Interview: Pharma giant Roche pushes for innovative medicines, digital tools in China: chairman

Source: Xinhua| 2020-11-02 20:10:37|Editor: huaxia
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by Martina Fuchs

GENEVA, Nov. 2 (Xinhua) -- Swiss drugmaker Roche is betting on pharma innovation such as new innovative medicines and digital tools in China's booming healthcare market, its chairman told Xinhua in a recent interview.

Speaking to Xinhua ahead of the China International Import Expo (CIIE) to be taking place in Shanghai from Nov. 5-10, Roche Chairman Christoph Franz said he was bullish about the trajectory of the Chinese economic recovery.


"Let me congratulate that the CIIE this year is successfully held as scheduled during a very special period of the world," Franz said.

"That is a clear signal of determination of China to continuously open up as well as a testimonial of the resilience, of great momentum and of the huge potential of the Chinese economy. For us, it is at the same time a signal also of confidence in the recovery of the global economy, not only the Chinese economy."

The CIIE, one of the world's largest trade fairs, has been held annually since 2018. It serves as a platform for foreign companies to expand their business into China and aims to support trade liberalization and economic globalization.

Franz added that the Basel-headquartered company, which is a global leader in cancer treatments, would use the CIIE as a platform to exhibit innovative medicines, new diagnostic tests and instruments, as well as digital solutions to benefit Chinese patients.

Roche China has over 40 branch offices employing more than 8,400 people, with the headquarters of Roche Pharmaceutical and Roche Diagnostics China both located in Shanghai, according to the company.

Franz stressed that the Swiss drugmaker would continue to grow its China business despite the challenging year 2020.

"The slowdown in demand which we have seen is now slowly recovering. I hope that the healthcare system in China will come back to its pre-pandemic performance very soon, enabling not only access to medicines in the context of COVID-19, but also innovative medicines against diseases like cancer or many rare and infectious diseases."

"It is my personal ambition to soon see an innovative medicine of Roche to be first launched in China and then in the rest of the world," he added.

Earlier this month, Roche confirmed its full-year 2020 outlook for low- to mid-single-digit percentage sales growth as revenue from COVID-19 tests and newer drugs helped balance out declining sales from older medicines.


Asked about new reforms and opening-up policies he would like to see from the Chinese government, Franz said:

"First of all, we are sharing the same priorities as the 'Healthy China 2030' initiative focusing on bringing innovation to Chinese patients," he stressed.

"That is clearly something where we need further support from the government as an innovation-driven company in China, developing medicines and diagnostic tests for China and hopefully in the future even more for the whole world."

In 2016, China released the "Healthy China 2030" blueprint, which covered areas such as public health services, environment management, the medical industry and food and drug safety.

Franz also said he would encourage the government to continue the acceleration of bringing new innovative medicines to Chinese patients and to use digital tools to improve the healthcare system.

"The COVID crisis has shown that if you want to reach out with good healthcare support to everybody in the country even to rural areas, you have to include things like tele-consultations and interactive video conferences. This is something where we also develop solutions and I would be grateful if we can bring this even better to China and make better use of data of Chinese patients."

Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies and research centers around the world are rushing to find COVID-19 vaccines, with large global trials of several of the candidates involving tens of thousands of participants underway.

According to the website of the World Health Organization, as of Oct. 29, there were 201 COVID-19 candidate vaccines being developed worldwide, and 45 of them were in clinical trials.

In August, Roche joined up with U.S. company Regeneron on an investigational antibody cocktail against COVID-19. Regeneron would sell the cocktail in the U.S. and the Swiss company in other markets, should the drug win approval.

"Roche has never been involved in vaccines. But as a healthcare company we are closely following the development of more than 100 projects worldwide to develop a vaccine," Franz said.

"This is something which will still need time. We should not expect this to happen tomorrow... But I hope that in the course of the next 1 to 1.5 years, the vaccine manufacturers can make a big contribution to mitigating this situation." Enditem