2019: The year China pharma goes big?

Business & Technology

Chinese pharmaceutical companies, including Chi-Med, BeiGene, and Jiangsu Hengrui, aim to submit dozens of new drugs for trial in the U.S. in the next five years. The first approvals could come as early as 2019.

For years, Chinese medical scientists have focused their efforts on replicating Western medicines and iterating traditional Chinese medicine, rather than seeking approval for newly developed drugs. But that is quickly changing, reports (paywall) the New York Times:

  • A drug to treat lung, kidney, gastric, and colorectal cancers is getting positive results in second-stage clinical trials by Hutchison China MediTech, also known as Chi-Med.
  • If trials continue to go well, the company can apply for “breakthrough therapy designation” under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. That would set it up for possible approval in 2019, and would make it the first new drug for the global pharmaceutical industry that China has produced since the 1970s.
  • A drug used to treat lymphoma — the most common form of blood cancer — and an immunotherapy drug that targets tumors are in third-stage trials by a company called BeiGene.
  • Chinese companies will submit 20 to 30 new drugs for trials in the U.S. in the next five years, according to one analyst quoted in the Times.
  • Chinese regulators have been cutting red tape for drug trials and approvals in the country, an obstacle for research in the past.
  • But Chinese pharma companies are still tiny in comparison with their American peers. Jiangsu Hengrui, one of the largest, has a $180 million annual budget. Pfizer, meanwhile, spent $7.8 billion in 2016.

Also in healthcare news today: The South China Morning Post reports: Hong Kong eye care company seeks up to HK$571 million from IPO, attracts Pony Ma investment.