The fund would look to invest in Chinese firms, with companies in a
life-sciences park it helped open in the eastern city of Wuxi last
year to be among its first beneficiaries, the British drugmaker's
chief executive officer, Pascal Soriot, told Reuters.
AstraZeneca was a minority partner in the fund and would mainly play
an advisory role in selecting investments and supporting the firms,
he said. The companies did not disclose financial details of the
"It's a substantial investment on our side, but also our financial
partners," Soriot said of the agreement, to be signed with the
Chinese investment bank CICC on the sidelines of the China
International Import Expo on Wednesday.
"We can help choose some of those investments but we can also help
along the way the startup companies, develop products and find their
way around the world" he said, describing it as AstraZeneca's
largest-scale healthcare industrial fund.
The company also planned to expand an existing research and
development center in Shanghai from 450 employees to 1,000, and
establish a new artificial intelligence innovation center in the
Western drugmakers have profited from partnerships in China, where
AstraZeneca's sales have doubled since 2012, as well as a softening
in the regulatory environment for pharmaceutical firms.
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But the government has also been trying to slash drug prices,
changing the playing field as many firms had relied in the past on
selling older drugs at premium prices. In September, China also
expanded a pilot bulk-buying program to the entire country in an
attempt to negotiate lower prices from drug manufacturers.
Soirot said these were both factors in AstraZeneca's decision to
make those investments in China, as the price pressures were
encouraging companies to create new drugs that the government was
approving and reimbursing at a faster pace.
AstraZeneca, he said, wanted to start making drugs it could export
globally from China. Areas of opportunity included oncology and
"Historically, until today, our Chinese team has been developing
global products for the Chinese market. We want now the Chinese team
to take the global leadership on some projects," he said.
(Reporting by Brenda Goh; Editing by Stephen Coates)
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