By George Achia

Africa has spent two decades allegedly brainstorming about real and imaginary dangers or benefits of biotech revolution. This is one of the indicators that many African countries have practically minimal or no regard for science as a major driving force behind goods and services needed for survival and competition in the global arena. However the continent needs to learn from  China’s biotech revolution.

China, with its reformed priority review and approval processes, is supporting biotech revolution policies by allowing domestic drug developers to compete with well-established multinational counterparts. Against this backdrop, China’s rise will result in more innovation and have the highest positive impact on the pharmaceutical industry in 2019, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

GlobalData, says the number of cancer patients is on the rise in China and nearly 10,000 diagnosed melanoma cases were recorded in 2017. As a result, the Chinese government is eager to provide better and more affordable cancer care to its citizens.

To capitalize on the opportunity, multinational pharmaceutical giants Bristol-Myers Squibb and Merck had already received China’s approval for two programmed cell death-1 (PD-1) inhibitors, Opdivo (nivolumab) and Keytruda (pembrolizumab) in June and July 2018, respectively.

However, China’s drug developers are not being left behind. Chinese drug developers are lining up their branded products ready to take on competition with Western companies, not only in China, but around the world, says Edit Kovalcsik, Pharma Analyst at GlobalData.

Recently, China’s National Medical Products Authority (NMPA) conditionally approved PD-1 checkpoint inhibitor Tuoyi (toripalimab) monoclonal antibody injection for the treatment of melanoma from Chinese biotech firm Shanghai Junshi Biosciences.

Kovalcsik adds: “The product could be the first locally developed drug launching in China in competition with the already approved global market-leading Keytruda. The approval is an important turning point in the history of Chinese drug development, which is moving away from producing ‘me-too’ drugs aimed at the domestic market to independently develop brands that will compete with Western drug developers.”

One such Chinese biopharmaceutical company looking to compete on a global scale is BeiGene, with its oncology candidates: Bruton’s tyrosine kinase (BTK) zanubrutinib and PD-1 inhibitor tislelizumab, both of which were granted priority review status in China last December, 2018, for patients with relapsed/refractory (R/R) mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) and R/R classical Hodgkin’s lymphoma (cHL), respectively.

Kovalcsik concludes: “The government-supported Chinese biotech revolution will bring forth many Chinese drug developers to compete with well-established multinational drug companies. Simultaneously, the massive untouched market holds opportunities for foreign investors. By increasing competition, China’s rise will impact the global pharmaceutical industry and as a result, it could give rise to more innovation.”