China, UK Biotech

A week of UK deals exemplifies China’s growing role in global biotech investment

We’ve reported about the biotech boom in China for a while now: both the domestic market for new drugs, and innovative therapies primed to come out of the country. But there’s more to that story, as China plants flags globally through investments. Just ask the UK.

During Theresa May’s three-day visit in China last week, the British prime minister’s team seized the opportunity to enlist Chinese support for UK biotech. Deals were signed: Chinese investors will infuse $1.3 billion in two British venture capital firms for their life science investments; new buildings will spring up at Cambridge Science Park thanks to a $277 million (£200 million) joint venture between Cambridge’s Trinity College and Tus Park, a branch of prestigious TsingHua University.

Future Planet Capital and Eight Great Technologies, the British VC firms involved in the funding agreement, are both relatively new firms looking to invest in local companies, with the help of top scientists and universities in the country. Per the MOU, Shenzhen Qianhai Sunflower Financial Service and an offshoot of China Construction Bank will invest an initial $476 million.

“These agreements are just the beginning of a long process to ensure that investments are made profitably,” Douglas Hansen-Luke, executive chairman of Future Planet, told the South China Morning Post.

And then there’s the joint venture at Cambridge Research Park, which blueprints the development of a Biohub catering to early-stage health care companies — one of five office and research buildings totalling 350,000 square feet. The collaboration will also bring TsingHua and Cambridge scientists together for academic exchanges.

Perhaps signally its recognition of China’s rise, the UK BioIndustry Association (BIA) has launched a special interest group aiming at sharing knowledge and experiences in expanding business with China.

“The regulatory system is moving and realigning with the rest of the world, which is why now is the time to engage with Chinese companies and investors,” noted the BIA blog.

British Prime Minister Theresa May and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands before their talks at the Diaoyutai state guesthouse in Beijing on Feb. 1, 2018 Kyodo via AP Images

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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