China has a $1.45B plan to build up its biotech hubs — and officials are moving fast

When the Chinese government sets its sights on a 5-year business development plan, you can always be sure that officials are willing to invest heavily in infrastructure to make things happen.

And they don’t waste time.

Earlier this week, Zhang Zhaofeng, a director of social development in China’s Ministry of Science and Technology (appropriately abbreviated to MOST) was quoted extensively in China’s media with his outline of a plan to build 10 to 20 new biotech research centers in the country — by 2020.

The People’s Daily put the price tag on that as 10 billion RMB ($1.45 billion). And drug research will be mixed with ag biotech and environmental sciences.

There are some problems that the country wants to address in biotech, including a shortage of original R&D work, too few disruptive plays (same thing) and a problem with execution. But the country says it’s second in the world on patents and published papers, so with some assistance from the government, Zhang believes the country is on the right path.

There’s no question that the amount of biotech news out of Shanghai and other biotech hubs in China is swelling. Just a couple of months ago BeiGene announced plans to build a $330 million facility in China, with government economic development officials chipping in the lion’s share of the money.

About the same time Richard Wang, the former site chief for GSK in Shanghai, took the CEO’s job at Fosun Kite, a joint venture established by Kite Pharma and Shanghai Fosun to advance Kite’s CAR-T $KITE to the market. And Shanghai-based Chi-Med scored positive overall survival and progression-free survival in a Phase III study of fruquintinib, its lead oncology drug, in colon cancer, putting it on track with Eli Lilly to seek marketing approval in China.

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