China ramps up stem cell efforts just weeks after US research U-turn

By Gareth Macdonald

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Stem cell, China

Construction of a new stem cell research and processing plant began yesterday in China’s Eastern Jiangsu province as part of a joint project between the Chinese government and Shenzen Beike Biotechnology.

The facility, which is located in Taizhou Medical City, will serve as a research hub for scientists from the US and China and as is a clear indication of the government’s ambition for the Chinese biotech sector as Beike’s CEO Sean Hu explained.

"In the 1970's the US government provided the intellectual property support and venture capital companies offered the funding that allowed the US to leapfrog past Europe to become the leader in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

China's Medical City is now doing the same and we are starting to see the results of these efforts. Beike feels honoured to be able to help…fulfil its mission of making China the world leader in clinical stem cell technology,"​ added Dr Hu.

The announcement could also be seen as an effort to shore up China’s stem cell sector in light of the removal of the US ban on embryonic stem cell research, particularly because the project will involve scientists from Stanford and the Texas Houston Medical Centre.

The Taizhou facility will include four hubs: a technology transfer centre to help move treatments from the lab to the clinic; a safety and stability testing unit; a clinical trials division; and Asia’s largest stem cell storage bank capable of holding 1m samples.

The integration of research, clinical development and industrial scale quality and processing is interesting, given the strength of China’s contract research and manufacturing sector.

One idea is that Taizhou could act as a research and manufacturing hub for multinational drug firm’s seeking to develop products for both the emerging Chinese market and US, Japan and Europe where demand for stem cell therapies is also expected to increase.

Comments by China’s Health Minister Chen Zhu lend further support to this idea. Zhu said that: “Biotechnology is China's fastest developing technology, and stem cell research promises to improve the quality of life for people everywhere​.”

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