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Pharma perfect match for China's new forces

Takeda applauds nation's improved biz, high-tech environment

By ZHENG YIRAN | China Daily | Updated: 2024-04-02 09:23
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Takeda Pharmaceutical's booth at the fifth CIIE. [Photo/VCG]

Acknowledging China's vision of cultivating new quality productive forces, Takeda Pharmaceutical Co Ltd remains upbeat about the Chinese market, aiming to further invest in the country, said its top executive.

Christophe Weber, CEO of Takeda, said that China's pursuit of new quality productive forces, which features innovation and high-end technology, happens to perfectly match the company's vision, which positions itself as a global research and development-driven digital biopharmaceutical company.

"China is one of the most strategically important markets for Takeda. Our biggest revenue comes from the United States, but our strongest growth comes from China," he said.

Christophe Weber

He noted that in past years, the Chinese government has been giving priority to the development of the healthcare industry, and laying emphasis on enhancing drug accessibility.

"We have seen a huge modernization of the pharmaceutical market, with many more innovative medicines being approved and reimbursed."

As this year marks the 30th anniversary of Takeda China, the company said the number of innovative products introduced to the Chinese market in the past five years exceeded that in the previous 25 years.

Apart from the improved business environment, Weber also spoke highly of the progress made in pharmaceutical innovation in China, noting that the change was "significant".

A few years ago, he said, the majority of Chinese biotech firms focused on biosimilars and slightly improved molecules, which contained relatively low R&D value compared to innovative drugs. But today Chinese companies are moving toward more innovative drugs.

"I have seen a very significant improvement in terms of the innovation, and I am pretty sure it will lead to more and more partnerships with Chinese biotechs," he said.

In 2023, Takeda partnered with Shanghai-based Hutchmed, gaining the commercial rights to colorectal cancer drug fruquintinib outside of China for $400 million upfront, plus $730 million in potential milestone payments.

"This collaboration was the first time that we were bringing molecules designed and developed in China to the rest of the world. The example signals that China's innovation is moving up," Weber added.

Since the start of the decade, big pharma companies from Europe and the United States have descended on China to get in on the country's biotech boom.

On Jan 2, Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche reached an agreement with Suzhou, Jiangsu province-based biopharmaceutical company MediLink Therapeutics. The agreement, which focuses on the cooperative R&D of an innovative product targeting solid tumors, is the third agreement within the past two years in which Roche has inked a deal with innovative Chinese companies.

In October, British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca reached an agreement on clinical research with Jiangsu province-based biopharmaceutical company Ascentage Pharma. The clinical research focuses on lymphatic diseases.

Zheng Shanjie, head of the National Development and Reform Commission, has said previously that China has been stepping up efforts to meet growing market demand with its stable manufacturing supply chains, and provides huge business opportunities for investors from home and abroad.

He noted that with China's pursuit of new quality productive forces, the NDRC will constantly carry out practical measures, especially in the sectors of life sciences, high-end manufacturing, and digital technologies, to facilitate companies in doing businesses in China.

Weber added: "The Chinese government has been committed to creating an open environment for multinational corporations. I think that China wants to leverage the new quality productive forces to move to a different level of innovation-based economy. The pharmaceutical industry fits perfectly with this vision. We never reduce our investment in China."

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