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亲爱的:要展现,不要讲述——读《中国科学革命》

Written on 2010/12/31 – 5:38 下午 by donglei

描述,行动,对话。

这是今年让我感动的为数不多的一篇稿件。它出自于自由撰稿人Rebeeca Kanthor的笔下。这篇2010年春节用英文撰写的稿件,被翻译成中文,用A4纸打印装订,当时躺在上海临床研究中心张炯的办公桌上。因无电子版本,要回来后我抽空就录入一些,直到今天才敲打完成。

之所以令我感动,是因为这是一篇在行走的报道。《中国科学革命》,如此宏大高远的题目,要到图书馆捧回来厚厚一堆材料么?要从百度上下载各种数据库的参考论文么?Rebeeca Kanthor用她的眼睛,用她的脚步,用她的心灵,仅仅从泰州医药城走到张江,跟各种人物对话,让他们发声,让他们展现。不需要用严谨的问题提纲,不需要咄咄逼人的揭示性观点,星巴克,子弹头,人物的表情,着装,直接的话语,巨像出一篇让你看得到和感受得到的稿件。

在列夫托尔斯泰形容其名著《战争与何平》的力量时,他说:“我不讲述、我不解释、我只是展现,让我的角色替我说话。”

优秀写作的基本原则:要展现,不要讲述。给我看你所看的一切,用文字来描述一幅画面,然后,我就可以跟随你的脚步。

令我深有感受的第二个原因,是Rebeeca从泰州到张江的路线,我在2008年也走过一遍,那是在一天之内,所到之处如此相同,CMC(泰州医药城的缩写,那是我第一次听说CMC在申报时代表质量、生产和控制)、桑地亚,张江。路上也不停的跟各种人聊天,王小川、杜莹,所听所观所感跟这位外国记者非常相似,在这篇文章里,尽管没有看到任何深沉的观点,没有对任何问题加以揭示和阐述,但隐约你可以感受到这就是中国的生物科技革命的原生态。

因为她运用了大量的实例,而一盎司的实例比得上一吨概括。里面的一些人物,如杨青,在最近已经离开辉瑞加盟阿斯利康。杨青博士从辉瑞离职,带走了与很多医生和研究人员的联系,也带走了在中国开展研究和临床试验的经验。

如果说,作者最重要的目标之一就是让读者亲眼目睹,讲述不仅使阅读枯燥,而且使读者被动地接受信息。展现则让读者自己想象,自己得出结论,经历顿悟。好记者会让被采访者的语言和动作来做这个工作。“让事情发生,而不要讲它是如何发生。”如果做到这一点,读者就能真正走进报道中去。本来横亘于事件和读者之间的记者消失了。

文章的结尾尤其耐人寻味,“中国其他的高科技园区同样能成功么?中国的生物科技能在一个层面上与美国竞争吗?仅凭我乘车回家的这段时间内是无法回答这些问题的。”

仅凭我乘车回家的这段时间内是无法回答这些问题的。我欣赏她的态度。

一些看似很大的矛盾,在写稿的过程中总希望有人来定论,作为记者,又怎么能够说得清?

祝各位新年进步。

中国科学革命

Rebeeca Kanthor

china-sci-revolution1

为了更深入了解中国东部生物科技的蓬勃发展,我到了中国最大的药品生产和出口基地——泰州。泰州是中国东部一个三类港口城市,距离上海约300公里。推土机和建筑工人正在大兴土木,而三年前,农民们还在这方圆10公顷上的土地耕种。

中国医药城(CMC)的建造始于2006年,现已完成五分之一。由于我是在春节前几天来的,这里比较安静。我们的车旁仅有一辆电单车在行使。

尽管CMC还在初级建造阶段,已有许多大楼拔地而起。中国国家食品药品监督管理局已在此设立办事处,且有200家公司迁入泰州。在今后10年间,将有1000家企业进驻。

这是一个庞大的项目,整个城市将以生物科技和医药行业为基础。一个医院、豪华别墅、公寓楼、研发中心、咖啡馆、一个四星级酒店——这些都在蓝图中。

泰州目前最大的阻碍是引进能够将这个城市转换为一个创新基地的人才。泰州距离上海很远,但政府正在解决交通问题。一条新的直达高铁贯穿首都北京和泰州,这或许部分应该感谢胡锦涛主席是泰州人。下午6点乘坐这列高铁,第二天上午7点即可达北京。另一条高铁将在两年内完成,届时将缩短到上海的时间到一个小时。

