AstraZeneca on the Way to Innovation

July 15, 2021
Innovation Practice

XNode Blog

AstraZeneca on the Way to Innovation

(Translated by XNode Team. Source:

Compared to the lightweight biotech innovation companies,the top 10 pharmaceutical giants always seem to give the impression that theyare less agile, one reason being pharmaceutical giants have historical contexts,and the other being that their business is so large that it cannot beelaborated in detail within a short article.

If we try to select the most innovativeone among multinational pharmaceuticalcompanies, AstraZeneca must be the first coming to our mind. Fromself-developed new drugs to distributor sales, from improvingthe capacity of healthcare services to supporting early screening anddiagnosis in the county level, from single channels to multiple channels ofexploration, from innovation incubation to capital cooperation ... AstraZenecahas broken the stereotype of traditional big pharmaceutical companies byextending innovative "tentacles" for cross-sectoral layout and in-depthcollaboration with partners in the drugs, devices, diagnosis, digital, capitaland other fields.

Judging from the performance of multinationalpharmaceutical companies in China, AstraZeneca is for sure in the lead. Accordingto the latest figures, more than 20% of AstraZeneca's global business revenuecomes from China.

With its numerous layouts and frequent cross-sectoralbusiness, what does AstraZeneca has been planning for China? The recentAstraZeneca China Ecosystem Annual Meetingin Wuxi gave us some answers.

Innovative drug provider:

Responds to patient needs, with unlimited forms– independent R&D, collaborative R&D, authorized commercialization

In a keynote speech at the meeting, Leon Wang, ExecutiveVice President, International and China President at AstraZeneca, pointed outthat since 1993, AstraZeneca China has introduced more than 40 innovativedrugs to China, and 50 new drugs and new indications will be approved in Chinaover the next five years.

Leon Wangdelivered a keynote speech at the meeting


AstraZeneca China is accelerating the processof bringing innovative drugs to patients in China and around the world through independentR&D and external collaborative R&D of new drugs. In China, AstraZeneca isworking to promote the development and incubation of 8 new drugs. In addition,AstraZeneca China has actively introduced and promoted other high-qualityinnovative drugs through strategic cooperation with domestic and foreignpharmaceutical companies. These drugs include PD-1 inhibitors, which are at theforefront of life sciences in China, and several cancer drugs from India, aswell as traditional Chinese medicines.

In Leon's point of view, the distinctionbetween the nature of independent R&D and external collaborative R&Dseems to be less important, and the boundary between self-selling productsdeveloped by AstraZeneca itself and selling products developed by others asagents seems to be less distinct. As long as the business meets the needs ofpatients, AstraZeneca will do it. "Patients’ needs" is not only thekey to open AstraZeneca's cross-sectoral layout, but also the underlying logicof AstraZeneca's entire healthcare industry chain and innovative ecosystem.

High-quality medical service builder:

Focus on the integrated case management in the fieldof disease, empowering primary-level health care

For China's national health insurance paymentsystem, the primary level represents a huge long-tailed market. Only by being able to capture this part of themarket can AstraZeneca really take root in China. But how to seize theprimary-level market?

In the interview after the meeting, Leon mentionedthat the biggest challenge primary-level hospitals facing is the lack ofdiagnostic and treatment capacity. The lack of diagnostic and treatmentcapacity has led to the lack of people's trust in primary-level careinstitutions. If suffering from serious diseases, people often choose to go tolarge hospitals for treatment. This situation is also the main reason why it isdifficult for most pharmaceutical companies to get access to the primary-levelmarket.

For AstraZeneca, the primary-level market isnot just product-oriented, but needs continuous investment, starting with empoweringprimary-level diagnostic and treatment capacity, to support primary-level careinstitutions to build integrated programs for diagnosis and treatment, so that primary-levelpeople can access high-quality medical services near home.

In Leon's words, "If there is no chestpain center, we support primary-level care institutions to build one. If thereis no nebulization treatment room, we supportprimary-level care institutions to build one. For those people with hypertension,hyperglycemia and hyperlipidemia, we help integrate the diagnosis and treatmentcapabilities, so that the 'three-high' problems can be solved in one hospital.”

This is a process of shaping the market. In thecase of nebulization centers, through supporting primary-level care institutionsto construct those centers, primary-level patients can get more convenient,high-quality respiratory disease treatment programs. The success of thenebulization centers has also given AstraZeneca greater confidence in buildingmore patient-centered and integrated whole-course solutions for treatment, andhas built its confidence on frequent cross-sectoral business.

Today, AstraZeneca supports the authoritativeassociations to build integrated case management solutions for diagnosis andtreatment, and has been constructed more than 7000 hospitals in the country, providingthe people in large cities and primary-level markets integrated diagnosis and treatmentprograms.

Ecosystem Construction Leader:

Government-enterprise cooperation acceleratesthe construction of commercial innovation ecosystem, and iCampus has frequentlymade great progress

At the Ecosystem Meeting, AstraZeneca announcedthat Wuxi International Life-Science Innovation Campus (iCampus) has welcomed11 domestic and foreign enterprises. Since its opening in 2019, iCampus hassigned up more than 40 companies to cover innovation in various fields such as drugs,devices, diagnosis, digital, and platform services domestically and abroad.

At the event, AstraZeneca China announced thatWuxi International Life-Science Innovation Campus (iCampus) iCampus was onceagain being upgraded -- launched by Wuxi Industrial Jufeng InvestmentManagement Co., Ltd. and Wuxi High-tech District Management Committee, jointsupported by AstraZeneca, the InternationalLife-Science Innovation Campus Fund Program officially announced that the totalsize of the fund was expected to reach 100 million U.S. dollars. Thefund is positioned as the supporting special fund of the ecosphere enterprises,targeting high-quality innovative enterprises in the fields of life and health,such as devices, diagnostic and digital companies.

