Traditional Chinese Medicine
Novartis’ (www.novartis.com) CEO, Daniel Vasella, has been bullish not only about the opportunities in China as a major operating base for pharmaceutical MNCs, but also as a major market for its products. In a manner analogous to AZ, Novartis follows an integrated strategy with six major investment projects, including the $83 million drug-production facility in Changsu, East China. The company also recently moved toward doubling the size of the existing Changping plant in Beijing.
Novartis is building a $100 million R&D center in the Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park in Shanghai. The center will initially focus its research on diseases particularly common in China (e.g., esophageal and liver cancer, hepatitis B and C).
“The Shanghai center will allow us to combine modern drug discovery approaches with those of traditional Chinese medicine that have been used to treat patients in China for thousands of years,” Vasella says. “The Shanghai center has the potential to become a global center for biomedical innovation.”
Novartis’ effort on drug discovery based on Traditional Chinese Medicines (TCM) is in line with its collaborative research with the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica, projects with the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and the Kunming Institute of Botany, as well as a contract with WuXI Pharmatech. The company also created a China Learning Center that provides business training to senior managers. The program is provided by the International MBA program at Beijing University and staff from Novartis China.
Novo Nordisk (www.novonordisk.com) created Novo Nordisk (China) Pharmaceutical through a joint venture with Suzhou Hongda Group (www.chinasuhongda.com). The company has a factory for enzymes and a second plant in Tianjin. It also established a $10 million research and development center in Beijing with a focus on diabetes, which is a serious and growing problem in China. Novo Nordisk works with the Ministry of Health on educational campaigns.
Pfizer (www.pfizer.com) made a major investment of $500 million in China with production facilities in Dalian, Suzhou, and Wuxi. Its Pfizer China Regional Headquarters is located in Shanghai along with its investment arm, Pfizer Investment. Pfizer plans to launch 15 novel products in China, three times the number from the past five years. Pfizer also established its R&D center in Shanghai with a budget of $25 million over three years.
The Center is responsible for study design, data management, and analysis for global clinical trials. In addition, it will provide training in good clinical practices for its staff. Pfizer also had a landmark intellectual property case for its major drug, Viagra. Chinese authorities rejected its patent application.
Roche (www.roche.com) is the other Swiss MNC that has a major commitment to its China operations. Roche China Investments serves as its financial arm and four companies cover its principal businesses: pharmaceuticals, diagnostics, vitamins, and flavors and fragrances. Two of its manufacturing plants are located in Shanghai. A significant proportion of their operations involves joint ventures with Chinese firms. Roche has invested $11 million in creating a research and development center in Shanghai that is focused on medicinal chemistry. Another important research area is genetic epidemiology in the Chinese population.
Servier (www.servier.com) is the largest independent French pharmaceutical company and was an early foreign presence in China. It set up a joint venture manufacturing plant with the Tianjin Huajin Pharmaceutical company in Tianjin. In 2001, Servier established a research and development company in Beijing with the objective of treating diabetes, cancer, and cerebral aging by taking advantage of TCM formulations and running clinical trials that are integrated into Servier’s global network.