New York- and Connecticut-based pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc. has announced an investment of approximately $350 million in a Global Biotechnology Center (GBC) in the Hangzhou Economic Development Area in China. The new facility, which is expected to be completed in 2018, will be Pfizer’s third biotechnology center globally and the first in Asia. The center will house several of Pfizer’s technical and engineering divisions. These divisions will specifically focus on commercial manufacturing of pharmaceuticals, and use the GBC as a site for process development and clinical supply. The center will also include an advanced modular facility developed by GE Healthcare, a subsidiary of General Electric, also based in New York and Connecticut. This modular facility will increase manufacturing flexibility at costs of between 25% and 50% of equivalent traditional biotechnology facilities, with a build time as short as just 18 months compared to the usual three years. Carbon dioxide emissions, water, and energy usage will also be reduced thanks to the modular facility.
The establishment of a Pfizer GBC in China represents the company’s growing investment in research and design, as well as further investment in clinical research across China. According to a statement issued with the announcement, Pfizer believes that the local production of biosimilar medicines has the potential to advance treatments for patients both in China and worldwide. Pfizer also hopes that building a GBC will further stimulate the industry to meet emerging health challenges and attract more foreign investments in China’s healthcare market. Hangzhou is a natural choice for this new investment as it is an emerging high-tech hub in China and is newly connected to the US via non-stop flights from San Francisco.
The GBC will also increase the company’s footprint in China’s healthcare market. China’s pharmaceutical market, second only to the US, was worth an estimated $105 billion in 2014. Currently, the country is undergoing reforms to widen the public access to latest medicines and technologies. As a result, the overall health market is forecast to expand to $200 billion by 2020.
US-China medical cooperation has seen considerable and diverse forms of growth in recent years. Brooklyn and other parts of New York City recently saw the introduction of a Chinese-speaking ambulance to serve the city’s many Chinese residents. Firms from China’s medical sector have also invested in medical facilities in the US, such as Miracle Enterprise’s recent $40 million investment in a medical tourism facility in Auburn, Maine.
Sin Yan (Amy) Lau is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a student at American University.