Looking for 'external innovation,' Boehringer Ingelheim reserves $500M+ for new Shanghai hub
Now that Boehringer Ingelheim’s bet on contract manufacturing in China has paid off, the German drugmaker is anteing up more to get into the research game.
Boehringer has set aside $507.9 million (€451 million) for a new External Innovation Hub to be built in Shanghai over five years. The site will become one of its “strategic pillars” as the team strives to get 71 approvals — either for new products or indications — by 2030, said Felix Gutsche, president and CEO of Boehringer Ingelheim China.
“Boehringer Ingelheim aims to seize the opportunity to become the preferred partner in the innovation ecosystem in China’s biopharma industry,” Weiyi Zhang, head of the innovation hub, told Shanghai Daily.
The new unit will serve as an umbrella for certain existing divisions such as collaborations, business development and licensing, as well as venture activities, the paper noted.
As regulatory reforms lighten the burden for foreign drugmakers to score approvals in China, Boehringer has begun to incorporate Chinese sites in all its global early-stage programs. At the same time, the flourishing local biotech scene also makes for fertile soil to nurture new discoveries and foster development.
Boehringer was one of the first contract manufacturers to sign up for a pilot scheme when Chinese regulators loosened their rules to stop demanding that a drug’s owner also produce it. In the beginning of this year, it made history when BeiGene landed an OK for its PD-1 tislelizumab, putting Boehringer’s Shanghai facility to use.
Just weeks ago Boehringer unveiled a €3 million plan to open a branch of its digital lab, BI X, in Shanghai — the first outside Germany and only the second in the world.
The team of 20 there will dedicate themselves to understanding the particular needs of Chinese patients and customers, whom they say have “high digital capabilities.”
“The COVID-19 situation has highlighted the importance of digital services, and our latest digital initiative hopes to integrate all the methodology and technology with real business needs,” Gutsche said in an interview with Shanghai Daily. “China is the first market to see business rebound after the coronavirus outbreak, and we’ve seen improvement in the second-quarter business performance.”