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May 1, 2009 (Vol. 29, No. 9)

Emerging Biotechnology Clusters

Experienced Management and VCs and a Serial Entrepreneurial Culture Provide Critical Keys to Success

  • China

    The People’s Republic of China has declared the development of a vibrant biotech industry to be one of its top priorities, and several biotech parks have emerged. Shanghai and Beijing are home to the largest groupings of biotech companies, according to Dr. Frew. Both cities boast good universities.

    “Shanghai is the new center of business and commerce in China, rivaling Hong Kong,” according to Zhu Shen, Ph.D., CEO of BioForesight. The Shanghai Zhangjiang Hi-tech Park, located in the Pudong New Area, is home to more than 3,600 companies focused on life sciences, software, and information technology. Of those, more than 250 are life sciences companies, employing a total of 20,000 life sciences professionals. About half the Park revenues are from life sciences, Dr. Shen adds.

    The Zhangjiang Drug Valley, as that park is nicknamed, has developed 17 square kilometers of the 25 square kilometers within the park. Companies include 7 of the top 10 big pharma companies and more than 110 indigenous CRO or outsourcing firms, novel drug discovery firms, contract manufacturers, and others. Nearby organizations include the Shanghai Institute for Biological Sciences, and Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

    About 80 kilometers west, “Suzhou BioBay is hungrier and more aggressive, and focuses on early-stage and innovative companies,” Dr. Shen says. “Government officials at Suzhou BioBay and at Suzhou Industrial Park tend to be younger, energetic, and well-versed in English and Western-style business operations.” The parks are known for consistent policies, pro-business mentalities, and large private funding networks.

    Beijing is home to numerous government agencies and savvy entrepreneurs who know how to work with government. The Beijing Zhong-guan-cum Life Science Park is one of China’s older biotech parks, Genzyme and Bayer Schering both have announced plans to develop R&D centers there. The Institute of Biotechnology, Beijing Normal University, Peking University, Beijing University, and other universities are located here.

    Although China in general has some cost advantages, thought leaders say they still hear concerns about intellectual property “which is getting better,” Giovanneti points out. As yet the companies and universities are doing discovery research, and clinical trials, but the industry hasn’t yet moved into late-stage research.

  • India

    “There’s been a lot of activity here in public/private partnerships for biotech parks,” Giovannetti says. Overall, the region is still strong in generics, but some innovative companies are coming out of Genome Valley, about 20 miles from Hyderabad, and also from Bangalore. Within the next two to three years, India  expects to have about 27 biotech parks, according to Ernst & Young.

    ICICI Knowledge Park was founded in 2000 on 200 acres of land. It currently is 100% occupied, with 80,000 square feet of wet labs and about 1,400 employees onsite, according to the just-released Ernst & Young study, “Biotechnology Clusters in India”.    Genome Valley also includes the Shapoorji Pallonji Biotech Park with modular wet labs, pilot plants, a business incubation center, and business support facilities. Its 140-acre phase I site is operational, and the phase II site is expected to be completed by 2015.

    Hyderabad is dominated by the generics industry but has some biotech companies that are working on innovative drugs. CROs, including GVK Biosciences, are growing, spanning the gap between discovery and development. Strengths include the University of Hyderabad, which has a strong private partnership culture.

    Biocon anchors the biotech industry in Bangalore. Spin-offs Syngene and Clinigene also are there, as well as the Indian Institute of Science and the Institute for Bioinformatics and Biotech. In addition, “the Biocon CEO has been a driving force for biotechnology in India,” Dr. Frew says.

    “India released a biotech strategic plan last year,” Dr. Frew adds. The plan aims to streamline a confusing and bureaucratic regulatory process and, she says, “signals a willingness to work together.” The downsides to India, as well as any other developing country, Dr. Frew says, are that “tech transfer is a huge barrier,” and capital is in short supply.

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