1月份时,泰州开始建造机场,预计将在18个月内完成。

我的导游指给我看CMC的缩略图,在大屏幕下应找出无数大楼的模型,看上去就像“乐高”的梦幻世界,整个城市呈现在我们面前。但这一梦想,是通过政府各界领导人的支持得以实现的。在前面几步,我们可以看到支持CMC发展的政界领导人的大幅照片陈列在门口处。我的导游提醒我说:“我今天见到江苏省的副省长路过这里。”

很快,我便和CMC的“市长”何榕交谈起来,我可以感受到这样一个梦想是经过精心策划的。“我们并不是在建造一个高科技园区,我们是在建造一个城市。这是一个完整的项目。”他说道。他从一开始便参与到了CMC的开发中。

他的语速很快,正如中国许多政府官员的说话方式,言谈中有许多药店,语气抑扬顿挫。他招待来宾的俱乐部有四个装饰华丽的私人宴会厅,分别具有中国、日本、美国和欧洲的不同风格,从而确保来宾无论从何地来,均能宾至如归。

他的步伐矫健,目的明确。午餐期间,他与外国商人谈笑时候仍电话不断,并有一名省级政府官员拜访。每一个人都希望能够与他交谈,无论是希望向他就开发CMC给出建议,或是希望能够在快速发展的园区内驻留。

他希望能够参与竞争,但不希望中国被视为一种威胁,“我们希望赶上美国,但不会压倒美国,”他说道,“我们正在学习美国的成功经验,我们得到了政府国家级的高度支持这是非常重要的。”

何荣相信CMC所尝试的是一项新的事物。“为什么各位来到这里?”他问道,“我们所做的是不一样的事情,其他人在建造的高科技园区,说的是‘我会卖给你一片地。’”但何榕的观点不同,“我必须带着科学家的梦想并让它成为现实。我们在这里是为科学家效力的。”

风景和星巴克

离开CMC,我乘车3小时到了上海。从快速发展的农村到城市,马路上的车辆列成了长长的一排。为了消磨时光,我跟同乘的旅客交谈开来。这名旅客是一位美籍华人博士兼首席执行官,他在那天下午与何榕见面。“这是我第三次去CMC了,”他说道,“我既看到了让人振奋的一面,也看到了一些潜在问题。”他担心由于泰州的地理位置很慢吸引人才长期在CMC工作,而且认为要等5年到10年以后才能看到效果。

但尽管如此,他还是因被何榕接见而激动,因为“你是在和决策者对话,且他和你的视角是一样的。”

在上海,我乘坐地铁到2号线的终点站。我要去的是张江高科技园区,这是政府相关的开发项目,园区内已满是生物科技公司。

携带笔记本电脑的乘客下了地铁后座上往返班车——一辆具有未来气息的子弹头列车。列车在园区的软件、半导体和生物科技区的站点停靠下客,总路线长度为25公里,横跨各条以科学家命名的道路,如哈雷路。跨国公司和本地大学学院之间只有咫尺之遥。

尽管园区应是一个繁忙而喧闹的地方,围绕园区的6车道马路上仅有来回的班车在行使。这是只有在上海郊区能够看到的场景,而市区的道路通常是拥挤的。我穿过感恩教堂,不远处能看到几个便利店和一个星巴克,这是我所见到的唯一不是住宅或办公区域的地方。

在张江,80%的工作人员年龄在35岁以下,而殷宏并不能算他们中的一位,但也差不多。作为张江高科技园区的副总经理,他曾经亲历园区从1996年起的成长,见证了它从主导轻型制造业到主导高科技的转变过程。

“随着中国经济的发展,人们对健康的需求变得越来越重要,” 殷宏告诉我道,“中国人希望得到与美国人相同的医疗标准。我们相信美国的先进技术和药物能够造福中国人民。”

