Steve Yang, PhD, Executive Vice-President and COO of WuXi AppTec (NYSE: WX) will once again participate in the 2015 edition of the annual ChinaBio® Partnering Forum, which will be held April 15-16 in Shanghai (see www.CBPF2015.com). This year, Dr. Yang will moderate the Plenary Panel entitled “Biologics: China’s New Wave of Innovation,” which will feature four highly innovative biologics companies in China. WuXi has built up its biologic CRO offerings in the last few years, and now offers fully US compliant biologic manufacturing services, in addition to biologics development.
Dr. Yang is one of the best-known “sea turtles,” as China’s returnees are known, returning in 2006 as Head of Asia R&D at Pfizer. He moved to AstraZeneca in 2011 in a similar position. For the past year, he has been with WuXi, China’s largest CRO.
In an interview conducted at last year’s ChinaBio® Partnering Forum, Dr. Yang pointed out that big pharmas usually adopt a vertically integrated model. But neither Pfizer nor AstraZeneca did that when they set up R&D centers in China. In 2004, when Roche was the first international pharma company to open a China R&D facility, “They did not find a well-developed infrastructure,” said Dr. Yang. “They had to develop their own and borrow expertise.” Two years later, Pfizer did not have a wet lab, and AstraZeneca did not do chemical development in China, he said. Each company ended up building a research network.
In Dr. Yang’s view, that may have been an advantage. He believes partnerships are an essential part of life science development, whether the partnerships are formally declared or less-structured casual relationships. “Life science is not a zero-sum game,” he said. “One nation’s rise does not mean another region’s demise. There are many innovation hotspots around the world. One can think about ways to combine these hotspots with the scale of a more well-developed region. It’s a big win-win for both.”
He uses the word “ecosystem” to describe China’s web of life science companies, and he stresses the need for geographical “clusters,” which offers a shared pool of resources. In a cluster, a life science company doesn’t have to do everything itself. Without the support of a cluster’s ecosystem, development becomes much more difficult.
Now, ten years after the first big pharma began doing R&D in China, the situation is different, says Dr. Yang. There is a vibrant CRO culture and high caliber domestic talent available in China, something that differentiates China from other emerging countries, he said.
“The ChinaBio® Partnering Forum is an important platform for our community,” said Dr. Yang. “It allows people to meet, tell their companies’ stories, and form partnerships.” Yang has been attending the event since the conference began seven years ago. The discussions have become more sophisticated, he says, along with China’s life science ecosystem, and Yang uses an unusual metric to gauge the growing attendance at the Partnering Forum. “Every year, it takes more buses to transport attendees to off-site venues,” he said.
The 7th annual ChinaBio® Partnering Forum will be held April 15-16 in Shanghai at the Kerry Hotel Pudong. See www.CBPF2015.com for more details.