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AstraZeneca launches $1bn Chinese investment fund

AZ is among the top investors in the country with a strong market presence

AstraZeneca building

AstraZeneca is already reaping the benefits of a strong presence in China, but plans to expand that further with the help of a new $1bn fund to invest in healthcare start-ups.

The Healthcare Industrial Fund, set up with and led by investment bank China International Capital Corporation (CICC), will focus initially on companies at the Wuxi International Life Science Innovation Campus, which AZ helped to set up.

As the world’s second-largest healthcare market after the US, China has been a target for many big pharma companies, and AstraZeneca is already among the multinational drug industry’s top investors in the country having been building its presence there for more than 25 years.

The strategy is clearly paying off, with AZ reporting a 40% increase in revenues in China in the third quarter to $1.2bn, fuelled by the launch of new cancer medicines such as Tagrisso (osimertinib) that targets a form of lung cancer prevalent in Asian populations.

The new fund will marry CICC’s financial muscle and local expertise with AZ’s ability to identify promising new research programmes.

The announcement of the new investment fund is just one way AZ hopes to tap into China’s fast-growing pharma sector, which has been benefitting from regulatory reforms that allow new drugs to be brought to market – and secure reimbursement – much more quickly than in the past.

Two new R&D centres

It’s also setting up two new R&D facilities in Shanghai, plus five regional headquarters around China to spearhead commercial operations.

One global R&D centre will focus on developing therapies for diseases prevalent in China, and will more than double the number of researchers working in the country to around 1,000.

The other is an artificial intelligence (AI) innovation centre that will work on digital healthcare tech and also seek out partnerships with local start-ups and technology firms.

At the same time, AZ has just announced a partnership with Sun Pharma that will see AZ distribute some of the Indian drugmaker’s cancer drugs in China, including speciality and generic products, over a ten-year period, and has agreed licensing deals for three early-stage cancer drugs with Chinese biotech firms.

AZ has bolstered its oncology pipeline with a KIT inhibitor for gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GIST) from Ningbo Tai King Medical Technology – now called AZD3229 – and an ERK 1/2 inhibitor for RAS/MAPK pathway mutant cancers from Antengene (AZD0364). Abbisko is providing AZD4547, an FGFR inhibitor for FGFR-driven cancers.

The new ventures were all announced at the China International Import Expo (CIIE), which is taking place in Shanghai this week.

Article by
Phil Taylor

6th November 2019

From: Sales

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