Business / Industries

Healthcare's next frontier

By ALFRED ROMANN (China Daily) Updated: 2014-06-23 07:01

Many of these multinationals are looking for companies with products they can buy. And a lot of these products are being developed in Asia.

"The industry is increasingly looking to find new products to replace the blockbusters that are being lost," said Parexel's Bridges.

A major challenge the Asian industry has struggled to overcome is innovation. A growing biotech industry requires innovation or it is relegated to making copies of the products created and patented elsewhere. And in Asia, for reasons that defy experts, that innovation has been hard to come by.

India is a case in point. Throughout the 1990s, India became a world leader in the development of chemical drugs.

But just about every drug that came out of the country was a copy, known as generic drugs.

Generics helped lower the price of drugs around the world but, according to Yusuf Hamied, chairman of Mumbai-based generics maker Cipla, India was in no position to develop a new drug.

Still, the global pharmaceutical industry is increasingly looking to the East.

Over the next few years, big biotech is going to continually be looking to Asia. They appreciate the research talent in this part of the world," says Billy Cho, director of healthcare for Asia Pacific at Citibank. Cho, an investment banker, says the next wave of mergers and acquisitions in the biotech industry is likely to happen in Asia, in part because of the growth of the industry and because most of the companies in the West up for grabs have already been acquired.

The largest biotechnology companies in the world are now as big as the largest multinational pharmaceutical companies-giant organizations that control much the world's market.

Gilead, for example, is now worth $122 billion by market capitalization, up from $47 billion in 2009. Another US company, Biogen Idec Inc, grew 390 percent in five years to $68 billion.

"What you see today is that these biotech companies are getting close to big pharma size," says Cho. "There has been a lot of M&A activity recently. It is pretty clear that M&A is back," he says.

And it is happening right here.

As Bridges points out: "The landscape is shifting and it is shifting towards Asia."

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