Unleash the Dragon 2 - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Unleash the Dragon 2


Pharmaceutical Executive


To realize the vision of turning the Chinese life-sciences industry from "an outsourcing provider" to "a sourcing destination of resources," Julius Li founded AutekBio, in 2006, a US front-end and China back-end therapeutic biologic contract manufacturing organization (CMO) for mammalian cell-based recombinant protein and monoclonal antibodies. According to Li, who worked at Roche and studied under Professor Yunde Hou, the "Godfather of Interferon," in China, AutekBio is the first and only FDA-compliant professional biologic CMO in China. "Our mission is to make China a manufacturing hub of high tech biologics for the world. In three to four years, we hope to turn the company into an important link within the entire global biotech value chain, with revenue topping $60 million," Li says. To achieve this growth objective, Li and his team have secured half of the $12 million to $15 million series B financing from prominent US and Chinese venture funds.

US angel investors and venture capital funds are also interested in cross-Pacific plays with China-born entrepreneurs who have founded companies in the US and are expanding to China. One such company is BioMedicure, founded in San Diego by Yong Qian, a US-educated Chinese-American researcher who was determined to develop cures for cancer patients after he witnessed the death of a good friend. Qian's new drug, Tumorase, works like a "molecular knife" that cuts away cancerous tissue without harming the surrounding normal tissue. Tumorase has proved efficacious in eliminating 135 solid tumors originating from seven types of human cancers in animal models. Qian is now attracting life-sciences angel groups, US VCs, and a number of Big Pharma and biotech firms for investments, and estimates that BioMedicure will complete all FDA requirements for filing an IND to initiate Phase I trials for broad solid tumor elimination in a little over a year.

All these cross-Pacific life-sciences trends demonstrate the China biotech industry's vitality, with prominent CROs, CMOs, and novel drug development companies attracting investment from the Chinese government as well as venture capital funds from the West. The new companies will likely play an increasingly important role in reshaping the future of global drug discovery and development efforts. Many more licensing deals will be consummated as the quality and quantity of desirable novel compounds improve in China. The sea turtles will continue to lead the way in starting exciting new companies in novel therapeutics development and CRO services that will be snatched up by savvy investors as they proceed down the life-sciences "Silk Road."

Zhu Shen is CEO of the consulting company BioForesight and vice chairman of SABPA. She can be reached at


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