Maryland, Xi'an seek new link

Updated: 2013-09-24 10:48

By TODD BALASOVIC in Beijing (China Daily)

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 Maryland, Xi'an seek new link

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett meets with Xi'an Mayor Dong Jun during a 10-day visit to China, where they set framework to establish the two as sister cities. Photo Provided to China Daily

On the outskirts of the US capital of Washington, one county is hoping to connect with China's biotechnology sector to create a "port of entry" into the US for Chinese medical companies.

A delegation of 86 government and business representatives from Montgomery County, Maryland, concludes a 10-day trip to China on Wednesday after visiting some of the nation's top hospitals and technology parks in hopes of attracting Chinese investors and establishing links with companies in biotechnology and life sciences.

"There are huge opportunities," Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, who led the delegation, told China Daily. "But the question is - which are the ones that we want to pursue?"

Meeting with government, business and health officials, the group traveled to Shanghai, Xi'an and Benxi before finishing their tour in the capital of Beijing.

While in Xi'an, Leggett met with the city's mayor, Dong Jun, to establish the two as sister cities. He said they hope to finalize the arrangement during a planned visit from Dong to Montgomery County in March next year.

"The sister-city relationship allows us to really market the county. Not solely in economic terms, but also in political terms and cultural exchanges," Leggett said.

During a visit to Benxi, in China's northeastern Liaoning province, delegates examined plans for the city's "China Medicine Capital" pharmaceutical park.

In Beijing, Leggett attended a formal dinner with representatives of China Fortune Land Development, one of country's top industrial parks, and real estate investors, who expressed interest in investing in Montgomery.

Located just outside Washington, Montgomery County is home to the headquarters of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The proximity to such government health-focused institutions makes Montgomery a "port of entry" for Chinese pharmaceutical and biotechnological companies, said Jonathan Genn, executive vice-president and general counsel for the Global LifeSci Development.

The $3 billion Global LifeSci Development project, which will officially open next spring, is adjacent to the FDA and is a life-sciences park designed to attract medical professionals from across the globe.

With direct support from FDA in the form of memorandum of understanding, the park will offer access to the regulatory body responsible for approving the sale of new medicines in the US, Genn said.

"No matter where in the world the next great innovation in public health happens, the next great discovery, the only way and the only place that discovery can get into the public health market in America is through the FDA, right next door to our development," Genn said.

The county also has a satellite campus of Johns Hopkins University, one of the top health-education institutions in the US.

Elaine Amir, executive director for John Hopkins University in Montgomery, said during a visit to Benxi Central Hospital, that plans were set in motion to develop information technology medical exchanges that would make it possible for doctors and researchers from both institutions to collaborate online.

Montgomery County is the largest in Maryland, with a population of more than 1 million. It has the biggest Chinese population in the greater Washington Metropolitan area. Despite its large Chinese community, current investments from China into Montgomery are minimal, which Leggett hopes will change following the delegation's visit.

"This is one of the reasons why we are here," he said. "Already many [Chinese businesses] understand the assets we have to offer."

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(China Daily USA 09/24/2013 page1)