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Pfizer earmarks $350m for first Asian biotech facility

US pharma giant looks to tap into China’s pharmaceuticals market
China

Pfizer has said it plans to build its first biotechnology hub in Asia, with the facility in Hangzhou, China, due to open for business in 2018.

The company has set aside a $350m budget for the Pfizer Global Biotechnology Center, which will help spearhead its expansion into China and the wider Asian region.

Like many of its peers, the US pharma giant wants to tap into China's huge pharmaceuticals market, which despite a slowdown in recent years is still outperforming mature markets such as the US and Europe with a 12% increase to $109bn last year, according to data from BMI Research. 

In a statement, the head of Pfizer essential medicines division - John Young - said the new facility will "help support China's aim to increase the complexity and value of its manufacturing sector by 2025".

The move comes against a backdrop of considerable change in the regulatory environment in China - including sweeping changes to rules governing the manufacture of medicines as well as new rules to expand access to medicines.

There are still obstacles in the Chinese market - enforced price controls on drugs and long and uncertain new drug approval times for example - but these are offset by a growing chronic illness burden, rising incomes and expanding universal healthcare.

Pfizer chief executive Ian Read told the Bernstein Annual Strategic Decisions Conference earlier this month that China's price controls will be offset "not completely, but substantially, by increased volumes".

BMI has predicted that the overall healthcare market will rise from $640bn last year to $1.86trn by 2024. For Pfizer, the new facility will be used to make new biologics as well as its pipeline of biosimilar drugs, which were acquired along with Hospira last year.

"We are encouraged by a series of important reforms introduced by the Chinese government that will further stimulate the industry to meet emerging health challenges, such as the rising incidence of non-communicable diseases and an aging population," continued Young.

The policy changes are starting to attract "both domestic and foreign investment in healthcare and R&D," he added.

In keeping with current trends in the manufacture of biologics, the new facility will be a flexible, modular unit that will make use of disposable bioprocessing technologies that speed up construction times and reduce costs. It is expected to employ around 150 people when running at full capacity.

Article by
Phil Taylor

28th June 2016

From: Sales

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