech has proved that they are at the forefront of cancer research.” he continued.

Nanjing Legend biotech is only a microcosm of China’s rapidly rising pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry. Undoubtedly in the next decade, a slew of biopharma and biotech start-ups like it will begin to emerge.

This is primarily fueled by the launch of the “Thousand Talents Program”; it has introduced a large number of talented people who have received academic training overseas back to China in the past ten years, leading to the accumulation of knowledge and insights, which in turn results in the surge of several key industries in China, including tech, pharmaceutical, etc.

Adding to it, CFDA has carried out a series of drastic reforms to drive research forward into pharmacology and biotechnology, with the goal of discovering novel therapies. In the wake of this phenomenon, a host of scientific campus begins to pop up in the major metropolitan areas, encouraging the flourish of biotech and biopharma start-ups.

Riding on this steady upward trend, a large amount of national and international capital began to influx into the Chinese pharmaceutical and biotechnology field. At present, it is the second largest market in the world; this is far from its full potential. It is predicted that by 2020 the Chinese market will double its size in 2015, amounting to a total of $167 billion.

A round of good changes, especially in the local eco-systems, has also come along.

First, an increasing number of Chinese firms began to seek strategic partnerships with pharma companies overseas, such as Merck (MSD), Eli Lilly, Tesaro, Incyte, etc, to collaborate on the discovery and development of innovative medications. A famous example is the co-development of Niraparib between the Chinese Zai Lab and the American drugmarker Tesaro.

Second, a slew of investors has jumped on board to back Chinese biopharma and biotech start-ups. In the past year, a range of funding events has happened. CStone Pharmaceuticals has received $150 million A round financing; Innovent Biologics has completed a D round with $260 million; WuXi Apptec has finished a series B financing of $75 million. Undoubtedly, this vibrant atmosphere of innovation and investment will spur the development of China’s domestic biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry even further.

Third, an increasing number of talents begin to come back to China, leading to the accumulation of knowledge and insights. “Talent is a very important success factor for the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry.” Noted by Dr. Wang Jian, co-founder and the senior managing director of OrbiMed Asia. “The Thousands Talent Program” has brought in tremendous benefits, given rising to the blossom of China’s biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry, as it continuously attracts more and more scholars and professionals abroad. Our talent pool will become even more substantial.” He continued.

Dr. Wang has received his Ph.D. from Columbia University and an MBA from Stanford University. Undoubtedly, talents like him, who understand the world’s leading process of new drug development, are constantly enriching China’s investment community, the pharmaceutical industry, and life science academia.

In summary

At present, China is gradually getting rid of its name as the copycat country and begin to move into a leadership position of the innovative medication discovery.

To name a few, BeiGene has started a worldwide phase 3 clinical trial for its new drug BGB-3111. Hua Medicine recently launched the first glucose kinase activator single drug phase 3 clinical trial in the globe. Its co-development with Chi-Med, a novel colorectal cancer drug Fruquintinib, has met all the major endpoints, as well as the secondary endpoints, in Phase 3 clinical trials. Recently, it was submitted to the CFDA for a listing application. These innovative achievements in China’s pharmaceutical market are very promising.

Undeniably, there is still a great amount of challenges ahead for the rising Chinese biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry. But in this golden age, China’s rich resources, capitals, and talents, for sure one day, will bring China to the forefront of the world, benefiting patients across the globe.

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