AstraZeneca highlights importance of partnerships at ChinaBio’s Partnering Forum 2011

Thursday, 26 May 2011

We will see our R&D presence in China, Asia and the emerging markets continue to grow and expand in the future. To achieve this we will adopt a multi-faceted approached to R&D partnering and will increase our collaborations not only here in China but across Asia

Steve Yang

Head of R&D, Asia & Emerging Markets

The recent ChinaBio Partnering Forum in Shanghai, China saw Dr Steve Yang, AstraZeneca’s Head of R&D, Asia & Emerging Markets participate in the plenary discussion at the two-day meeting along with other senior industry R&D leaders.

The discussion, which took place for over one hour ‘live’ on stage in front of approximately 600 delegates including potential business development partners, government officials, other healthcare providers and the media, saw Steve share his experiences of R&D partnering in China as well as outlining key components of AstraZeneca’s R&D strategy for Asia and the emerging markets.

The burden of disease in Asia

Asia has significant unmet medical needs, mainly driven by diseases most prevalent in Asia and the rising prevalence of chronic diseases.

  • According to a 2010 report in The New England Journal of Medicine, Asia Pacific is expected be home to more than 60% of the 380 million diabetes cases globally by 2025
  • India and China have the highest number of diabetes cases worldwide
  • More than 92 million adults in China now have diabetes, making China the diabetes capital of the world
  • India follows second, with an estimated 50 million diabetes cases – up from 28 million in 2007
  • Stomach and liver cancer are more prevalent in Asian people
  • More than half of newly diagnosed stomach cancers arise from East Asia
  • Over 75% of world’s liver cancer patients are in this region

The health challenges ahead for China and Asia are huge with significant disease burdens to tackle (see column on the right).

“We aim to discover and develop new drugs specifically designed for Asian people and for diseases that are more prevalent in this part of the world. We’ll do this both through our own internal efforts and through partnering with leading medical and scientific partners that are here for us to tap-into,” commented Steve. “Ultimately, we want patients in this part of the world to benefit from our existing products and to make sure that any new products we’re developing consider their unmet medical needs,” he added.

“One of our specific approaches will be to leverage what we’ve learnt around partnering and innovation in places like China - where we have a long established presence - in other emerging markets. Every year we enter into hundreds of collaborations worldwide and in the last three years alone, we’ve sealed more than 80 significant deals which were individually designed to meet the needs of our partners and ourselves. I see this number continuing to grow for AstraZeneca R&D across the emerging markets.”

Video from ChinaBio’s Partnering Forum 2011

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Dr Steve Yang, our Vice-President and Head of R&D for Asia, shares his experience of partnering in China, the world’s second largest pharmaceutical market, and talks about our overall R&D strategy in Asia.

Questions and Answers with Steve Yang

Where do you see innovative opportunities in China and Asia for AstraZeneca?

We see those opportunities coming from three fronts: the world-class talent pools we can tap into, by being physically close enough to external partners to meaningfully collaborate with them and by being focused on the specific diseases that are important to patients in China and the rest of Asia.

What is your partnering strategy for China?

A central plank of our global R&D strategy – not just in China and Asia – is to collaborate with highly talented, ’best-in-class’ external academic and medical institutions that have complimentary, in-depth expertise. We fully recognise that adopting a more collaborative approach to R&D helps us achieve more than we ever could alone and as such, we always aim to collaborate based on a "win-win" principle.

How do you see your presence in China five years from now?

Our investments in China and more broadly, in Asia, are set to continue. I can’t stress enough that this is clearly based on our belief that the talent in this part of the world can drive innovation for us and also that it is in Asia and the so-called emerging markets where the industry will experience significant growth. Using China as a specific example, the growth of its pharmaceutical market is on a scale we don’t see anywhere else. In 2004, it was worth $10 billion. Within five years, it tripled. China is now the fifth largest market worldwide worth $30 billion with growth rates projected to exceed 20% annually. The fact that it is estimated to be an $80 billion market by 2014 and will be ranked only behind the United States and Japan is incredible.

What other strategies is AstraZeneca using to encourage and access Chinese innovation?

Collaborations with the best external institutions, recruiting and retaining the best talent and working on a truly international basis internally are the pillars of our approach. That applies equally to China as it does for other parts of the world where we have R&D operations with innovation always being at the core of whatever we do.

How is AstraZeneca approaching the differing growth opportunities of the China and Global pharma markets?

From an R&D point of view we’ve certainly identified Asia and China as being important parts of our global network, alongside other emerging markets such as Brazil, India and Russia.

In terms of overall, worldwide growth we believe we’re well positioned for success and to make a real difference as our portfolio and R&D focus are both well matched to meet medical needs across therapy areas such as cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, oncology, infection, neuroscience, respiratory and inflammation. These cover some of the world's most serious illnesses and represent major worldwide disease burdens such as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and Type 2 diabetes.

From an Asian and China perspective, in addition to those diseases which we’ve already identified as being more prevalent in this region such as lung, gastric and liver cnacers, there’s also a marked increase in diseases that are typically viewed as being endemic in the West such as diabetes. The New England Journal of Medicine expects that the Asia Pacific region will be home to more than 60% of the 380 million diabetes cases globally by 2025 with India and China have the highest number of diabetes cases worldwide. These are truly staggering figures and even now more than 92 million adults in China have diabetes, making it the diabetes capital of the world. India follows second, with an estimated 50 million cases – up from 28 million in 2007. Again, our portfolio and research focus are well aligned to address this and other significant burdens affecting Asian people.