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Shanghai eyes biopharma for 'quality growth'

He Wei
Updated: Oct 13,2021 09:07 AM    China Daily

Shanghai debuted International Biopharma Industry Week on Oct 11 as it trained its sights on building a world-class biopharmaceutical industry cluster in the city.

The four-day event, which runs through Oct 14, is a synopsis of the city's efforts to make biopharma a $1.2 trillion ($185.6 billion) business by 2025 and a key driver of what local authorities call "quality economic growth".

The 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) period is a crucial stage for Shanghai to build a world-class biopharma industrial cluster, Mayor Gong Zheng said in addressing the opening ceremony. He called for advanced planning, favorable system and policy support along with deepened resource integration to vault Shanghai to the forefront of the global biopharma landscape.

Through some 20 events, the Industry Week is scheduled to bring together global pharmaceutical giants, domestic startups, investment institutions and research entities to discuss the latest industry trends and opportunities for investment and cooperation.

German pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim pledged to be a co-building partner of the cluster by adopting the contract development manufacturing model, a common way to outsource drug development and manufacturing.

"A healthy contract development manufacturing organization (CDMO) industry can help multinational pharma companies manufacture innovative medicines on a local basis, which will bring enormous benefits in terms of accessibility and affordability for Chinese patients," Felix Gutsche, president and CEO of Boehringer Ingelheim China, said in a keynote speech on Oct 11.

The key to building a leading industry cluster lies in originality and innovation, said Li Jia, head of the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. "It requires the government to pave the way to foster innovation, such as how to link opportune social capital with industrial zones," he said.

Laekna Therapeutics, a startup focusing on developing therapies to treat cancer and liver diseases, is expected to submit its first new drug application in the near future in both China and the United States, said Chris Lu, Laekna's founder and CEO.

"We've already noticed this policy shift from 'license-in' and repeated development to favoring indigenous innovation and R&D capabilities," said Lu, who had been engaged in the Chinese and US biopharma markets before starting the business in Shanghai. "We are aiming for first-in-class and best-in-class drugs."

Lu said he is heartened to be able to attend such a high-profile conference at home without the hassle of long-distance travel: "Via Industry Week, what I look forward to most is to be able to conduct various business negotiations and seek opportunities for business and financing cooperation and academic exchanges. By its nature, biomedicine is a knowledge and capital-intensive industry."

Shanghai is now home to 18 of the top 20 global pharmaceutical companies and 17 of the top 20 medical equipment companies. They have flocked here to set up their China headquarters, R&D centers or manufacturing bases, according to the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Economy and Informatization.

To become a top biopharma hub, it is crucial to have this "cluster and density of customers and solution providers", said Thomas Herget, head of China and Silicon Valley Innovation Hubs at Merck, which will open its Merck Shanghai Innovation Base on Oct 14.

"Now, China's intellectual property protection is more enforced and has a better regulatory environment," Herget said. "All these make us an investor more confident to work with Chinese governments, companies and the academia."

Shanghai's biopharma market size reached 350 billion yuan in the first half, up 22.8 percent year-on-year, the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Economy and Informatization said.

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