A pedestrian passes by BeiGene (Suzhou) Co Ltd in a biopharmaceutical industrial park in Suzhou, Jiangsu province. （PHOTO BY JI HAIXIN/FOR CHINA DAILY）
Pharmaceutical companies invest in R&D to enhance competence, expand international presence
Thanks to their much-improved innovation capabilities, Chinese pharmaceutical companies, especially those focusing on innovative medicines, are playing an increasingly important role in global new drug development, according to experts and business leaders.
A most recent case is an out-license agreement settled between Chinese biopharmaceutical company Harbour BioMed, or HBM, and UK company AstraZeneca earlier this month, for a novel drug candidate known as HBM7022.
Currently in the preclinical stage, the molecule cross-links tumor cells and T cells by targeting a specific tumor-associated antigen and a protein complex and thus leads to potent T cell activation to fight the tumor.
According to the deal agreement, AstraZeneca will be granted an exclusive global license for the research, development, registration, manufacturing and commercialization of the drug candidate and shall be solely responsible for all costs and activities associated with its further development and commercialization.
HBM shall receive an upfront payment of $25 million with the potential for additional payments up to $325 million pending the achievement of certain developments, and regulatory and commercial milestones. HBM is also eligible to receive tiered royalties on net sales.
Wang Jingsong, founder, chairman and CEO of HBM, said the drug candidate is one of the company's representative innovative bispecific antibodies generated from its self-developed antibody development platform called HBICE and has significant potential value on a global basis.
A bispecific antibody is a molecule designed to recognize two different antigens or two different epitopes on the same antigen to treat tumors and other diseases and therefore is widely believed to have superior clinical therapeutic effects compared with traditional monoclonal antibodies.
Analysts said due to changes in the regulatory and market environment in recent years, Chinese pharmaceutical companies have had to build up innovation and R&D capabilities for better development, which has enhanced their competence in global markets.
Those changes include lower market tolerance for low-end generics, faster new drug review and registration processes, a stronger play of market mechanisms and fiercer domestic market competition even among innovative drugs.
They predict China's pharmaceutical companies are expected to have a greater presence in global new drug research over the next few years.