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From the Buckeye State to Beijing
BEIJING—Aimed at bolstering the bioscience industry in both Ohio and Beijing, a unique global economic development pact has been forged by BioOhio, a nonprofit, Columbus, Ohio-based trade organization, and the Beijing Pharma and Biotech Center (BPBC).
"The collaboration is hoping to build upon a pipeline of Chinese investment in the U.S., which has grown at an average pace of 30 percent between 2004 and 2008," says John Lewis Jr., BioOhio vice president and chief operating officer. "Both regions have robust and growing bioscience communities, so it is a perfect fit as bioscience, business, research and education become increasingly global."
The idea for the East/West trade route began during a convention May 5 in Chicago, where BioOhio President and CEO Tony Dennis and BPBC Deputy Director-General Zhang Zegong struck up a conversation and hit it off. Before the day was done, plans were in the works for the collaboration, which culminated June 23 in Beijing with the signing of the business development agreement by Lewis and BPBC Director-General Lei Ting.
The pact places special emphasis on medical device commercialization and cardiovascular innovation. BPBC will assist Ohio medical device companies in exploring market opportunities in Beijing and in navigating regulatory and importing requirements. The pact's partners will promote the creation, growth and development of biomedical companies that will have major offices, R&D facilities and significant employment in both Ohio and Beijing.
Specifically, the Beijing biotech center will help Ohio medical device companies view market opportunities in China and help with paperwork and language hurdles, Lewis says. Both BioOhio and the Beijing center also will facilitate information-sharing between hospitals—including the Cleveland Clinic, a top U.S. heart care hospital—and Beijing-based researchers specializing in cardiovascular innovations.
The BioOhio agreement with BPBC "is only one-half of our China strategy," Lewis says.
"BioOhio/BPBC will focus on Northern China, specifically the Beijing area," Lewis explains. "The other half is our partnership with Columbus-based New Products Innovation, which will focus on Southern China—Shanghai, in particular—and emphasize medical devices."
The Chinese side of this southern strategy is led by Yan Liang, president of the Medical Device Trade Association, and Wai Gao Qiao, founder of the China Gateway for Medical Devices.
China brings to the table the energy and eagerness to work with U.S. companies, along with its growing bioscience community, Lewis says. China has been striving for a stronger connection with the West for some time, says Zhu Shilong, deputy director-general of the Bejing Municipal Science and Technology Commission.
"Carrying out international exchanges with the top regions in the world to integrate resources is the most important way to achieve an industrial leap forward and promote Beijing as a global innovation center in biotech and pharmaceuticals," Shilong says. "We also will promote the sharing of information between both parties and create the networking and informational infrastructure to facilitate cooperation and business relations between all parties for a well managed flow and exchange of business opportunities."
Outsourcing is the wave of the future, Lewis says. In both device manufacturing and drug manufacturing, the development of new devices and drugs is global, with outsourced skills being used from various locations to move products down the commercialization pathway, he adds.
"You may partner with one company on a new product and compete directly with the same company on another," Lewis says. "China is now part of the mix and has resources, people and infrastructure that can accelerate an Ohio company's product or drug getting to market. In the biomedical arena, it is not as much about cost savings during the development cycle, but time-to- market. An Ohio start-up can co-develop some of these elements with a Chinese company (with the help of BPBC), and have the finished system done sooner than if they did it all themselves. The final assembly can be done in Ohio, thus a win for the Ohio company, as well as the Chinese company."
International exchanges "with the top regions in the world to integrate resources is the most important way to achieve an industrial leap-forward and promote Beijing as a global innovation center in biotech and pharmaceuticals," Lewis adds.
The deal is considered priceless, according to Lewis.
"How much could these future business arrangements make?" he says. "Who knows? But getting a blockbuster drug to market a year earlier is worth literally billions of dollars."