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AstraZeneca Bets More Chips On China

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

AstraZeneca is investing $100 million more in China over the next three years to build the AstraZeneca Innovation Centre China, an R&D facility to study the benefits of new drugs to Chinese patients. Already one of the most heavily invested in China among big pharma companies, AstraZeneca is further distinguishing itself as the leader there with this new commitment.

The Innovation Centre, expected to open by the end of 2009, will focus on translational science by building knowledge of Chinese patients, biomarkers and genetics. Initially, research there will target cancer, a major cause of death in China. AstraZeneca’s lung cancer drug, Iressa, has proved more effective in Asian patients than it has in Caucasians, and China is becoming an important market for sales…

AstraZeneca had already built a network of marketing and sales offices, a manufacturing site and a clinical research unit in China. It plans to expand its clinical research capabilities and is looking this year to increase the number of scientific collaborations with local Chinese organizations.

The company recently signed a deal worth $14 million with Wuxi Pharmatech for compound collection synthesis and has an existing collaboration with Shanghai Jiao Tong University on the genetics of schizophrenia. The company was the first multinational pharmaceutical company to include China as an area for large-scale international multi-center trials and establish a clinical research center in the country.

To further demonstrate its commitment to being “In China, For China,” AstraZeneca is partnering with government organizations and industry associations to develop academic and management knowledge among medical professionals and hospital executives. It has also initiated a number of programs on disease education and public health.

AstraZeneca’s commitments come at a time when the Chinese government is opening up to collaboration and innovation from abroad. Beijing has made it clear, through its support for the Chinese Biotechnology Center (CBC), that it wants to foster a strong biopharmaceutical community. The new two-million-square-foot CBC is scheduled for completion by the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. The plan is to house key Chinese government agencies as well as biopharmaceutical companies, with a ratio of about 70% to 30% for Western pharma to local Traditional Chinese Medicine companies.

CBC collaborators want to create a center where companies can not only seek advice about intellectual property protection but also share ideas, collaborate, learn about different regulations and generally solve any business problems they may encounter in China. The CBC will also play a major role in helping companies reduce time to commercialization.

The changes in China’s approach to the global pharma community over the past five years have been enormous, allowing companies like AstraZeneca to adapt their businesses from an emerging markets model to one of large, integrated operations serving not just the Chinese market, but the world. Today, AstraZeneca’s unit in China looks a lot like those in the major European markets.

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