AstraZeneca top executive: New medicines from China will benefit the world

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, October 30, 2022
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Leon Wang, executive vice president, international and China president at AstraZeneca, shared his insights and faith in the Chinese market, believing China will contribute greatly to the world's medical development and benefit humanity.

A photo of Leon Wang, executive vice president, international and China president at AstraZeneca. [Photo courtesy of AstraZeneca]

AstraZeneca will again take part in the upcoming fifth China International Import Expo (CIIE) from Nov. 5-10 in Shanghai, with one of the largest booths covering 1,000 square meters. Wang said on Thursday, during an online conference, that the expo is a great platform and China is a huge market for drug development. "CIIE is exploring Chinese consumption capabilities to help the world economy and build a human community with a shared future, and the sound development of China's economy will benefit the whole world."

According to Wang, AstraZeneca is paying more attention to China, establishing regional headquarters in Beijing, Chengdu, Hangzhou, Wuxi, and Guangzhou, with another in Qingdao, Shandong province on the way. The company also set up a global R&D center in Shanghai.

"We will not only bring great medicine products from all over the world to China but also bring Chinese innovations and medicines to the world," Wang noted, revealing that AstraZeneca is working on developing new and innovative medicines in China through in-house R&D and collaboration. For example, Orpathys, an anti-tumor drug and the first China-developed MET inhibitor, made its debut at the CIIE last year. The drug continues to undergo clinical studies around the world to explore opportunities for its marketing in other countries and regions. 

At this year's CIIE, AstraZeneca will also introduce multiple global innovative drugs, including Soliris, Evusheld (not yet approved in mainland China), as well as Calquence and Enhertu (both of which have not yet been approved in China).

In terms of innovations, after recent contact with many Chinese scientists, Wang said they are very close to winning a Nobel Prize. He also believes that innovations in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) can also help the world, which is a cause they will promote.

He pointed out that with the central government's great support, the potential for growth in China is huge, and it has become one of the biggest medicine and healthcare markets in the world. For AstraZeneca itself, its total sales in China in 2021 were nearly $6.01 billion. "After the realization of a moderately prosperous society in all respects, China has moved from the management of many major diseases to the management of chronic diseases. Many serious diseases have gone from incurable to treatable and can enter the rehabilitation stage," Wang said.

The top executive also mentioned another outstanding feature of Chinese market: China is also one of the most developed places in the supply-chain manufacturing industry in the world. A large proportion of pharmaceutical-related raw materials in the world are made in China. For example, by 2021, Wuxi Biologics produced about 50% of the active ingredients used in AstraZeneca's COVID-19 COVAX vaccine, supporting the supply of about 468 million doses worldwide.

For the upcoming CIIE, Leon Wang said the company would also pay more attention to China's supply chain and manufacturing bases. They will announce the launch of a manufacturing and supply base for inhalation aerosols in Qingdao with an investment of $450 million. Their global production of injected and infused Nexium products will be integrated into its Wuxi supply base, which will also invest 100 million yuan to introduce a new Lokelma production line. 

"AstraZeneca has constantly increased its investment in China's manufacturing industry, and we also value China's supply chain guarantee under the new normal of the pandemic. With the support of local governments, AstraZeneca has maintained an unimpeded supply chain and sees a very highly efficient Chinese manufacturing industry."

Unlike other medicine trade conferences and expos, Wang sees the CIIE as a wider international platform and looks to use the event to find a wider audience and attract more Chinese and foreign partners, related enterprises, and local governments, and also learn of developments and seek cooperation in other fields such as artificial intelligence, e-commerce, and other digital sectors. 

Thanks to the CIIE, AstraZeneca's current internationalized health innovation ecosystem has begun to take shape, launching the China Commercial Innovation Center (CCiC), the International Life Science Innovation Campus (iCampus), and the Healthcare Industrial Fund. By the end of 2021, the CCiC and its partners had jointly created a number of innovative solutions for whole-course disease management implemented in thousands of hospitals across the country, with some solutions going abroad to benefit patients worldwide. At the same time, more than 60 enterprises at home and abroad have settled on the iCampus. After working with the China International Capital Corporation (CICC), and through cooperation with local governments, AstraZeneca launched its medical fund in 2020. By September 2022, the fund has managed over 3 billion yuan and has supported more than 10 medical innovation enterprises. The second round of fundraising is currently underway. 

"We felt so assured and supported when we saw how local governments try to attract and keep foreign investments with their measures and policies," Wang said, "Our supply bases in Wuxi and Taizhou not only support China but also supply about 70 countries and regions around the world. We believe that China will certainly be self-sufficient in future supply. And, I think, if you are a multinational enterprise that values the Chinese market, you have to take root in China, put your supply chain in China, and bring the world's production capacity and manufacturing sectors to China."

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