BMS ups investment in China

Company says local partners, R&D will be instrumental to growth

BEIJING – China is expected to become the second- or third-largest market for international drugmaker Bristol-Myers Squibb’s (BMS) within a decade.

The country is currently the eighth-largest market for the company and is expected to become the sixth-largest by next year.

The target will be achieved by collaborating with local partners and doubling research and development (R&D) staff within two years, senior executives of the US-based biopharmaceutical company said on Thursday.

The cooperation with local partners is under BMS’ global “String of Pearls” strategy, the purpose of which is to increase the company’s R&D capabilities through transactions in which it can obtain a compound, a pipeline or an entire company.

So far, it has made 11 such deals, the latest being the development and commercialization of a cancer drug in cooperation with the French company Innate Pharma SA with $465 million of investment.

“For China specifically, we have been looking for opportunities and some deals happened,” said Beatrice J. Cazala, senior vice-president of commercial operations and president of global commercialization of Europe and emerging markets at BMS.

The company set up a strategic partnership with Jiangsu-based Simcare Pharmaceutical Group for cancer drug development at the end of last year and signed an agreement with Wuxi AppTec Co Ltd in May for stability studies of small-molecule new chemical entities to support global marketing applications.

“We are good (in China), but not enough,” she said. “Our priority in China so far has been more on how we can accelerate the registration and approval of our compound, as we have several compounds coming.”

BMS plans to double the number of R&D employees in China to 200 over the next two years. Between 2010 and 2012, it will carry out 37 clinical trials for 15 new products in the country.

In the coming decade, BMS’ R&D in China will focus on treatments for liver diseases, cancer and cardiovascular and metabolic conditions, according to Jean-Christophe Pointeau, president of BMS China.

Emphasis will be placed on innovative medicine and drugs tailored to the local market, as they have become a strong driver of the biopharmaceutical company’s progress in China.

Mark H. Pavao, president of BMS Emerging Markets and Global Access, told China Daily that the company’s overall year-on-year sales growth in China has been between 10 and 15 percent in the past few years. Its global sales increased 4 percent year-on-year in 2010.

“I also look at our highly innovative products, such as Baraclude,” he said. “Their annual growth rate was in the 30 to 40 percent range in volume.”

In late 2009, Baraclude, BMS’ self-developed anti-viral treatment for hepatitis B, was included in China’s updated National Reimbursement Drug List. So far, it has been included in the local reimbursement drug list of more than 20 provinces.

BMS ranked 131st in the Fortune Global 500 in 2010 and sixth in the pharmaceutical industry on the list, while its Chinese business currently contributes 2 percent of its global achievements, indicating huge growth potential.

According to the international healthcare market researcher IMS Health, China has been the world’s third-largest pharmaceutical market since 2010 and is predicted to grow 25 to 27 percent to more than $50 billion in 2011.

That has led to a series of the leading global pharmaceutical companies competing to introduce their drugs to China or enhance their R&D capabilities with partners.

Bayer HealthCare, a subsidiary of Germany’s Bayer Group AG, plans to introduce some 20 new products in China over the next five years in the areas of oncology, cardiology, women’s healthcare, and diagnostic imaging.

Two products will be released this year. The company unveiled four new products and conducted 22 clinical trials in China in 2010.

Multinational drugmaker Eli Lilly and Co has established a three-pronged R&D strategy in China, combining venture capital funds to support local research institutes, outsourcing technologies and co-developing with partners.

Source: China Daily

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