AstraZeneca leveraging therapy area strengths of emerging markets

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

In a series of articles on emerging markets innovation (Nature Reviews Drug Discovery in Sept 2014; Nature Reviews Drug Discovery in Jan 2015; Drug Discovery Today in July 2015), my co-authors and I have attempted to understand the relative strengths of innovation across emerging markets, specific bioclusters in these markets and how AstraZeneca is pursuing scientific leadership in these geographies. In the latest article in this series, published in Nature Review Drug Discovery in August 2015, my co-authors and I studied these markets at a more granular level to understand the therapeutic area expertise for key countries. We evaluated China, S Korea, India, Brazil, Russia, Turkey, Poland and S Africa across prominent therapy areas of oncology, infection, neuroscience, cardiovascular, metabolic, respiratory and autoimmune diseases using parameters such as publications, clinical trials and innovative biotech companies per therapy area per country.

Using the data for key parameters in our methodology, China and S Korea demonstrate strengths in oncology, S Africa and Brazil in infectious diseases, and India demonstrates a diverse distribution across areas such as oncology, metabolic, infection and cardiovascular, while countries such as Russia, Turkey and Poland are still lagging in specific therapy area expertise.

For us at AstraZeneca, we are committed to achieving scientific leadership in our main areas of oncology; cardiovascular and metabolic disease (CVMD); and respiratory, inflammation and autoimmune (RIA) diseases; and are strategically leveraging the therapy and disease area expertise of specific emerging markets.

First, consider China, which in our study shows a disproportionately high focus on oncology. Our internal research unit, Asia IMED, based in Shanghai recently delivered its first locally discovered clinical program in cancer to the global AstraZeneca portfolio. AstraZeneca’s co-development partnership with Hutchison Medi-Pharma for cancer candidate Savolitinib was a pioneering collaboration between a multinational pharma company and a local Chinese innovative biotech, and Savolitinib is currently in mid-late stage clinical studies in US and China. Similarly, in S Korea, which also shows significant strength in oncology, we launched a cancer basket trial in gastric tumours with the Samsung Medical Center (SMC) and oncology translational projects with the Korea Health Industry Development Institute (KHIDI) in 2014 to leverage the cancer expertise of clinicians and researchers in Korea. In another key emerging market, Russia, we collaborate with the Petrov Institute of Oncology in personalised healthcare to understand the various genetic mutations in Russian cancer patients.

In CVMD, we are tapping into the strong expertise in key Asian markets to pursue novel approaches that push the boundaries of science. We have a research collaboration in cardiac regeneration with Shanghai Institute of Biological Sciences (SIBS) and a partnership with Shenzhen University Health Science Center in the area of kidney disease, a high unmet need in China. And in Singapore we have partnered with the National University of Singapore and A*Star to study a certain type of heart failure and related biomarkers that are more prevalent in Asian patients.

Finally, in the RIA therapy area, we are working with the Guangzhou Medical University to understand the underlying causes of asthma and COPD in Chinese patients and how such biomarkers compare with the Caucasian cohorts. Even in non-core areas such as infectious disease, we have pursued creative partnerships to leverage country level expertise. For a novel tuberculosis candidate, our team worked with the clinical centres in South Africa for conducting mid-stage trials, and facilitated formation of a new company focused on neglected and infectious disease research in India by donating our TB and malaria assets and equipment into the new venture.

I am excited about AstraZeneca’s commitment to achieving scientific leadership in our main therapy areas of Oncology, CVMD, and RIA diseases globally, including in the emerging markets where our study shows both high unmet need and strong local expertise across various countries. In other therapy areas such as neuroscience and infectious disease we are entrepreneurial and opportunistic to seek creative collaborations to meet patient needs. The strategies and collaborations outlined here are good examples of our tailored investments in key therapy areas in the emerging markets that leverage each country’s unique strengths. I hope that this study also provides an impetus for industry and public bodies to explore creative investments in areas of high unmet need in emerging markets.