Chinese Biopharmaceutical Startups and Global Medical Communications

Chinese biopharmaceutical startupsChinese biopharmaceutical startups are on the rise, and now is a great time for new drug development in China. That’s a comment I hear a lot recently from people who work in the Chinese pharmaceutical industry.

Why? They say it’s because of the following.

  • Continued support for new drug development from the central and local Chinese governments,
  • Improved drug approval process in China,
  • Increased interest in investing in biopharmaceutical products in China, and
  • Growing entrepreneurial spirit among overseas Chinese returnees

The sunny environment is fueling the growth of Chinese biopharmaceutical startups. Some experts predict that in the next 5 to 10 years some of these Chinese biopharmaceutical startups will play a great role not only in the Chinese pharmaceutical industry but also the global pharmaceutical industry.

As a bilingual medical communications professional who works closely with global clients in China, the US, and Europe, I am watching the rise of the Chinese biopharmaceutical startups with great interest. I am especially interested in learning the strategies the Chinese biopharmaceutical startups use to communicate with the rest of the world. Meanwhile, I wonder if the rise of the Chinese pharmaceutical startups will affect the global medical communications strategy of foreign pharmaceutical companies. If so, how?

Here are my observations regarding how Chinese biopharmaceutical startups communicate with regulatory agencies outside of China, and their common global medical communications strategy.

Global regulatory submissions for Chinese biopharmaceutical startups

Many of Chinese biopharmaceutical startups choose to conduct clinical trials simultaneously in China and other countries, with popular locations including the US and Australia. While some of the larger companies have decided to form their own medical writing teams, others seem to be working with local CROs. Because certain regulatory documents (eg, clinical study reports, investigators brochures, and protocols) need to be written in both Chinese and English, I believe that bilingual Chinese and English medical writers will become increasingly more desirable to these companies as well as CROs. The rise of the Chinese regulatory medical writing profession is a great sign.

Global scientific and medical communications strategy

Presenting at international conferences is a great way for Chinese biopharmaceutical startups to share data and increase visibility. Many of these companies tend to carefully choose and attend a few international symposia pertaining to their products. Most of the founders and top management team members of Chinese biopharmaceutical startups have global research as well as management experience. When time permits, they prefer preparing and delivering presentations themselves, sometimes with help from their highly capable assistants or in-house writing team.

Publishing in high-impact English journals are also very important to Chinese biopharmaceutical startups, because English publications in prestigious journals can enhance their credibility and strength in investors’ as well as potential collaborators’ eyes.

Many of the leaders of Chinese biopharmaceutical startups are scientists, and they read and breath in science. But when it’s time to write, they tend to let their academic collaborators take the lead. These academic researchers often choose to draft manuscripts themselves. Some of them may choose to have editorial providers to help edit and proofread their manuscripts before submission, but others may choose to work with editorial service providers from the beginning to speed up the process.

Long-term global medical communications strategy

Do all the Chinese biopharmaceutical startups have a long-term global medical communications strategy? The short answer is, some do but most don’t. Due to the inherent high risks and high costs associated with drug development, survival unfortunately is often the number one objective of many Chinese biopharmaceutical startups. Even with the government’ and investors’ support, Chinese biopharmaceutical startups can still quickly run out of money. Promoting their brand and communicating their progress effectively with investors and peers are highly critical to their survival. Companies that already have marketable products tend to  have a long-term global medical communications strategy. Startups without a marketable product tend to develop and revise short-term global medical communications strategies from time to time depending on the progress of the drug development.

With the recent changes in the Chinese regulatory policies and the rise of the Chinese biopharmaceutical startups, foreign pharmaceutical companies interested in the Chinese market will need to modify their global medical communications strategy as well.


How to Cover an Advisory Board Meeting as a Scientific Medical Writer

Cover an advisory board meeting as a medical writerA successful advisory board meeting requires careful planning, impeccable execution, and effective reporting. A mishap in any of the steps can reduce the chance of success.

If you are asked to cover an advisory board meeting as a medical writer, don’t assume that your job is just attending the meeting and taking notes. Depending on the meeting organizer, you may need to assist with the whole project, from preparing slides to facilitating the meeting and writing a final advisory board meeting report.

While your performance will be evaluated every step of the way, producing a well-written report on time and on target will be the most important part of your performance as a medical writer.

If you have never attended an advisory meeting before, covering an advisory board meeting can be stressful. Knowing the following will help.

Understand the deliverable(s) of your advisory board meeting

Your client may simply describe the deliverable as a meeting report, but you need to know that not all meeting reports or deliverables are the same. Different companies and meeting organizers have different needs, and they may want different meeting outputs. While one company wants detailed meeting minutes, another may prefer an executive summary. You need to know exactly what your client wants before the meeting.

Here is a list of advisory board meeting deliverables I have encountered over the years.

  • Detailed meeting minutes that capture all key discussions. Not all meeting minutes are the same. While some clients prefer summarized discussions, others may need details with every attendee’s voice captured (eg, who said what). Again, knowing exactly what your client wants is key to your success.
  • An executive summary of what is discussed and recommended. All executive summaries use similar formats and structures, right? You may ask. Wrong. Again, it depends on the client. Over the years I have worked with organizations that asked for an executive summary starting with clear background information, and I have also collaborated with companies that asked me to just focus on discussions and recommendations.
  • A final report that includes an executive summary followed by key discussions as supporting information. Some of my pharmaceutical clients prefer this type of concise meeting report.
  • A manuscript ready to be submitted to a medical journal for publication. Many medical advisory boards of professional organizations like this type of meeting output. The published article often serves as guidelines. Like regular peer-reviewed medical journal articles, this type of deliverable generally includes background information, rationale and objectives of the meeting, discussions occurred at the meeting, suggestions/recommendations made by the key opinion leaders, and future action plans.

Know your client’s preferred style and format

When it comes to meeting reports, there is no uniformed style or format. It all depends on the client. Based on my experience of covering advisory board meetings in the US and China, Microsoft Word and PowerPoint are the most commonly used software for producing meeting reports and slides. If possible, ask your client for reports or deliverables from previous meetings.

Complete your report ahead of deadline

Advisory board meetings almost always have tight deadlines. Depending on the nature of the final deliverables, the deadlines could vary from 48 hours for meeting minutes, to 1 week for a meeting report, and a few weeks for the first draft of a manuscript.

As a writer, you’ll benefit from writing up your meeting report as soon as the meeting is over for two reasons. First, you can write more accurately while your memory is still fresh. Second, your client may want the report earlier than initially planned. Completing your report ahead of the deadline will prevent you from panicking, and your client will appreciate your flexibility.


How to Conduct an Effective and Thorough Literature Search for Medical Writing Projects

Books and search

Many medical writing projects start with a literature search and review. But conducting a thorough literature search can be time-consuming. How do you effectively gather all the information you need?

Here is a way to do it.

Continue reading “How to Conduct an Effective and Thorough Literature Search for Medical Writing Projects”