AstraZeneca science strategies in emerging innovation clusters

Thursday, 22 January 2015

An article I co-authored in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery in Sept 2014 outlined a framework for biomedical innovation in emerging markets. In a new study that has just been published in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, I have proposed a framework for understanding the relative strengths of specific bioclusters in these markets. Broadly, the bioclusters are classified as emerging Innovation Leaders, Untapped Talent, Niche Hubs and Aspiring clusters.

For us at AstraZeneca, this is not just a theoretical framework; it is how we strategically evaluate our science focus in these emerging bioclusters to complement our presence in the established bioscience clusters of Cambridge, UK; Gaithersburg, US; and Molndal, Sweden.

First, consider the emerging Innovation Leaders such as Shanghai, Beijing, Singapore and Seoul where the recommendation is a multi-pronged ‘Invest’ strategy. We have invested significantly in our R&D capabilities in Shanghai: an internal research unit focusing on our core therapy areas; a global medicines development group; and a clinical operations hub, all based within our site in Zhangjiang Hi-tech Park. Externally, we have a joint venture with WuXi AppTec for a novel biologic in inflammation; a co-development partnership with Hutchison Medi-Pharma; and a research collaboration in coronary artery regeneration with Shanghai Institute of Biological Sciences (SIBS); among others. In Seoul, we recently 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 the Beijing area cluster, we have a long standing partnership with Peking University in cardiovascular disease and initiated collaboration with the Tianjin Medical University (TMU) in early 2014. And in Singapore we have partnered with A*Star to develop new drugs to treat Gram-negative bacterial infections..

Equally unique is our approach in the Untapped Talent clusters where the recommendation is for an ‘Unlock’ strategy. In St Petersburg, we collaborate with the Petrov Institute of Oncology in personalized healthcare to understand the genetic mutations in Russian cancer patients. In Sao Paulo, we are developing young scientists and post-docs by partnering with the government’s ‘Science Without Borders’ training program. In Istanbul, another Untapped Talent cluster, we have established an open innovation partnership with Koç University to facilitate AZ and Koç researchers to explore joint projects and new indications for drug molecules thereby helping build research capabilities at Koç.

In contrast, the Niche Hubs clusters require a ‘Prioritize’ strategy and, here, AstraZeneca has established one of its three global clinical operations hubs in Warsaw, Poland, leveraging the clinical strengths of the local ecosystem. In Shenzhen, another Niche Hub cluster in China, we have a science partnership with Shenzhen University Health Science Center in the area of kidney disease, a high unmet need in China.

I am excited about AstraZeneca’s commitment to play a central role in creating a “porous, collaborative environment” where our scientists work closely with external stakeholders to foster innovation as evidenced by our science initiatives in these emerging bioclusters. The strategies and collaborations outlined here are good examples of our tailored investments and open innovation philosophy in emerging markets bioclusters with diverse R&D landscape. I hope that this unique framework provides a roadmap for governments, academia and industry to devise new strategies and collaborations that will further strengthen these emerging innovation clusters.