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AstraZeneca Joins $1B Fund, Expands Footprint in China

Research lab in China

Researcher at lab in China (AstraZeneca)

6 Nov. 2019. The pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca is starting a joint $1 billion health care investment fund in China and vastly increasing its labs and offices there. The company, based in Cambridge, U.K., made the announcements today at the second annual China International Import Expo in Shanghai.

The global drug maker is joining with the China International Capital Corporation, a leading investment bank specializing in joint ventures, to create the Healthcare Industrial Fund. The investment fund, which the parties say is the first of its kind in China, plans to make its first investments in small and medium-sized Chinese companies, including those residing in the Wuxi International Life Science Innovation Campus in Jiangsu. The fund also plans to support international companies seeking a presence in China.

In addition, AstraZeneca is set to expand the number of research labs and types of research carried out in China. The company plans to open a Global R&D Centre in central Shanghai to conduct research on diseases prevalent in China and other parts of Asia. AstraZeneca says the new research center will more than double the number of R&D staff in Shanghai to over 1,000. And the R&D Centre is expected to create partnerships with other research labs in China.

AstraZeneca is establishing as well an A.I. Innovation Centre in Shanghai to apply artificial intelligence technologies to its R&D, manufacturing, operations, and commercialization functions, to speed development of new medicines. A part of the A.I. center, says the company, will create partnerships with technology companies and local start-ups. The company also plans new regional offices in Beijing (north), Wuxi (central), Chengdu (west), Guangzhou (south), and Hangzhou (east), which will include local innovation centers.

The company signed agreements with the Shanghai government for the two new research centers and with China International Capital Corporation for the health care investment fund. Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca, says in a company statement, “We will make the most of our global resources and network to strengthen the connections between China and the rest of the world in the field of health care innovation and, ultimately, bring the benefits of that work to patients everywhere.”

In a related agreement, AstraZeneca is licensing unspecified cancer drugs from Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. in Mumbai, India for marketing in China. Sun Pharma, a maker of generic drugs, is responsible for development, regulatory flings, and manufacturing of the drugs, while AstraZeneca will promote and distribute the drugs in China. Financial aspects of the agreement were also not disclosed.

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