China, Venture

AstraZeneca teams with China-owned fund to launch a new biopharma drug development company

AstraZeneca is partnering up with a government-owned private equity group in China to create a new joint venture biopharma that will be charged with developing new drugs for the booming Asian market.

For its part, the London-based giant has offered jobs to all staffers at its Innovation Center China in Shanghai, with previous ICC head Xiaolin Zhang taking over the new venture — dubbed Dizal Pharmaceutical. As of now the JV has 90 staffers, a spokesperson for AstraZeneca tells me, with the “vast majority” of the ICC employees signing up for the new venture.

The Chinese Future Industry Investment Fund managed by the China State Development & Investment Corporation will fund the joint venture, which starts out with development rights to three preclinical programs with plans to add more experimental meds to the mix.

Pascal Soriot

That’s a small initial pipeline for a company that has been operating in China since 1993, building an organization covering R&D, manufacturing and sales with 11,000 staffers. But Dizal has big plans as China’s communist government revamps its drug development rules with an eye to ramping up industry activities. China represents one of the big growth markets globally for AstraZeneca, and CEO Pascal Soriot is gambling that a locally backed outfit can make faster headway.

Just a few weeks ago Soriot boasted about the double-digit sales growth the company has been seeing in China, which he expects can be sustained for several years to come.

The new move also removes some of the burn rate for AstraZeneca’s R&D group at a time the pharma giant has been pushing ahead on several fronts, with notable successes on the cancer side of the business.

Soriot had this to say in a prepared statement:

AstraZeneca has a long-standing and strong commitment to China, which we are reinforcing today with this ground-breaking joint venture. By joining forces with the FIIF, we aim to accelerate the local discovery and development of innovative, affordable medicines for patients in China and around the world.

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