Accelerating drug discovery and development in China

Accelerating drug discovery and development in China

For entrepreneurs seeking to develop new drug therapies, opportunity—including the possibility of R&D funding support—awaits in China.

In a recent Ontario delegation trip to China, I had the opportunity to visit the Tianjin International Joint Academy of Biomedicine (TJAB), along with Fang Liu, a senior scientist from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and Malik Slassi, president and chief scientific officer of MaRS client Fluorinov Pharma Inc.

TJAB is one of China’s 15 national New Drug Creation and Development Integrated Platforms, funded by the National New Drug Creation and Development Program, which was launched in 2008 to provide 6.6 billion yuan (CA$1.1 billion) to accelerate domestic drug development.

The tour group, featuring TJAB staff, Fang Liu, Xuefei Mao, Malik Slassi and Translator
The tour group, featuring from left to right, a TJAB staff member, Fang Liu, Xuefei Mao, Malik Slassi, a translator, a TJAB staff member

It was an eye-opening tour, showcasing how China is taking a different route to improving the infrastructure of drug discovery and development. It is widely recognized that western countries are facing several drug development challenges, including lack of productivity and shrinking research-and-development (R&D) funding support. Challenges are present in all stages of drug development activities, including the pre-discovery, pre-clinical and clinical stages, and especially for small pharmaceutical companies and academic scientists.

Open for business: One-stop shop for drug discovery and development

The TJAB model is trying to tackle these challenges with the goal of building a facility that offers a fully integrated one-stop drug discovery and development service, and also offers funding support all the way from pre-clinical to regulatory approval. The platform is open to both industries and academics, including applicants from foreign countries. Best of all, companies or scientists can use the facility’s services at cost price.

The facility is composed of four core technical platforms and seven supporting technology platforms, all offered through extensive collaborations with academic and industrial entities in Tianjin.

Four core platforms

  • Drug Discovery Platform: This platform consists of target protein research, a compound library and a high throughput lead discovery and validation platform.
  • Drug R&D Information Management Platform: Mainly used to manage regulatory filings to the SFDA, FDA and EMEA, this platform also provides evaluation and assessment of biomedical progress related to malignant tumor, cardiovascular and metabolism diseases.
  • Drug Analysis and Test Platform: This one single platform consists of chemical analysis, biochemical analysis, cellular analysis, and analysis and test mechanisms of systems biology.
  • Biological GMP Pilot Plant Platform: This platform provides biological process development and good manufacturing practice services in full compliance with SFDA, FDA and EMEA regulations.

Seven supporting platforms

  • Lead Identification and Optimization Platform
    Partner: Tianjin Pharma Tech Co., Ltd.
  • API Process Development and Manufacturing Platform
    This platform operates in full compliance with global good manufacturing practice requirements.
    Partner: Asymchem Life Science Technology (Tianjin) Co., Ltd.
  • Drug Separation and Purification Technology Development Platform
    Partner: The School of Chemical Engineering and Technology, Tianjin University
  • Formulation Development and Drug Product Manufacturing Platform
    This platform is dedicated to formulation development and drug product manufacturing with full good manufacturing practice compliance.
    Partner: Tianjin Pharmaceutical Group Co., Ltd.
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine Research and Development Platform
    Partner: Tianjin University of Traditional Chinese Medicine
  • Pre-Clinical Drug Evaluation Platform
    This platform provides services including studying drug candidate safety, PK and efficacy in full compliance with global good laboratory practice requirements.
    Partner: Tianjin Institute of Pharmaceutical Research
  • Clinical Research Platform
    This platform helps to establish clinical bases and to conduct clinical trials.
    Tianjin Medical University Cancer Institute and Hospital
    Tianjin TEDA International Cardiovascular Hospital
    Fountain (Tianjin) Medical Development Co., Ltd.

More details of other opportunities in China to come this fall!

In addition to its drug development services, TJAB also acts as a sector incubator and provides legal, grant application and commercialization services. It is worth mentioning that a facility of this scale and capacity is not rare in China. A detailed exploration of other opportunities in China will be presented at MaRS’ upcoming Going Global Series: China in September. Stay tuned!