Bristol-Myers Squibb: a trusted and committed reform and innovation partner in China
Global biopharma leader Bristol-Myers Squibb, whose journey in China kicked off with the country’s reform and opening-up wave, has been devoting itself in remarkable innovation and unswerving efforts to address unmet medical needs and fulfil the Healthy China blueprint.
“Health is an important foundation for a better life. A healthy future is the common hope of all Chinese people,” Shirley Zhao, general manager and president of Bristol-Myers Squibb Chinese Mainland and Hong Kong, told Shanghai Daily during an interview.
Bond with China
The debut of Bristol-Myers Squibb China was made in 1982 with the establishment of Sino-American Shanghai Squibb Pharmaceuticals Ltd — a benchmark as it was the first Sino-American pharmaceutical joint venture in China.
That took place four years after China implemented its policy of reform and opening-up to the outside world, which, for Bristol-Myers Squibb, meant the start of a journey in the world’s most populous country to accomplish its mission of discovering, developing and delivering innovative medicines that help patients prevail over serious diseases.
As a global biopharmaceutical company, Bristol-Myers Squibb is a recognized leader in key disease areas, including hepatitis, cancer and immuno-oncology. As a participant for the foundation of China’s modern pharmaceutical industry, Bristol-Myers Squibb has helped much to improve patients’ life with many “firsts” over the decades, including bringing the first immuno-oncology (I-O) therapy into China recently.
Shanghai is of great strategic significance for the development of Bristol-Myers Squibb in China. More than 30 years ago, it started the first step of exploration in Shanghai by establishing the first Sino-American pharmaceutical company after China’s reform and opening-up policy was implemented.
“There have been urgent clinical needs in China. With the mission of helping patients prevail over serious diseases, Bristol-Myers Squibb, centered in Shanghai, has been committed to China market through leading scientific development and innovative portfolio,” Zhao said.
Pioneer of the industry
In 2014, Bristol-Myers Squibb China pioneered the industry to transform into a diversified specialty biopharma company, mainly focusing on the most urgent clinical needs across different therapeutic areas, including oncology, immuno-oncology and hepatitis. It spurred transformative changes and relentless innovation for Bristol-Myers Squibb itself and leading industry development.
Now, China has become one of Bristol-Myers Squibb’s global centers of research and development, manufacturing, commercial and innovation. When Chinese government was expanding investment and launching a series of relevant policies to improve people’s health and living standards, the process itself provided broader development prospects for pharmaceutical enterprises.
“China’s reform and opening-up policy has been in force for 40 years. We see more opportunities in the country’s health care industry than challenges as the improvement of health and medical services has been promoted as a national development strategy,” Zhao said.
Especially in recent years, remarkable achievements have been made in the review and approval process of innovative medicines, which is one of the most important accomplishments of the country’s medical reform. The continuous improvement of the ecosystem for innovations has laid a solid foundation for the sustainable development of the pharmaceutical industry in China.
As a forerunner that has always been at the forefront of innovations, Bristol-Myers Squibb is the first biopharma company initiating immuno-oncology (I-O) clinical trials in China, which were also the largest clinical trial programs with I-O therapies in lung cancer in China by now. Bristol-Myers Squibb is also the first company that brought immuno-oncology (I-O) therapy into China. Opdivo, the first PD-1 inhibitor to demonstrate survival benefit in China patients, was approved in China in June of 2018, starting a new era of cancer treatment in China.
“Shanghai has created an open and compatible business environment for multinational enterprises in China. We have witnessed the city’s exploration spirit and innovative practices during the ensuing 40 years. We have always been at the forefront of the country’s reform and opening-up and innovation development by actively participating in the economic and social development of Shanghai,” Zhao said.
China has experienced rapid economic and social development following 40 years of reform and opening-up. The principal social contradiction, which was the contradiction between ever-growing material needs of people and low productivity, has changed into the contradiction between people’s ever-growing needs for a better life and unbalanced and inadequate development.
In order to deal with this contradiction, Bristol-Myers Squibb, while staying true to its mission, has strived to fulfill its corporate social responsibilities while developing its biopharma capabilities.
For years, BMS has been actively involved in numerous philanthropic projects, with focuses on narrowing health disparities, environmental protection and donations for various diseases.
Since 2002, Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation has been developing a series of “Delivering Hope” programs to support hepatitis patients in China, covering 28 provinces in China’s mainland with 27 projects. These programs build a sustainable model from an integrated and comprehensive approach to empower patients and communities with knowledge and supportive services in the prevention and control of the disease, which have benefited over 8 million people in China so far.
In the meantime, lung cancer is one of the major public health issues in China. The “Healthy China 2030” Initiative states that by 2030, the overall cancer 5-year survival rate will have increased by 15 percent. Therefore, improving the treatment efficacy and the accessibility of innovative drugs are the goals of all stakeholders. As the first company to conduct immuno-oncology (I-O) clinical trial in China, Bristol-Myers Squibb has over 20 clinical research projects that have been or are being conducted on I-O, most of which are Phase III clinical studies, covering high incidence cancers like lung cancer, liver cancer and gastric cancer among others, with the goal to bring innovative I-O therapies to more Chinese patients as quickly as possible.
“The Chinese government and Bristol Myers Squibb share the same vision of improving both access to innovative drugs and the health of Chinese patients. We have always adhered to patient-centric innovations and dedicated ourselves to becoming a trusted partner of the government to achieve the goal of ‘Healthy China,’” Zhao said.
The people-oriented Chinese government has actively carried out medical reform to meet the needs of patients in recent years. BMS, along with the whole industry, hopes that the reform will be further deepened in the evaluation and updating of the national reimbursement drug list and that a dynamic negotiation mechanism will be established as soon as possible.
BMS suggests that Shanghai continues to give full play to its advantages of openness in line with international standards, bases itself on the needs of sustainable development and takes innovation as its core driving force.
“The city should promote all-round innovation and encourage basic research and early development, partnership on innovation as well as introducing and development of talent so as to realize the sustainable development of the biopharma industry,” Zhao said.
Much has changed since the launch of reform and opening-up. At the same time, Bristol-Myers Squibb China has stepped into the new stage of development. But what has not changed, is Bristol-Myers Squibb’s commitment to addressing critical unmet medical needs in China.
In the face of challenges and opportunities, Bristol-Myers Squibb China regards Shanghai as the forefront and the root of its development in China. Putting patients at the center of care, Bristol-Myers Squibb endeavors to play a critical role in advancing China’s biopharma industry through leading innovation, continuing its journey of “we care, we pioneer, for all possibilities” in China.