Pfizer's strategic presence in China

Pfizer Pharmaceuticals announced Monday that it has officially opened a research and development facility in Shanghai to offer drug development support capabilities and biometric expertise to China and the surrounding Asian region.

The Pfizer China Research and Development (R&D) Centre will be engaged in drug development activities. However, much of the facility's capacity will be devoted to the study design, data management and statistical analysis of global phase I-IV clinical trials. With this emphasis on improving clinical trials, the new centre will also train Pfizer employees in China and throughout the region in internationally recognized Good Clinical Practice standards.

Pfizer plans to invest US$25 million in the facility in the foreseeable future.

"The Pfizer investment in this centre demonstrates not only our commitment to broaden the scope of our operations here in China, but also our belief that the future of this industry in China is extremely bright," said Karen Katen, vice- chairwoman of Pfizer Inc and president of Pfizer Human Health.

Joseph Feczko, Pfizer's chief medical officer, sees the new Shanghai R&D centre as "not only an investment to expand the company's R&D capability, but also an investment in China's knowledge-based industry and infrastructure."

Collaborations with Chinese partners to develop the capabilities and talents of local scientists, biostatisticians, medical professionals, pharmacists and professionals in the field of life sciences are currently in the planning stages.

The decision to open a new R&D centre in Shanghai was based on the success of a recent pilot programme and will integrate China into the company's worldwide US$7.9 billion pharmaceutical development programme.

E. Allan Gabor, Pfizer China's chairman and general manager, noted at a press conference Monday, "The new Pfizer China R&D Centre is an integral part of our global R&D efforts. Through its support of clinical trials, the centre will help bring innovative medicines to China throughout Asia faster. We are also pleased to be a part of a broader enabling strategy for the corporation that will benefit patients around the world."

To date, Pfizer has invested US$500 million in China and aims to introduce some 20 new medications to China by 2010.

The company focuses on developing therapeutic medicines in the area of cardiovascular disease, endocrinology, neuroscience, arthritis and other inflammatory diseases, infectious disease and oncology.

R&D: Creating the cure for the future

During the last century, pharmaceutical research transformed the practice of medicine while saving and enhancing the lives of millions of people worldwide. Six of the eight most deadly diseases of the 1920s - including pneumonia, tuberculosis, and diphtheria - have been brought under control by new vaccines or medicines, developed by R&D based companies, like Pfizer.

Behind each of these advances was a lengthy process, starting with the conception of an idea and moving on from the moment of discovery, the long development process, regulatory approval, and finally, the prescription dispensed by your doctor.

Today's science is funded and pursued by numerous institutions, private and public, from governments around the globe to academia and industry. However, among the many players involved in biomedical research worldwide, only pharmaceutical companies have assembled the capability and the resources, scientific and business skills, and incentives to take an idea and develop it into a new medicine for the marketplace.

In the United States, during the period between 1997 through 2000, 143 of 160 approved drugs were discovered by pharmaceutical companies.

Each endeavour to create a new product requires a highly risky, and expensive research process, involving thousands of people in a complex scientific enterprise. This is both expensive and time consuming. Scientists and investors must think in time frames involving decades rather than years or months. And success is very rare for even the most promising new ideas. The ability of companies to raise capital for long-term new projects, and continue to invest in risky, cutting-edge research, depends on a delicate balance of marketplace forces and a supportive regulatory environment. The cost of development is escalating as well.

The American Food and Drug Administration estimates that a new medicine costs as much as US$880 million to discover and develop, almost twice the cost of a decade ago.

Before getting approval for launching into markets, potential medicines go through several rounds of clinical testing (safety trials, efficacy studies and wide-scale studies on large populations). Even after drugs go through lengthy approval processes in various markets where companies seek to sell them, research and development continue.

Yet another round of clinical trials, often known as Phase IV studies, are often initiated to examine the risks and benefits of the new drug in the general populace.

During this phase, the pharmaceutical company receives reports from hospitals, medical centres, and individual physicians about the effects of the newly marketed drug on their patients.

In addition to further clinical trials, "outcomes research" will be conducted to measure a drug's cost effectiveness and therapeutic value compared with other therapies such as surgery or hospitalization.

Sustained commitment to knowledge equals sustained development

As the 2008 Olympic Games and the 2010 Shanghai Expo draw nearer, it is becoming increasingly evident that China is a country determined to build a brighter future for itself. And, while many people around the world may think of China as the world's workshop, China is actually making sure strides to move beyond manufacturing as the source of its success and to sustain the country's economic boom over the long term. The key to this, China has realized, is fostering innovation and nurturing knowledge-based industries.

The opening of Pfizer's new state-of-the-art R&D centre in Shanghai is a clear indication of the direction that China is moving towards.

By enabling Pfizer to establish a research oriented facility in what is widely recognized as China's most advanced city, Shanghai is underscoring the importance of building a mature healthcare infrastructure for its citizens, the value of branding the city as a creative service centre, and Pfizer's role in this process as well.

With substantial existing resources, financial and intellectual, not only will Pfizer staff the centre with highly skilled scientists, it will eventually use the centre to extend training and Good Clinical Practice skills to its employees throughout the rest of China.

Laying the groundwork for a knowledge-based industry is not done overnight. Much like developing new medicines, the process can take decades. This also reinforces the value of collaborating with a company such as Pfizer, which focuses on a commitment to the communities where it operates.

Over the past 20 years, Pfizer has worked closely with government authorities and local partners, creating long term partnerships and trust.

The company has invested over US$500 million in China, and over 60 million yuan (US$7.41 million) in community programmes. This has translated into over 40 category-leading medicines and extensive health education and disease awareness education programmes on hypertension, men's health, arthritis, and HIV/AIDS.

In Shanghai alone, Pfizer has donated over US$600,000 to leadership training programmes at the Shanghai Medical Centre in 1998. When the SARS crisis broke out in 2003, Pfizer worked with the local government to fast track approval of Vfend medication donation to save lives.

Pfizer has placed particular emphasis on education, introducing cancer control education and teenage healthcare programmes. Partnerships are also a mainstay of Pfizer's activities and the company has collaborated with the Shanghai Bureau of Food and Drug Administration (BFDA) and the Bureau Administration for Industry and Commerce (BAIC) on anti-counterfeit training.

Pfizer has been taking large steps to establish more than just a token presence in Shanghai. In 2004 Pfizer moved its China headquarters to Shanghai and in the near future the company plans to launch what it calls a hemisphere project to support community health services in Shanghai. This sort of investment in infrastructure helps create an environment where other like-minded companies will see positive incentives to similarly invest in Shanghai, thereby feeding the growth of a knowledge-based industry.

And as China continues to develop beyond its role as a global manufacturing centre, the value of building a knowledge-based industry will become ever more obvious. With approximately 20 new products scheduled for release in China before 2010, Pfizer is a clear demonstration of how investment in knowledge and collaboration between government authorities and private companies can result in practical benefits for the Chinese people.

Source: China Daily

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