Shanghai Pharma maps out $1.18B industrial park in hometown biopharma hub

Shanghai
Shanghai Pharmaceuticals is building a 3.2 million-square-foot industrial park in its native Shanghai, aiming to incubate and eventually help commercialize cutting-edge new therapies, such as cell and gene therapies. (Pixabay)

Shanghai Pharmaceuticals—one of two Chinese drugmakers in 2020’s Fortune Global 500—is ringing in the new year with a massive incubation project on its home turf.     

The company on Monday started building out an 8 billion yuan ($1.18 billion) industrial park in the Zhangjiang area of Shanghai’s Pudong New Area—a hub where pharma giants like Roche, Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline have set up shop in recent years.

The 3.2 million-square-foot complex will eventually house players from every link of the industry chain, homing in on bustling fields like cell and gene therapies and therapeutic antibodies, SHINE, the digital incarnation of Shanghai Daily, reported.

Shanghai Pharma plans to position the park as an incubator for startup companies, complete with industrialization platforms to help drive new scientific breakthroughs to the market, Zuo Min, executive director and president of the company, said, as quoted by SHINE.

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The two-part construction project covers 1.08 million square feet of floor space to start, followed by 2.15 million square feet in the second phase. The incubation platform itself will occupy some 538,000 square feet, with another 861,000 square feet devoted to antibody manufacturing, the company said. All told, antibody reactor volume at the complex is expected to reach 120,000 liters.

"The new site could greatly expedite new drug research and the commercialization process in Shanghai, making the city more attractive for new research projects from home and abroad," Zuo said at Monday's groundbreaking ceremony.

SHINE didn’t report on the project’s timeline, and Shanghai Pharmaceuticals was not immediately available for comment.

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The company is one of China’s biggest drugmakers, growing in recent years thanks to a series of acquisitions. It helped cement that position in late 2017 by picking up the Chinese business of drug distributor Cardinal Health for $557 million.

In 2018, Shanghai Pharmaceuticals appeared eager to repeat that process overseas with plans to open an R&D unit in San Diego. At the time, Shanghai Pharma was reportedly looking to form partnerships with U.S. medical and drug research institutes, as well as to acquire rights to distribute U.S.-developed drugs in China.

China has enjoyed a biotech boom over the past decade as many industry entrepreneurs—trained at foreign institutions and vetted at large multinational biopharmas—have set up shop there. Increasing government support has helped drive innovation, too: The state has rolled out the Marketing Authorization Holder system, which allows developers to tap contract manufacturers rather than relying on expensive in-house production.

The Chinese FDA has also started to accept foreign clinical data to support new drug applications and has streamlined its review process, spurring a surge in approvals. In 2019, 57 new molecules won green lights on the Chinese market, compared with just seven in 2016.

Meanwhile, Western pharma juggernauts are increasingly looking to China as chance to pump up new growth for established drugs. One such effort ran aground this December, though, when PD-1/L1 inhibitors from Merck & Co., Roche, Bristol Myers Squibb and AstraZeneca failed to cut deals in China’s latest National Reimbursement Drug List negotiations.