China Emerges as Powerhouse for Biotech Drugs – By PREETIKA RANA April 10, 2017 5:30 a.m. ET


Global drugmakers join with local Chinese startups to test and create new cancer treatments

Drugs are classified into two major categories based on their genetic makeup: chemical and biological. The WSJ’s Preetika Rana explains what their differences are and why drug companies are increasingly looking to biologics. Photo/video: Menglin Huang/The Wall Street Journal

SUZHOU, China—A new cancer drug licensed by Eli Lilly LLY -0.05%& Co. was discovered by a six-year-old startup on the outskirts of Shanghai, and derived from the ovary cells of Chinese hamsters. Lilly now is planning to test it on Americans.

Rival Merck & Co. aims to test a separate cancer drug in the U.S. this year, created by another startup near the border with Hong Kong.

Those aren’t outliers. China, long the world’s supplier of cheap pharmaceutical ingredients and copycat pills, is emerging as a major producer of important new medicines: biotech drugs. China now boasts the second-largest number of clinical trials involving biologic treatments—produced using biological matter such as animal cells or bacteria—after the U.S., according to data from the National Institutes of Health.

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