Thursday, March 04, 2010

“Ascendant”: where we are with China life science

I arrived yesterday in Shanghai for several business meetings to explore the pharma and biotech market here — from basic research to new brand launch.

According to Greg B. Scott, executive editor of ChinaBio® Today, the life science market situation in China can be described as “ascendant.”

Mr. Scott presented an overview of ChinaBio’s research into the China life science landscape. He assessed the tremendous opportunities currently available in China for life science companies and presented statistics showing the huge growth in China’s life science sector over the past few years.

At the core, he said, is the value proposition that China offers to the world’s pharmaceutical community: the combination of low cost and high quality work.

Added to that is what’s being called the Hai Gui or “sea turtles” phenomenon – meaning China-born scientists who have profited from Western education and pharma experience are now bring that knowledge back to China. According to the Ministry of Health, there have been 150,000 returnees in the last three years. A factor for several years, the Hai Gui trend continues to grow: 69,300 returnees were counted in 2009, a 69% increase over the year earlier.

China is driven to innovate, with government incentives for those companies that explore new technologies. This resulted in 717,000 patent applications in 2008, an increase of 22%.

Globally, China is helped by a more vibrant economy than most other countries.  At the same time, big pharma is restructuring by doing more partnering deals to spread its R&D risk. That results in more R&D dollars available to small biopharmas with interesting research programs.

Life science parks located around China are vying with each other to entice companies to locate operations in their facilities. The major parks are Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park in Shanghai (pictured in the photo above), Zhongguancun Life Science Park in Beijing, BioBay in Suzhou, and TEDA in Tianjin, and they are joined by smaller parks as well as incubators, which together number more than 50.

Clinical trials show robust activity. From 2004 to 2009:
  • 149 drugs were in SFDA trials;
  • 110 new drugs entered the clinic;
  • 26 new drugs launched (9 novel molecules);
  • 7 new drugs entered and launched;
  • 122 new drugs are currently in clinical trials; and
  • 187 new drugs are in preclinical development;
  • 12 new drugs entered the clinic and 3 new drugs were launched in 2009

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