Roche launches its first in-house accelerator to empower local healthcare innovation ecosystem

The accelerator will provide tailor-made support for startups in pharma, diagnostics, and personalized healthcare, as well as digital and artificial intelligence-driven healthcare.
Roche launches its first in-house accelerator to empower local healthcare innovation ecosystem

The Roche Accelerator is officially launched at the Roche campus in Zhangjiang High-tech Park in Shanghai.

The Roche Accelerator was officially launched today at the Roche campus in Zhangjiang High-tech Park in Shanghai. At the launch ceremony, Roche signed strategic partnership agreements with Hillhouse Group and Zhangjiang Group. Severin Schwan, chief executive officer of Roche Group, William Pao, head of pharmaceutical research and early development at Roche, Zong Ming, vice mayor of Shanghai, officials from related Shanghai and Pudong governments and representatives from Zhangjiang Group, Hillhouse Group and Roche China management team attended the launch ceremony and witnessed this milestone moment.

As a key strategic investment project of Roche Group, the Roche Accelerator is the company’s first in-house accelerator in the world. It demonstrates Roche’s long-term commitment to Shanghai and China as a strategic global center. Roche's goal is to strengthen investment in research and development and increase innovation in China, enhance collaborations with government and local partners, and build an external innovation hub that contributes to the local innovation ecosystem.

Increasing R&D investment in China and empowering the local healthcare industry to beef up innovation 

More than 200 million yuan (US$31.1 million) will be invested in the Roche Accelerator, which will integrate Roche’s resources and advantages to secure partnerships in an agile and flexible manner. It will provide tailor-made support for startups in pharma, diagnostics, and personalized healthcare, as well as digital and artificial intelligence-driven healthcare. These startups will have access to Roche’s full-spectrum of local resources, ranging from early research and development to commercialization — such as guidance in techniques, business strategies and innovative ideas. Meanwhile, startups will also be provided with research funding support or subsidies.

The center is located in Zhangjiang High-tech Park in the Pudong New Area, covering an area of more than 5,000 square meters. In the future, scientists from the Roche Innovation Center Shanghai and Roche Group’s global R&D centers will actively engage with entrepreneurs and share their insights. The accelerator will offer high-quality laboratories and offices, and establish partnerships by voluntarily leveraging each other’s strengths in a bid to foster a batch of startups that will play a leading role in the global innovation ecosystem.

Schwan and Pao attended the ceremony via video conferencing, and gave their expectations for the accelerator. 

“The Chinese market is an important part of Roche’s global strategy. Roche strives to make Shanghai its third-largest strategic center, after Basel and San Francisco, and the launch of the accelerator will accelerate this process," Schwan said. "We will continue to deliver on our long-term commitment to the Chinese market, increase investment in innovation and R&D and contribute to the development of China’s healthcare industry.”

“In recent years, China has placed a greater focus on science and innovation, creating a favorable environment for research and development in the healthcare industry. At Roche, we are passionate about transforming science into medicine and healthcare solutions, and are committed to play an active role in further accelerating innovation," Pao said. "The Roche Accelerator aims to catalyze and empower scientists and entrepreneurs with creative ideas. We hope that together we can build a better future with medical advances that make sustainable contributions and a real difference in people’s health in China and around the world.”

Enabling Chinese-developed healthcare products to benefit the world 

The Roche Group has kept a close bond with China for more than 90 years, and has always demonstrated its long-term commitment to China by providing Chinese patients with first-class, differentiated pharma and diagnostic solutions. Among all large multinational pharma companies, Roche has taken the lead in building a complete pharma value chain covering R&D, manufacturing and commercialization in China. 

R&D has been laying the foundation for Roche’s sustained business growth. As early as 2004, Roche set up the China R&D Center as its first R&D center in an emerging market, and also the first foreign-owned R&D center in Shanghai. The center was primarily engaged in drug research and early development. In 2007, the Roche Pharma Development Center Shanghai was established to advance and accelerate clinical development and registration of Roche’s innovative drugs in China. In 2009, the development center was fully integrated into the global organization and became one of five global product development sites. In 2019, Roche invested an additional 863 million yuan to upgrade the R&D Center, Roche Innovation Center Shanghai, expanding efforts in immunology and establishing capabilities in oncology.

In 2014, a new Roche Diagnostics Asia-Pacific manufacturing site and R&D center was established in Suzhou Industrial Park in Suzhou, China, with total investment of US$479 million. In early 2020, COVID-19 hit the global economy, but Roche Group’s commitment to China never wavered. The company even identified its 2030 China ambition during the pandemic, and decided to gear up investment in local R&D.

The Roche Accelerator is another strategic initiative following the inauguration of the new Roche Innovation Center Shanghai building in 2019. Roche will work with various partners, including Zhangjiang Group and Hillhouse Capital, to jointly incubate local startups. 

“With the launch of the accelerator, we will work closely with Zhangjiang Group, Hillhouse Capital, research institutions, startups and other partners in China and overseas to create an innovation platform with global influence," said Shen Hong, head of Roche Innovation Center Shanghai. "My hope is that under the leadership of Tang Qiusong, the accelerator will empower more startups, bridge the gap between concept and proof of concept, upgrade ‘made in China’ to ‘created in China’ and allow R&D in China to benefit the world.”

As key partners of the accelerator, Zhangjiang Group will provide strong operational support for it, while Hillhouse Capital will provide funding for selected high-quality startups and projects to jointly foster innovation and development of China’s biopharmaceutical industry.

“We are very glad that a large company like Roche will offer resources to support startups in making breakthroughs," said Yuan Tao, chairman of Zhangjiang Group. "We look forward to working with Roche to advance the construction of a new innovation ecosystem in Zhangjiang.”

Michael Yi, co-CIO and partner of Hillhouse Group, is also upbeat about the partnership.

“With the Roche Accelerator, we will further leverage Hillhouse Capital’s investment track record and capital strength in the healthcare sector, together with Roche’s research expertise and commercial capabilities, to incubate high-quality local healthcare startups and unleash the potential of China’s healthcare industry, ” Yi said.

“Roche was the first multinational pharma company to settle in Zhangjiang, and over the years we’ve been leading and benefiting from a continuous stream of innovation and breakthroughs locally," said Chow Hong, general manager of Roche Pharma China. “Diseases have no nationality, and innovation knows no borders. The launch of the Roche Accelerator marks an important transition for Roche, from introducing world-leading innovation into China to incubating innovation within China. Roche strives to make China a global innovation hub. We are committed to doing now what patients need next, and we will continue to work with our partners to build a healthcare ecosystem, promote R&D in China on the global stage and step up efforts to benefit patients in China and across the world.”

“As a pioneer in the in-vitro diagnostics industry, Roche Diagnostics has always been open to collaborations with local startups to empower the innovation ecosystem in China," said Richard Yiu, general manager of Roche Diagnostics China. "We will do our best to provide support for local entrepreneurs with our R&D and commercial capabilities in China. In-vitro diagnostics play a vital role in each stage of disease management. Through the Roche Accelerator, we aim to discover and develop more breakthrough, comprehensive solutions together with local government and partners to drive the development of personalized healthcare, and in the end benefit more patients.”

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