Chinese opportunity for big pharma
CHINA’S AGEING population, rising wealth and growing urbanisation means the pharmaceutical and life sciences sector is facing the kind of issues that western multinationals have been dealing with for the last quarter century.
This signals opportunity for many western pharma companies which are trying to deal with sluggish development pipelines, growing competition from generic drug makers and a wave of imminent patent expirations.
“China is immensely filled with potential,” said Nick Beckett, who is head of the life sciences team at CMS Cameron McKenna, and has just relocated to Beijing.
Beckett, who led the Takeda/Nycomed deal last year, where the Japanese drug maker bought Nycomed of Switzerland for €9.6 billion, believes China is a particularly attractive destination for mergers and acquisitions for European and US drug makers.
“It’s a prime location for companies looking to diversify their pipelines and make up for any shortfall,” he said.
While there were concerns about issues such as intellectual property, Beckett said things were changing. “The fear is sometimes too high for the actual threat risk. There is a genuine attempt to change. Compliance and corruption are big issues, but they are being addressed.”
The government is taking corruption in this area seriously. In 2007, China executed Zheng Xiaoyu, the former head of the country’s food and drug administration for taking bribes.
Some Irish universities have taken advantage of the opportunities on offer. Professors Shen Sanbing and Tim O’Brien at NUI Galway have developed partnerships for the Regenerative Medicine Institute in the area of regenerative medicine and life sciences with a number of research institutes in China, including Shanghai Jiaotong University, which has more than 10 affiliated hospitals in Shanghai, and with Fourth Medical Military University Hospitals in Xi’an, considered to be one of the top three medical universities in China.