No­var­tis Shanghai R&D cen­ter to help meet na­tion’s health needs

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE - By SHAN JUAN shan­juan@chi­

No­var­tis On­col­ogy will put more fo­cus on drug re­search and on de­vel­op­ing tar­geted treat­ments of the dis­eases, which worst af­flict Chi­nese, at its newly in­au­gu­rated R&D cen­ter in Shanghai, said com­pany President Bruno St­rig­ini in an in­ter­view with China Daily.

“It’ll be a state-of-the-art facility with top notch re­searchers,” he said. The cen­ter, opened ear­lier this month and cre­ated at a cost of $1 bil­lion, is one of the global phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pany’s three ma­jor R&D cen­ters world­wide. The new cen­ter builds up­onNo­var­tis’ past 10 years of R&D ac­tiv­i­ties in Shanghai and will have 300 re­searchers.

“The cen­ter will be com­mit­ted to meet­ing spe­cific health de­mands in China,” St­rig­ini said. “We are pay­ing great at­ten­tion to China with its abun­dant tal­ent and rapidly grow­ing mar­ket.”

Cur­rently, China is among the top 10 mar­kets of No­var­tis On­col­ogy glob­ally. Last year, No­var­tis spent $8.9 bil­lion world­wide on R&D and in­no­va­tion, which has be­come a ma­jor force driv­ing the growth of the com­pany.

Qiao Youlin, a pro­fes­sor of epi­demi­ol­ogy at the Chi­nese Academy of Med­i­cal Sciences’ Can­cer Hos­pi­tal in Bei­jing, said that due to ever in­creas­ing can­cer preva­lence among the Chi­nese, China has be­come one of the fastest­grow­ing mar­kets for can­cer treat­ments in the world.

Last year, the China mar­ket for can­cer treat­ments was val­ued at 74.5 bil­lion yuan ($11.3 bil­lion), up 11.9 per­cent from 2013, an in­dus­try anal­y­sis re­port by IMSHealth showed.

Ac­cord­ing to St­rig­ini, the cen­ter’s ma­jor re­search fo­cus will be on two fac­tors: dis­eases spe­cific to China and Asia plus epi­ge­netic can­cer treat­ments, which tar­get the ge­netic struc­tures of spe­cific types of tu­mors. There are some can­cers that are more preva­lent in China than in the rest of the world, like can­cers of the stom­ach and liver, he said.

Re­gard­ing the big­gest in­no­va­tion ofNo­var­tis On­col­ogy in the past a fewyears, he said: “I am quite proud of the tech­nol­ogy of can­cer im­mune ther­apy we’ve achieved.”

In that treat­ment, cells were ex­tracted from the pa­tients and rein­tro­duced back af­ter en­gi­neer­ing them to at­tack can­cer cells.

“We are lead­ing in this field and plan­ning to reg­is­ter a treat­ment for some types of in­fant leukemia in the United States early next year,” he said.

An­other quite promis­ing drug is known as PKC412, he said.

In Fe­bru­ary, the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion of the US granted break­through ther­apy des­ig­na­tion to PKC412, an in­ves­ti­ga­tional treat­ment for adults with newly di­ag­nosed acute myeloid leukemia. This des­ig­na­tion is in­tended to ex­pe­dite the devel­op­ment and re­view of new medicines that treat se­ri­ous or life-threat­en­ing con­di­tions if the ther­apy has demon­strated sub­stan­tial im­prove­ment over an avail­able ther­apy on at least one clin­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant end­point.

No­var­tis rev­o­lu­tion­ized can­cer treat­ment 15 years ago with the launch of Gleevec, an early ex­am­ple of so-called tar­get ther­a­peu­tics. That was based on the iden­tifi­ca­tion of a gene de­fault, which leads to pre­ci­sion medicine, he added.

China launched a pre­ci­sion medicine ini­tia­tive late last year which high­lights im­proved can­cer treat­ments us­ing im­proved un­der­stand­ing and tools of genome se­quenc­ing. As No­var­tis is very present in the field of pre­ci­sion medicine with a spe­cial fo­cus on can­cer, “(we) would like to par­tic­i­pate in that pro­gram in China,” St­rig­ini said. The dis­cus­sions and col­lab­o­ra­tion “we had with ma­jor can­cer cen­ters in China will be help­ful in that re­gard,” he noted.

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