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Domestic biopharmaceutical companies will have strong presence globally

By Zhou Wenting in Shanghai | | Updated: 2021-08-16 17:36
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A researcher works at Antengene Corp's new drug discovery center in Zhangjiang, Shanghai. [Photo provided to]

Innovative, research and development-driven domestic biopharmaceutical companies are expected to have a strong presence in the global market over the upcoming decade with their first-in-class pipeline, persuasive quality, and down-to-earth international expansion footprints, industry experts said.

Some of these businesses, which have risen rapidly in recent years owing to the accumulating decades of clinical trial experience, the country's streamlined medical regulatory mechanism and an ecosystem encouraging vibrant innovations under the Healthy China 2030 Initiative, may even secure places in the world's first echelon in this frontier sector, according to experts.

"Some powerful Chinese enterprises are already equipped with the skill sets to address unmet medical needs not only for the Chinese patients but also for those around the world," said Jay Mei, founder of Shanghai-headquartered Antengene Corporation Ltd.

"We've already seen that some medicines first discovered or developed in China and with clinical trials initiated in China and other markets simultaneously are benefiting international patients. I'm convinced that more will come," said Mei, who is also chairman and CEO of the company dedicated to therapeutics in hematology and oncology.

On July 29, the company's oral drug Selinexor, which works in a mechanism different from all the existing approved therapies, was approved in South Korea, the first overseas market in Asia, to treat relapsed/refractory multiple myeloma and relapsed/refractory diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.

The drug, the company's first product, had obtained approvals from the United States Food and Drug Administration initially in 2019, followed by Israel, the United Kingdom and the European Union.

Besides South Korea, the company also submitted new drug approvals of the therapy in five other markets - the Chinese mainland, Australia, Singapore, and China's Hong Kong and Taiwan – over the past eight months.

Mei said the enterprise, established in 2017 and a pipeline of 13 products, was initiated with a strategy of being rooted in China and expanding to Asia Pacific and beyond.

"Our development in South Korea was the result of full preparations. We have a team in that country. They are locals, mostly with global pharmaceutical company experience and having profound understanding of the market and regulatory system," he said.

Industry experts said such high-speed growth medical research results from China are a result of more than 15 years of accumulation in new drug development experience, conducting clinical trials and a talent reservoir.

Mei said he believes that the young generation of talent will play a key role in China's rise in the biotech field on the world stage as they are highly open-minded, receptive to new products and ideas, and internationally-oriented.

"Within our company, we hope to cultivate the next generation of innovative drug developers and help them thrive to be future industry leaders," he said.

The increasing capability of Chinese biopharmaceutical companies will probably bring in more medical solutions to diseases that are more common in Chinese and Asians compared to westerners, Mei said.

Most drugs, if not all, developed over the past decades were from the western enterprises, and diseases that are more common among Asians used to be not thoroughly studied, experts said.

"Now the Chinese companies have the strength and it's time to change," Mei said.

He added that although some multinational companies are working on R&D programs focusing on Chinese patients' needs as well, their local counterparts will have an absolute advantage in efficiency of decision making.

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