Zhangjiang unveils new park for cell therapy

Li Qian
Forum told of complete industry chain to be developed from inventing new drugs to treating patients with cutting-edge technologies.
Li Qian

Shanghai’s major innovative engine of Zhangjiang unveiled a new industrial park to develop cutting-edge cell therapy, a new step forward in its ambition to become a world-class healthcare center.

A complete industry chain of cell therapy, from storage to transport, from inventing new drugs to treating patients, will be available in the new Cell Industry Park, according to a plan revealed at Wednesday's ChinaBio Partnering Forum in the Pudong New Area.

The park will center around the Shanghai International Medicine Zone, between the industry clusters of drug designers in the north and drugmakers in the south, said Xia Duo, general manager of Shanghai International Medicine Zone Group.

The zone, known as the “Medical Valley of China,” gathers a number of high-end hospitals, such as the privately owned Shanghai International Medical Center and Shanghai Proton and Heavy Ion Center — the country’s first and the world’s third to use advanced forms of radiotherapy to treat cancer. There are plans to introduce more hospitals specializing in cell therapy.

“We can learn what patients hunger for, such as tumor treatment, and let them enjoy the most advanced cell therapy,” Xia said. “The whole process, from knowing the demand to designing and manufacturing new drugs and treating patients, will be achieved within Zhangjiang.”

Under the plan, the country’s first CAR-T drug will go to market by 2021. CAR-T, chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy, is an immunotherapy that uses specially altered T cells — a type of white blood cells in the immune system — to fight cancer.

By 2026, the park is expected to produce 20 billion yuan (US$2.9 billion) in total industrial output value. By 2030, it is planned to reach 50 billion yuan, and the park will become the core of China’s cell industry and a world-class innovation center for the cell industry.

Cell therapy is a hot topic around the world. It combines other leading technologies related to gene and regenerative medicine, and it transplants modified human cells into a patient for the treatment of a disease, shedding light on cancers, immune system disorders and other difficult diseases.

In 2016, it was listed in the country’s five-year development plan for the pharmaceutical industry as one of the cutting-edge technologies to be largely developed.

In China, Zhangjiang is well qualified to develop cell therapy, said Xia.

The 2019 Global Life Sciences Outlook, released by Deloitte, showed China and the United States as the two leaders in cell therapy. In the field of CAR-T, China is ahead of the US.

Zhangjiang has a leading role in China’s cell therapy industry. It has more than 50 companies involved. By March this year, Zhangjiang-based companies accounted for 20 percent of those making applications related to cell therapy nationwide and 75 percent of those in the city. 

Zhangjiang has premium scientific facilities and labs, such as the Shanghai Synchrotron Radiation Facility that acts as a super microscope to help scientists to decode the micro-world. And it has a pool of talent. 

Zhangjiang is home to more than 600 life sciences companies which are developing more than 400 new drugs, more than 130 of which have entered clinical trials.

“Across the country, every one of three new drugs is made in Zhangjiang,” said Lou Qi, general manager of Zhangjiang Biotech & Pharmaceutical Base Company. “Seven of the world’s top 10 pharmaceutical companies have offices in Zhangjiang.”

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