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.

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