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For Merck, China remains a sweet pill

By Zhong Nan | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated:2021-06-05

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An employee works at Merck's pharmaceutical manufacturing site in Nantong in April, 2021. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Merck, the German science and technology company, will continue to invest in digital transformation, pharmaceutical innovation and collaboration with local partners in China to maintain robust growth in the coming years, said a senior executive.

China's pursuit in high-quality and high-efficacy medications, and its efforts in alleviating the burden for both patients and the national healthcare system will inject more vitality into the healthcare sector, said Rogier Janssens, managing director and general manager of Healthcare at Merck China.

"In line with the Chinese government's commitment to innovation and to bringing it to a broader population, Merck focuses on the unmet medical needs in China, and the country will be among the first countries to launch future innovations due to our current set up of our development programs," he said.

In addition to producing oncology drugs, Janssens, who also is vice-chairman of the executive committee at the R&D-based Pharmaceutical Association in China, said Merck's cardiology, metabolism and endocrinology and fertility businesses also stay core to its overall healthcare business, given the plenty of unmet needs and untapped opportunities in China. The company will go beyond medicines and focus on the full-cycle health management.

With the future development of the tiered medical system, especially in terms of community healthcare, improving early detection, diagnosis and disease awareness have vital to play, he said at the second conference of Global Healthcare Forum of Boao Forum for Asia, recently held in Qingdao, Shandong province.

"That's why we have remained attuned to the demands from China's grassroots market, by expanding our presence for general medicine and endocrinology products in China," said Janssens, adding that apart from manufacturing medicines, the firm will keep improving medical education and disease awareness and focus on full-cycle health management.

The executive said he is particularly buoyed by the country's sharpened focus on deeper reforms, wider opening-up, strengthened scientific and technological innovation and the expansion of domestic demand.

"We will continue to leverage opportunities in pilot areas such as the Hainan Free Trade Port and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area to bring newly launched innovative drugs to China in faster paces," Janssens added.

According to the government plan during the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) period, and social development and long-range objectives through the year 2035, advancing reform and opening up, pursuing innovation-driven development, creating a robust domestic market and fostering a new dual-circulation development pattern will prioritize the country's growth roadmap.

Greatly inspired by the government's commitment to improving accessibility to high-quality and innovative pharmaceuticals, Merck opened its largest life science technology and training collaboration center in Shanghai last year.

Its Shanghai center boasts 13 labs and facilities that cover the entire pharmaceutical value chain from drug discovery and development to manufacturing.

Ma Yu, a senior researcher at the Beijing-based Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, said that setting up local innovation centers helps global companies better reach the market, and lowers costs of supply chains and personnel.

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