AstraZeneca sets down roots in China

By Sophie Bullimore | Published: 1-Apr-2019

Focused on bringing UK business to China, the International Life Science Innovation Park in Wuxi City is part of the pharma giant’s larger plan in the country

Building on its increasing presence in the country, AstraZeneca is to be among the founding members of a new Chinese science park. Located west of Shanghai, The International Life Science Innovation Park will be situated in the city of Wuxi and built by the Municipal government.

The new Wuxi ecosystem will provide companies with shared resources, including laboratories, equipment and services. It will also facilitate collaboration with AstraZeneca's global R&D network to accelerate innovation, supporting the end-to-end development and commercialisation of medicines in China.

The park aims to nurture innovation by bringing together local and international companies, government, and medical and academic institutions to help create a world-class healthcare innovation ecosystem.

Represent UK interests, The UK BioIndustry Association signed a memorandum of understanding with the Wuxi High-Tech District, pledging to help companies establish operations in Wuxi alongside AstraZeneca and other founders. These businesses include Swedish BioVentureHub and Russia-based Skolkovo Foundation.

AstraZeneca’s role specifically will be to attempt to make it easier for UK companies to partner and innovate with their Chinese counterparts, by encouraging UK companies to co-locate with AstraZeneca to China.

Steve Bates, Chief Executive of the UK BioIndustry Association, said: “China is an important and exciting opportunity for UK life science companies. The chance to participate in the creation of the new Wuxi cluster is one not to be missed.

China is a fast-growing market especially for UK-based AstraZeneca, seeing double-digit growth in the country in 2018. This is seemingly as a result of the many millions the pharma giant has put into R&D in the company, alongside collaboration with WuXi AppTec.

Potential Repercussions

The dark side of this outwardly mutually beneficial deal is the impact on native business in the UK. Although there are many positives to the move, a few days prior to the announcement, it was reported that the company would be making 94 redundancies at its Macclesfield, UK campus.

The reason given by GMB Union for the loss of jobs is that there has been an investment in a new packing facility that requires fewer employees. In response, AstraZeneca has said the net number will be closer to 30 when newly created jobs are taken into account.

However, there may be other motives at play as this follows widely reported comments from non-executive chairman Leif Johansson that the company will not invest in its British operations while Brexit uncertainty continues.

Speaking to CGTN Johansson said: "I see no sense at all in the UK that they do not want to be part of the overall global economy. I think there will be a lot of development in their relationships with other countries, China included."

Whether or not the company will continue to pursue UK-based operations, it clearly wants to maintain connections with the businesses from the country.

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