Notes from the Biotech Sector

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A DLA Piper colleague sent me a link to this San Diego Union-Tribune article on the ties between SD and the PRC in biotech. Nothing dramatic here, but the article does a good job of reminding us that this is how bilateral trade solidifies and how investments and services flow across borders. It all starts with individual relationships and cooperative groups like those highlighted in the article.

Two major points that I found most interesting, which are contained in this passage:

China‘s biotechnology industry has progressed because it has made a concerted effort in several areas, including science, intellectual property rules and investment, according to San Diego biotech insiders.

“In just the last two years the improvement in the sophistication of the scientific research has been amazing,” Invitrogen’s [Ben] Hwang said.

Greg Scott, a San Diego resident and founder of Life Science Angels, an angel investor network for biotechnology, went to China on vacation a year ago. It was a life-changing experience, he said.

In Shanghai he saw a business park that is home to 4,000 high-tech and biotech companies and offices of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, in what is the world’s highest concentration of life science companies.

“Like most Westerners, I had the view that there wasn’t much going on in the biotech area in China and they were mainly replicating drugs that weren’t patented in China,” Scott said.

“But there was a lot of new drug development going on there – roughly 150 companies doing new drug development,” he said.

The folks in the industry are pointing to advances in IP protection and the investment climate. A very different message from what we hear from D.C. or Brussels these days, yes?

Also, I agree with the comment that a lot of people still see China as an outsourcing jurisdiction, a place to get your basics done, and a place where local companies are doing little more than reverse engineering foreign products. Things have changed, and quickly, and a major amount of investment has poured into the country to fund real research.

Once again, this is an exciting area in China for a lot of players, from your venture capital guys to a wide range of service providers, manufacturers, and R&D centers. I suppose it doesn’t even need to be said that this is all good news for your average lawyer — well, there’s nothing wrong with that, right?