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Med-tech of China gaining popularity

Updated: May 16, 2024 By ZHOU WENTING in Shanghai China Daily Print
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AstraZeneca, a United Kingdom-headquartered pharmaceutical company, showcases its cutting-edge products and solutions at the sixth China International Import Expo. [Photo/China Daily]

AstraZeneca exec: Chinese medical innovations benefit patients globally

While taking strides to go global, China's medical technology sector has shown signs of overtaking and leading the world in some fields, such as cell therapy, gene editing, various medical equipment and certain cancer treatments, said a senior executive of a multinational pharmaceutical company.

A large proportion of the business in these areas is in overseas markets, said Leon Wang, executive vice-president, international and China unit president at AstraZeneca, during a media interview at the seventh AstraZeneca China Ecosystem Conference, which wrapped up in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, on Saturday.

According to AstraZeneca, the company has proactively promoted two-way exchanges and cooperation in the global health innovation ecosystem to link market opportunities around the globe over the past few years. More than 130 innovative Chinese enterprises have been involved in such initiatives of the company since 2023.

"Also, developing nations have a strong demand for medical technology from China. Although some such domestic innovations are still a bit homogeneous, they are a rarity in some other developing countries," said Wang during the conference that attracted nearly 100 foreign guests.

"So we organize local enterprises to expand business in many other developing countries so as to truly realize that Chinese medical innovations benefit patients around the world," he added.

China is a base for developing country markets for AstraZeneca. Wang said that reality gives the company an edge in understanding such markets well and knowing which countries to begin with when Chinese enterprises kick off their plans to go global.

"We usually recommend they begin with big countries that are also very friendly to China. Many such countries, such as Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Mexico, have populations of over 100 million, which translates into substantial market demand," he said.

For example, Amoy Diagnostics Co Ltd, or AmoyDx, based in Xiamen, Fujian province, and founded in 2008, has joined hands with AstraZeneca for a decade. The latter has supported the export of AmoyDx's products, including those used in gene mutation tests and nucleic acid extraction, to more than 50 countries and regions.

Since 2020, AstraZeneca has also supported the products of AmoyDx to enter 32 oncology-related molecular diagnostic laboratories in 16 countries and regions.

Currently, AmoyDx is collaborating with AstraZeneca in the development of oncology diagnostic methods for several cancer types, including lung cancer, ovarian cancer and prostate cancer.

Industry insiders expect that the enthusiasm for domestic innovative therapies to go overseas will continue this year.

According to data in the public domain, as of the end of April, there had been 25 foreign licensing projects for domestic innovative drugs, a 56 percent year-on-year increase, and total cumulative transactions exceeded $10 billion. The 25 projects involved multiple areas, such as antibodies and antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) drugs, a newly emerging class of highly potent pharmaceutical therapies, usually for treating cancer.

Ding Sheng, director of the Beijing-based Global Health Drug Discovery Institute, said the reason that China-developed ADC drugs are favored by multinational pharmaceutical companies is the increased domestic policy support for research and development and innovation as well as the rising R&D strength of domestic enterprises.

"Although domestic R&D of ADC drugs started late, the technology of domestic players in this sector has caught up quickly, and is currently almost no different from advanced international levels," he said.

During the conference themed "Accelerating health innovation, deepening global partnership" in Wuxi, AstraZeneca and five Wuxi-based local innovative biomedical enterprises released a collaborative overseas plan for this year. The initiative is aimed at assisting the enterprises to facilitate cross-border cooperation and exchanges in pharmaceutical innovation.

Also, AstraZeneca and an international medical research center in Saudi Arabia announced they would further promote in-depth cooperation between China and the Middle Eastern nation in the fields of medicine and healthcare. The two sides will bring the experience of China's medical innovation to drive the development of Saudi Arabia's life sciences industry. Also, this will accelerate the expansion of innovative Chinese enterprises in the broader Middle East via Saudi Arabia.

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