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Biotech cooperation set to benefit China, Russia

By REN QI in Moscow | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-03-26 12:36

The Sino-Russian biotech cooperation has shown its great potential, and their joint working on the research and development of medical equipments will benefit peoples of the two neighbors, a Chinese merchant of the industry said.

Xiang Guozheng, deputy general manager of Beijing Ruao Medical corp, visited Moscow in late February. His company is starting a new business in Russia and looking for partnership in the field of stroke rehabilitation.

China's emergence as a global player in the field of biotech and medical rehabilitation is rooted in the rapid development of a sovereign innovation infrastructure, one that allows China to compete in high-technology races with the United States and some European countries.

China's buildup of its innovation infrastructure is complemented by another process: an intensifying cooperation with the Russia in security, trade, energy supplies, artificial intelligence, 5G, space research, and biotechnology.

Under the comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era, as well as the US and the European Union's decoupling from business with China and imposing economic sanctions on Russia, two neighboring countries push each other to examine the potential of their cooperation more closely.

China and Russia are very different in terms of their innovation performance, according to Svitlana Lebedenko, a researcher at the European University Institute in Fiesole, Italy. China has an ascending trajectory and has already advanced to self-sufficient manufacturing of "sophisticated intermediate goods", which is well integrated into global innovation networks. Meanwhile, since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia became a natural resource exporter heavily dependent on import of foreign technology.

"That's how we see the great potential is in the vast market of Russian medical rehabilitation industry," Xiang said.

During his 2-week visit in Russia, most time of which was in Moscow, Xiang met representatives from Russian medical equipment retailing agencies, state-owned hospital Medicine, local private clinics network Medsi, private hospital European Medical Center and some other rehabilitation centers.

The means of rehabilitation for patients who suffer from strokes are quite different in Russia from the mainstream ways in China, Xiang said. In China, hospitals using equipment with transcranial ultrasound and electrical muscle stimulation to send signals to patients' brain to help them recover to normal movement and minor sports exercises.

"But in Russia, most of the hospitals and rehabilitation centers prefer using more physical training during the stroke recovery, while using ultrasound and electrical stimulation as an auxiliary help," Xiang said.

Regardless of these differences, Beijing and Moscow are actively developing a joint innovation infrastructure, as the two countries declared 2020 and 2021 the "Years of Russian and Chinese scientific, technical, and innovation cooperation".

Russia approved PHARMA 2030 in December 2021, a call for an upgrade from import substitution to an innovative model of production. In nine years, Russia aims to double the production of local medicines and medical equipment and increase their export. The program foresees investment in infrastructure to allow for deepening cooperation between production, science, and education.

Under the policy, Russian company Biocad, together with Chinese manufacturer Shanghai Pharmaceuticals Holding, created a joint venture, SPH Biocad, based in China. SPH Biocad will commercialize Biocad's portfolio of medicines, e.g., oncology and autoimmune treatment, in the Chinese market.

Meanwhile, China demonstrated its ability in launching and managing large-scale projects and leads in Sino-Russian partnerships. Most of the infrastructure projects take place under the auspices of the Belt and Road Initiative, said Lebedenko.

"For example, one of its institutes is Russia-China Investment Fund, a private equity fund established jointly by the Russian Direct Investment Fund and China Investment Corporation, which equally committed $2 billion."

The purpose of building this type of infrastructure is to accelerate Sino-Russian partnerships in science and technology and facilitate technology transfer.

For Xiang and his companies, the "therapy gap" won't hesitate their decision to explore markets in Russia. After talking with his Russian partners, Xiang reached agreement with organizations that would work with his company as well as Chinese institutes to find out a better way of stroke rehabilitation. And this is the biggest meaning for Xiang about his trip to Russia.

It was Xiang's second business trip to Moscow in the past 3 months, as he participated the Russian Health Care Week 2022 in December. He was shocked on the first day of the exhibition as it had much larger scale than he had expected, and he saw many more Chinese medical companies participating the exhibition than he had expected as well.

More than 40 Chinese companies rent stands or booths during the Russian Health Care Week 2022, and the organizer of the exhibition even set up a special hall for Chinese participants.

"As the medical institutes and companies from the two countries enhance their cooperation in both innovation and therapy methods, more Chinese medical companies will be able to find their own opportunities in Russia," Xiang said.

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