China, R&D

Latest ranking of top research institutions show China coming on strong — with significant implications for biotech

As China’s biotech industry enjoys exploding growth, there’s fresh evidence that the country’s scientific elite is muscling up the ladder of prestigious institutions around the world.

Nature assembled its closely-watched annual index of research centers around the world, and China continues to hold the top spot, along with an overall second-place finish on academic institutions — behind the US.

Here’s the list of the top 15 institutions overall — based on counts of high-quality research outputs in the previous calendar year — along with a link to the full 500 they tracked this year. 

The Chinese Academy of Sciences made the top spot again this year, while China’s Peking University and Tsinghua University scored in the top 15 academic research institutions. And Xinhua made careful note that Nanjing University along with the University of Science and Technology of China have jumped ahead from last year into the top ranks. 

To be sure, US academic institutions have retained their grip on the top places in academia. Harvard, Stanford, MIT, and Berkeley dominate the top 5, with the University of Tokyo filling the last spot there. 

China, though, now has 16 of the top 100 global academic centers on this list, compared to 11 in 2016.

So what’s the big deal?

The first wave of Chinese biotechs we’ve been seeing are largely in-licensing approved and late-stage drugs from US partners. The business model seems sound. Raise money, hustle up development of a known commodity with clear ideas on trial outlines. Big outfits like Merck and AstraZeneca have also been enjoying a shakeup of the country’s regulatory group, making strides in opening new markets. There’s been one approval of a drug invented in China that I know about as developers everywhere focus on filling the drug gap between the US and China.

But as the science gets better and the pipeline sifts through the first wave of drugs, you’ll start to see more original drug development work, which has been missing. Things are changing fast in China biopharma, and not just because of the financing that’s available.

More change is straight ahead.

Image: Chinese Academy of Sciences HQ Creative Commons

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VP Oncology Biology
Skyhawk Therapeutics Waltham, MA
Associate Director CMC
Elektroki Boston, MA
Director Process Development
Elektroki Boston, MA
Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT

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