Dr. Zhu Shen is CEO of a California-based international consulting firm called BioForesight, which consults for companies in biomedical and related sectors. She began by saying that China is becoming one of the most significant world powers in science-based economic development. She said she would attempt to describe the “flavor” of the Chinese science and technology parks where she has the most experience: those in Beijing, Shanghai, and Suzhou.
She recalled the old Silk Road coming out of China as a key element of long-ago global commerce, and said that a modern version of the Silk Road exists. This time, China, instead of exporting spices, is “at the frontier of the Silk Road for the life sciences” and other technological innovation. The epicenters of this innovation, she said, are the major research parks, where many major research-based corporations are locating. She cited two of them as success stories. The first is WuXi Pharmatech (WX), which she said symbolizes the coming of age of the Chinese pharmaceutical industry. WuXi is the largest contract research organization in China, founded by her friend Dr. Guh Lee, one of the noted “sea turtles”— those who have gained their advanced education and work experience overseas and have returned home to become entrepreneurs and scientific leaders.
The second corporation is Hutchinson Medipharma, a UK-based company with R&D operations based in Shanghai’s Zhangjiang High-Tech Park, which she called one of the world’s most successful science and technology parks. She displayed a photo of signers of a strategic partnership between Hutchinson Medipharma and Eli Lilly, which she called a “very rich deal, like those we are accustomed to seeing in the U.S. between Western companies.”
She said that the Chinese pharmaceutical market has “grown by leaps and bounds” in the past 15 years. In 1995 it ranked number ten in the world, has risen rapidly to number seven at present, and is predicted to become number five by 2010. “My prediction,” she said, “is that it will pass the U.S. to become number one in the global pharmaceutical market in just two decades.” The Chinese government, she said, has designated the pharmaceutical industry as a key to the growth of China. In addition to its increasing economic importance world-wide, the primary causes of death in China—cancer, cardiovascular disease, and heart disease—are similar to those in the United States and Europe so drugs developed locally will have global markets.