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Health collaborations 'more important now than ever'

By BO LEUNG in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-12-15 11:09
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Interest in medical collaborations between the United Kingdom and China is still strong and needed more now than ever because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, according to the founder of Beyond Lab, a medical and healthcare platform.

Luke Zhou founded Beyond Lab in 2014 with the aim of building a trusted platform to help Chinese and UK healthcare companies find finance and investment.

The company is headquartered in London, with branches in Cambridge and Edinburgh, and an office in Shanghai, China.

Zhou said: "The COVID-19 pandemic is a global challenge, and so needs a global solution. We believe science has no borders, so I do hope China and the UK can work closer together to beat the novel coronavirus, but not just stop at that, also diseases such as diabetes, antimicrobial resistance, and also cancer."

The pandemic has not stopped Beyond Lab from engaging with others in the industry and the company has continued to highlight the importance of UK and China working together, he said.

Last month, it held the 2020 Overseas Medical and Healthcare Project Meeting, an online event from the Wuhan Conference Center, with around 60 experts from the UK medical and healthcare sector and representatives of the Chinese enterprises taking part.

In the last two to three years, Chinese investment in the UK has remained very strong. In 2019, Chinese investors contributed more than $8 billion to the UK compared with just over $6 billion in 2018, Zhou said.

Trade between the two countries also reached a record high in 2019.According to the Office for National Statistics, the UK exported more than $30 billion worth of products to the Chinese market and China was the UK's fourth-largest source of imports.

Although COVID-19 has dominated the year and halted a lot of businesses and ventures, Zhou said interest between the UK and China has continued and many deals have been done between the two.

Earlier this year, Chinese company Tencent co-invested with Cambridge-based company Congenica. The Chinese technology giant also invested in Oxford Nanopore, a biotech group that is developing rapid tests for COVID-19.

"The two countries can learn a lot from each other and also benefit a lot from each other. Traditionally, the UK is remarkable at science and innovation… now the COVID-19 vaccine has been developed and the clinical trial almost completed at The Jenner Institute at Oxford University and Astra-Zeneca," Zhou said, noting that, in China, scientists and doctors are also making significant breakthroughs in developing the vaccine.

He said the Chinese market is one of the biggest for healthcare, and Chinese scientists publish the most papers in the healthcare sector and have applied for the most patents.

"I think there is a lot of clinical research which could be shared from both sides and work together for greater achievements," Zhou said. "While the pandemic is a big challenge, I believe it is also a great opportunity for medical research, scientific research, and not just the knowledge we will generate but trying to find a cure and diagnostics too, as well as the way we work in the healthcare sector."

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