Pfizer leads the way for pharma companies at Biolake

Updated: 2016-06-29 10:17

By Wang Huazhong and Zhou Lihua(China Daily USA)

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Editor's note: As the Chinese economy enters the new normal with its growth rate slowing, innovation has been placed at a core position in China's overall development. China Daily recently interviewed people involved with a leading State-level innovation pilot zone, Optics Valley of China in Wuhan. This series of reports will use the valley's case as an example of what China has done to boost innovation and the difficulties and challenges faced.

Standing by a window that overlooks a shimmering lake surrounded by lush trees, Lan Zhanghua describes his "international and human-oriented" office and points out details such as the patterns on the carpet being inspired by pharmaceutical tablets.

"You can't imagine what this place looked like six years ago. It was absolutely barren," said Lan, site head of Pfizer (Wuhan) Research & Development Co Ltd.

"There were no office buildings, no bus lines. We started with nothing."

Pfizer leads the way for pharma companies at Biolake

In 2010, Pfizer was the first Fortune 500 company to settle in the newly established National Bio-industry Base in Wuhan, also known as Biolake.

Following in Pfizer's steps, eight of 13 pharmaceutical companies from the Fortune 500 list now have a presence at Biolake as the bio-industry base leads a State program to rely on innovation to upgrade the economic structure of Wuhan, which was once dominated by heavy industries and a renowned steel producer in central China.

Lan said that, looking back, he believed Pfizer management had made a wise decision with foresight to come to Biolake in the Optics Valley of China for the base's potential.

Pfizer leads the way for pharma companies at Biolake

"We developed beyond expectation. Now the Wuhan team has comprehensive coverage in Pfizer's medicine development. Every one of Pfizer's new drugs has indispensable contributions from the Wuhan team."

According to Lan, Pfizer originally had fewer than 10 people working at Biolake and promised the local authority it would expand its local team to 200 people. The better-than-expected development means the operation currently employs almost 500 people.

In addition, Pfizer's Wuhan team grew from performing only one function to 12 functions in the R&D system. Two functions run exclusively at Wuhan and nowhere else in the world.

"No other but our Wuhan teams manage the clinical trial registry information and clinical trial master files for all Pfizer's medicines. These are of utmost importance - making any mistake or losing documents could mean the medicine would never go to market," Lan said.

He said the reason Pfizer R&D set up the site in Wuhan is because the capital of Hubei province has one of the largest talent pools in China thanks to its many quality universities.

"Biolake has talent advantages. We do consider the cost side of the talent, but the quality is the most important. Without quality, less spending on talent would cost us more."

Another boost for Pfizer's success in Wuhan is the government's support and efforts to amass bio-industry thought leaders, professionals and investment to consolidate Biolake's leading competitiveness.

Pfizer leads the way for pharma companies at Biolake

Lan said Biolake helps companies and holds meetings to allow experience sharing, and many of his friends from the United States are starting up businesses in Wuhan.

Rainbow Ruan, the registry quality control head of WRDC, said the development in the Biolake created a job opportunity for her and a chance to return to her hometown.

She advanced as high as she could in another pharmaceutical company in Wuhan in 2009 and had to move to Beijing or Shanghai should she want further promotion or professional development.

Ruan returned to Wuhan to join WRDC in the wake of Biolake positioning bio-industry as a 100-billion-yuan industry and a game changer in the former industrial city's bid to move up the value chain.

"I couldn't be happier since I'm working with a top international team in my home now," Ruan said.

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Pfizer leads the way for pharma companies at Biolake

Biolake provides favorable living and working conditions for domestic and overseas companies. photo by feng yongbin / China Daily

Pfizer leads the way for pharma companies at Biolake

Lan Zhanghua, site head of Pfizer (Wuhan) Research & Development Co Ltd

Pfizer leads the way for pharma companies at Biolake

Rainbow Ruan, the registry quality control head of WRDC.

(China Daily USA 06/29/2016 page2)