Biomedical industry new ‘growth engine’ in China

JINAN: In the Jinan-based Qilu Pharmaceutical Group Co, Ltd plant located in east China’s Shandong Province, production of China’s first bevacizumab injection is running full steam ahead.

The drug, which is mainly used to treat advanced, metastatic or recurrent non-small cell lung cancer and metastatic colorectal cancer, broke the exclusive monopoly of foreign pharmaceutical giants on similar drugs in China after it entered the market late last year.

As a leading enterprise in China’s pharmaceutical industry, Qilu Pharmaceutical realised a sales revenue of 23 billion yuan (about US$3.5bil) last year. Meanwhile, the company exported US$615mil of products, up 14% year-on-year.

In the first 11 months of this year, its exports further registered a year-on-year growth of 14%, with products exporting to over 70 countries and regions.

The biopharmaceutical industry is one of the most active and far-reaching emerging industries in the 21st century. Though China started late in this field, the development of the industry has been on a fast track.

China’s complete production chain and strong supply capacity in the area have proven to be a strong buttress during the Covid-19 pandemic as well as a new growth engine to promote economic growth within the country.

When the world runs short on anti-epidemic materials and supplies, a large number of Chinese enterprises work around the clock to boost production.

In Jinan alone, the daily capacity of mask production has been lifted by 400 times from 60,000 pieces to over 24 million.

According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, China has provided assistance to over 150 countries and 10 international organisations and offered other countries more than 200 billion masks, 2 billion protective suits and 800 million testing kits.

In the first three quarters of the year, China’s exports of pharmaceutical materials and drugs as well as medical instruments increased by 21.8% and 48.2% respectively.

China’s high-end preparation products are also gaining rising market shares in European and American markets.

Li Yan, president of Qilu Pharmaceutical, said that the company exported 15 pharmaceutical preparations to the United States. It also has several products sold in Japan and Europe.

Bloomage Biotech, which produces bioactive materials, has made breakthroughs in the industrialisation of microbial fermentation technology for hyaluronic acid, and its products are now available in over 40 countries and regions, according to chairman Zhao Yan.

“Novel drugs are an important indicator in measuring the innovation and strength of enterprises and a driving force to promote the development of China’s biopharmaceutical industry, ” said Zhu Yidong, executive vice-president of Qilu Institute of Innovative Pharmaceutical Research.

Biopharmaceutical industry clusters are emerging in many parts of China.

Shandong is home to a group of leading enterprises such as Qilu Pharmaceutical and Bloomage Biotech. In 2019, the overall scale of Beijing’s medical and health industry exceeded 200 billion yuan, maintaining double-digit growth for four consecutive years.

Suzhou, a city in east China’s Jiangsu Province, has attracted nearly 3,000 biomedical enterprises with nearly 50,000 practitioners. In the first three quarters of this year, the biomedical industry in Suzhou realised revenue of about 170 billion yuan, up 24% year-on-year, and is expected to exceed 200 billion yuan for the whole year.

According to a report on life science and biotechnology development released in November, biotechnology and new drug research and development are still the two most promising areas attracting capital investment in China. — Xinhua

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