China has become a prominent component for drug development, not only are they viewed as a lucrative market for drugs, particularly in oncology medicines, the entities in the country are also making heavy investments in the global biotech industry. 

It is with this in mind, that China’s 2017 pharmaceutical market was valued at $122.6 billion, according to data from healthcare information company IQVIA. These numbers are expected to increase significantly, reports BioSpace, with the pharmaceutical market growing to between $145 billion and $175 billion by 2022.  

One area where China is specifically seeing growth is with the development of CAR-T therapies. Citing a U.S. database, OZY reported that there are currently 116 clinical CAR-T trials registered in China. In comparison, there are 96 trials in the United States. Back in 2016, Juno Therapeutics combined forces with Shanghai-based WuXi AppTec to form a new Chinese company called JW Biotechnology. The new company will develop treatments for cancer using Juno’s chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) and T cell receptor (TCR) technologies in combination with WuXi AppTec’s R&D and manufacturing platform. 

Thanks to the relaxation of its drug restrictions, western companies have been able to look at the nation for drug development. In past years, drug companies have had to wait to gain approval in other countries before attempting to begin clinical trials in China, but the growing demand for newer drugs has opened the doors to new opportunities. In addition, Chinese pharma companies are also making their mark in the West. In 2016, Chinese pharma companies snagged approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for 38 generic drugs – up from 22 approvals in 2015. However, it’s not just China itself that’s growing, in the first quarter of 2018 there has been more than $1.4 billion spent by Chinese investors into U.S. biotech firms. That money accounts for approximately 40% of overall funds raised during the first quarter. Therefore, the money spent this year is a clear increase over the same period last year, when there was only about $135.5 million invested by Chinese venture capitalists. 

Despite this success, it’s only been within the past decade that China has become the second-largest drug market in the world. Up until 2012, Japan was behind the United States in the number two spot. Japan’s healthcare market was valued at $84.8 billion in 2017. Even though China has taken the top spot, there is still growth expected in Japan. Enterprise Innovation reported that the company is expected to see an increase in its biopharmaceutical workforce over the next few years due to joint programs between academic institutions and the pharma industry. For example, Paraxel International and Meiji Pharmaceutical University, a private college in Japan, to spur training for roles in the industry.