On-sitesigning ceremony

AstraZeneca-CICC Healthcare Industrial Fundsigned an investment intention agreement at the meeting with two companies inthe park, Abbisko Therapeutics and Zhizhong Medical, whichdemonstrated that the $1 billion Global Healthcare Industry Fund, also activelyopens up potential projects in iCampus.

In addition, Wuxi International Life-ScienceInnovation Campus (iCampus) officially released the second phase of planning. Theestimated construction area would be nearly 200,000 square meters. The futureinnovation park model will also land in Shanghai, Beijing, Hangzhou, Guangzhou,Chengdu and Yixing. AstraZeneca China will start with Wuxi and move towardscontinuously building an innovative ecosystem throughout the country.

Just 2 years after the opening of the iCampus,how can they attracted such a large number of high-quality enterprises domesticallyand abroad so quickly? Combined with the development of the iCampus's starenterprise - Teddy ClinicalResearch Laboratory, it may be able to further illustrate the incubationpotential of iCampus.

Teddy Clinical Research Laboratory is a centrallaboratory jointly established by Dean Diagnostics and Tigermed to provideone-stop central laboratory services from 3 phases of drug clinical trials topost-marketing diagnostics. During the COVID-19 outbreak in the first half of2020, Teddy Clinical Research Laboratory actively contributed to theclinical trials of COVID-19 therapeutic drugs, including CanSinoSingle-Dose COVID-1 9 Vaccine, and published research results with  expertson the top medical journals such as The Lancet and New England, making it theleading CRO center laboratory and medical laboratory in China.

On April 27, 2020, Teddy Clinical ResearchLaboratory signed up to iCampus. In June of the same year, Wuxi Teddy ClinicalResearch Laboratory officially launched, less than two months after itofficially joined iCampus. At the beginning of August, Teddy Clinical ResearchLaboratory obtained the qualification of medical examination laboratory. InNovember, Teddy Clinical Research Laboratory signed a strategic agreement withAstraZeneca on homologous recombination defects and accompanying diagnostickits (HRD).

Yi Xu, the General Manager of Teddy ClinicalResearch Laboratory, said in a public interview that the Wuxi government hasprovided a lot of assistance after joining the iCampus, such as tax exemptions,green approval, inter-company exchanges, investment and financing matching, andother support and activities. These supports have effectively reduced thecost and improved the efficiency of resource matching, helping Teddy ClinicalResearch Laboratory to focus more on business development.

In addition, relying on AstraZeneca'somni-channel commercialization platform and global innovation network, TeddyClinical Research Laboratory, on the one hand, can receive support fromAstraZeneca in terms of market insights, proof of concepts, commercialinnovation cooperation, sales authorization and agency promotion domesticallyand abroad. On the other hand, Teddy Lab Services can better understand themarket and patients’ needs, thus creating stronger synergy with ecosystempartners and accelerating business development.

Teddy Clinical Research Laboratory isundoubtedly an example of iCampus' incubation achievements, and there are manyother cases like this. To further promote the exchange of innovation at homeand abroad, iCampus relies on the resources of AstraZeneca's global innovationnetwork and has built cooperation with 8 leading internationalbiopharmaceutical innovation parks, bringing together the wisdom ofinnovation domestically and abroad by linking leading international innovationparks and strategic partners, and providing an excellent platform for globalcollaboration.


Focus on Internet healthcare, and improve theaccessibility of medical services

Among the many cross-sectoral collaborations,Internet healthcare is one of AstraZeneca's key strategic focus. At the 2020 ChinaInternational Import Expo, AstraZeneca announced a strategic partnership with HillHouseCapital to support the development of the Internet Hospital project.

Why does AstraZeneca focus on Internet hospitals?Leon said that on the one hand, the future of online sales of prescriptiondrugs liberalization would be a big trend, while Internet medical platforms couldplay a very important role in it. On the other hand, hospitals are overcrowdedand most patients do not continue their medication because they don’t want togo to the hospital. Seizing the opportunity of "Internet medical platform"is an inevitable strategy.

AstraZeneca's Internet hospital project with HillHouseCapital intends to leverage the advantages of the Internet and multi-channelmarketing methods to make healthcare services more accessible, rather than competingwith traditional Internet giants. In addition to this project, Leon pointed outthat AstraZeneca would also work with other major Internet platforms and majorpharmaceutical partners to carry out extensive cooperation to achievecomplementary advantages and mutually beneficial development.

Written at the end

We can see that AstraZeneca has been frequentlydeveloping "cross-sectoral" business, and moving against conventions.When being asked if AstraZeneca's frequent cross-sectoral business buildingwere beyond the reach of pharmaceutical companies themselves, Leon replied,"We don't care how we are defined by the outside world. The businessstructure of a pharmaceutical company can stay the same or change; it doesn'tmatter. We do what the patients need us to do.”

What companies will AstraZeneca become in thefuture? "It's definitely an innovative platform company that providesintegrated services to patients. Of course, we will certainly have a businesspurpose. But we believe that the starting point for any business innovation isto meet the needs of patients.”

In Leon Wang's vision, AstraZeneca in thefuture will also be a company that meets the dreams of young people - youngpeople working at AstraZeneca can enjoy the stability, and also when the companyuse its platform strengths to diversify its business, young people can chooseto build their dreams on the way to innovate.

Canthis be understood as that AstraZeneca itself is also on the way to innovation?