The biopharmaceutical industry is driven by novel technologies to a great extent. A study conducted by the Tongji Investment
Institute, based on a survey of over 100 senior Chinese experts, has indicated trends in China's biopharmaceutical technology
development (see the box, "Technology Trends in China).1 These experts were chosen from organizations such as CNBG, the National Human Genomics Institute, the China Disease Prevention
and Control Center, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing Four-rings Biopharma, and Triprime Gene.
Technology Trends in China
Enterprise Development Trends
Chinese biopharmaceutical companies are forming strategic alliances to enhance their overall strength. For example, China's
biopharma giant, CNBG, was formed by merging six major biological product institutes in Beijing, Shanghai, Changchun, Wuhan,
Lanzhou, and Chengdu with two biopharma manufacturers (Beijing Tiantan and Chengdu Rongsheng). The resulting organization
employs 10,000 people across China. On the other hand, small-to-medium sized biotech companies with one or two new products
are collaborating with big companies with strong financial, facilities, and sales network support.
The Chinese central and local governments have built more than 100 biopharmaceutical parks across China. Shanghai Zhangjiang
High-tech Park is a successful example. More than 100 domestic and international biopharmaceutical companies and central research
organizations (CROs) are located there, including Roche, Novartis Biomedical Research Co., Kirin Kunpeng Biopharma, Wuxi Pharma
Tech., Shanghai Lead Discovery. Despite these successes, however, many Chinese high-tech parks continue to have a high vacancy
rate and are well below capacity.
Increasing R&D investment and establishing product pipelines
Chinese biopharmaceutical companies are becoming aware of the need for R&D investment and are actively seeking sources of
funding for product R&D. Several biopharmaceutical organizations are attempting to establish effective technology platforms
to meet the needs a range of needs in upstream R&D, pilot experiments, and clinical studies, and downstream production. For
example, Shenyang Sunshine Pharma, which insisted on investing 10% of its sales income on new product R&D, has been rewarded
by the successful development of rh TPO, EPO, and other profitable products.
More international collaboration
With a growing number of overseas Chinese returning to China and taking important positions in Chinese biopharmaceutical companies
and institutes, international collaborations are playing an increasingly important role in the community. This has become
an important trend in the industry.
Development of mammalian cell culture
Most of the world's best-selling biopharmaceuticals use mammalian cell culture technology platforms. In China, however, many
manufacturers still rely on less expensive E. coli technology platforms in production. Relatively few products are produced through mammalian cell expression. It is likely
that Chinese biopharmaceutical companies that manage high-efficiency mammalian cell expression technology and scale-up cultivation
technologies will be rewarded in the domestic market.2
WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITIES
Over the next 15 years, China is projected to become one of the world's major biopharmaceutical players, along with the US,
Europe, and Japan. Now that China has opened its window to the world, its biopharmaceutical industry will see more opportunities.
To succeed, Chinese biopharmaceutical companies must foster innovation, collaborate with the world's leading biopharmaceutical
enterprises, and strengthen their technologies by integrating domestic and foreign resources. To the extent that Chinese biopharmaceutical
organizations follow this approach, they will become a major force in the world biopharmaceutical markets.
Eliza Yibing Zhou is project director for research programs on China and India at BioPlan Associates Inc., 301.921.9074, firstname.lastname@example.org