Big Pharma

China's biotech pioneers

November 5, 2010: 3:00 AM ET

Mireille Gingras and Xian Ping Lu are two unlikely partners, but together they plan to unleash China's young pharma industry.

By Bill Powell, contributor

Mireille Gingras: "People didn't think there was anything happening" in China.

When Mireille Gingras made her first trip to China six years ago, Xian Ping Lu was exactly the sort of person she was hoping to meet, and the company he had founded -- Chipscreen Biosciences -- just the sort she wanted to do business with. She just hadn't been sure they existed.

The Montreal-born neurobiologist had started her own San Diego consulting firm, HUYA Bioscience, which tried to help Big Pharma and biotech firms latch on to promising early-stage drug developments across the globe.

China hadn't been on her radar back then. For the pharmaceutical and biotech industries -- just like toys or consumer electronics -- China was (and to a large extent still is) a source of inexpensive products that can be sold, as Wal-Mart (WMT) might put it, "for everyday low prices." China has been an increasing source of generic drug development for pharma, but not the kind of research-intensive, expensive-to-develop medicines that are the stuff of patents and high profit margins. "People didn't think there was anything happening there back then," Gingras says. More

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