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Novartis to set up new drug plant

By ZHOU WENTING in Shanghai | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-12-02 07:11

Visitors gather at Novartis' booth during a trade expo in Shanghai. CHINA DAILY

Multinational pharmaceutical company Novartis said on Friday it would invest more than 600 million yuan ($84 million) in a new radiopharmaceutical production site to accelerate the introduction of innovative radioligand therapy that will benefit cancer patients in China.

The site, located in the Nuclear Technology Application (Isotope) Industrial Park in Haiyan county of Zhejiang province, is scheduled to kick-start production by the end of 2026.

"China is one of the most strategic markets for Novartis. The company has deep roots in the country, continually investing in and promoting local collaboration and expanding its presence in the China market," said Ingrid Zhang, president and managing director of Novartis China.

"We look forward to establishing the new production site as a crucial step toward accelerating the introduction of radioligand therapy in China, contributing to the development of the nuclear medical industry and the clinical utilization of related therapies," she said.

Upon completion, it will be Novartis' second innovative medicine production site in China.

"Haiyan is located at the heart of the city cluster of the Yangtze River Delta region, providing the project with extensive market advantages. Meanwhile, I believe the project will bring immeasurable benefits to our county," said Chen Feng, deputy director of the standing committee of the People's Congress of Haiyan.

Currently, the company operates a factory in Beijing's Changping district that was set up in 1987 with a total investment exceeding 700 million yuan. The unit has a maximum production capacity of 3 billion tablets and 400 million boxes of packaging annually.

Radioligand therapy is a new generation of targeted therapeutic radiopharmaceuticals that can be selectively targeted to bind to the corresponding diseased tissues, using radiation energy to kill them.

Due to the moderate distance of the radiation, it can minimize damage to healthy cells while achieving the purpose of precise treatment.

Novartis has about 10 radioligand therapy-related products in development, covering a range of oncology diseases.

An innovative medicine for Novartis' targeted radioligand therapy has been approved in the United States and the European Union to treat a type of prostate cancer. A multicenter clinical study on the therapy is underway in China.

According to the 2022 White Paper on the Development of China's Innovative Pharmaceutical Enterprises, China's pharmaceutical market has leapt from just 2 percent of the global market to the world's second-largest after the United States over the past three decades due to the continuous promotion of medical reform and the expansion of medical insurance.

Such changes have, in turn, attracted foreign enterprises to invest further in the market and introduce innovative products.

For example, during the China International Import Expo held in Shanghai last month, the first and only targeted drug approved in China for the treatment of chronic graft-versus-host disease (cGVHD) by French pharmaceutical company Sanofi made its Asia debut.

Experts said that hematopoietic stem cell transplantation is often the main means for patients with hematologic malignancies, but about 30 to 70 percent of patients who undergo allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation will develop cGVHD.

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