中国快速发展的医药市场是上述行业转变的一个原因。“国人不断增长的需求是外国公司的最大商机,” 殷宏说道,“这是外国公司喜欢在中国做生意的原因。他们拥有市场和合适的人。”但他认为中国的患者都很理性,不会只关注外国的品牌。“美国公司需要在中国设立研发中心,开发适合中国人的药物。”

“张江繁荣了”,殷宏说,部分是因为它的地理位置。“上海早已成为生物科技开发的绝佳地段。管理层的人员均有国际化的背景和视角。规定和监管都是透明的,”他说道,“我们已经与跨国公司建立良好的关系,因此他们觉得在这里做生意是安全的。”

园区的环境,他夸耀道,非常适合大型公司与小型公司之间展开合作。“我们已建立了一条生态链。”创新技术在这里遍地开花,他还指出过去数年间,已有119家制药行业的总获批进入园区。

殷宏确实是一名好的推销员。他在结束他的介绍时,还告诫那些仍抱有疑惑的人说:“没有抓住此次机遇的人必将在今后输人一步。”

辉瑞

当我问殷宏我还应该和谁谈的时候,他首先想到的就是杨青(Steve Yang)。杨青是海归的代表人物——海归是对出国留学后回国工作的中国人的叫法。

作为一名年轻的大学毕业生,杨青离开中国到美国留学,并在18年后的2006年以辉瑞亚太区副总裁的身份回国。“在那时,中国的研发还处在艰难阶段,”他回忆道,“当我还在上海读大学时,张江四处是农田。中国的经济发展如此迅速真是奇迹。”

杨青说现在的经济环境使他联想到不同时期的美国。“我觉得市场充满活力,就像我在90年代看到的硅谷。那时充满机遇,企业家也受到尊重。”他回忆道。

今天,杨青在中国感受到了美国所不具有的那份激情。“在美国,氛围冷冷清清,生物科技行业的发展受到抑制,”杨青说,“在中国,有几种因素推动发展。政府为基础研究提供资金,这确实令人觉得创新标准在逐渐提高。”中国的生物科技并不像美国那样定义严格,且在中国,生物科技的界限是模糊的,它混合着新药合同研究组织(CRO)、基础研究团体和综合研究公司。

杨青说,海归是繁荣中国生物科技行业的重要因素。“这些海归具有创新理念和知识。我经常开玩笑说这里是一个迷你的新泽西州加上东海岸。你在这里会遇到许多和我一样的人,因为许多科学家——特别是资深科学家,曾在美国或学术界工作的人。在任何高科技研发中心内,你可以看到很多海归,这其实是一个非常小且联系紧密的圈子。”

杨还强调说现在仍有一些因素使得你在中国工作变得不方便。

首先,从美国进口试剂需要几周的时间。空间同样是个问题,因为张江高科技园区已经被塞得满满当当了。

“所以新公司不得不去其他地方落脚或等待空席”,杨青说。“我们实在没有地方了。”

开发医疗器械

在离开杨青的办公室后,我开始逛园区。殷宏的助理建议我找一家新设立公司的首席执行官谈谈。

TY Hu在美国的时间接近有20年,回国后,他与4名同事共同设立了一家医疗设备研发中心。

TY Hu又高又瘦,身穿卡其裤,一件长袖T恤和一件宽松的羽绒背心。他虽然靠着椅子,但谈到他的工作时,依然很兴奋和率直。在医疗设备行业,Hu认为早先进入是对公司有利的,他预测,“在5年间,市场将充满像我们一样的研发中心生产的医疗器械。”

Hu告诉我中国的潜能把他拉回国。“仅凭中国的人口,就对任何产品具有吸引力了,”他说道,“我这个行业的市场以每年30%的速度递增。这在世界其他地方是看不到的。”

 

不但如此,Hu得益于其海归身份和美国公民的身份。“我们踩在线上,”他说,“当我们需要法律保护时,我们是外国人。当我们需要政府拨款时,我们是中国人。”

中国东部的城市都迫切希望跳上生物科技这辆大车,且不同的地区******不同的激励政策。Hu说:“如果你在苏州或无锡,他们会给你很多激励:低成本,甚至是免费的土地,让你设立公司或作为股权获得银行贷款,初始资金和授权。离上海越远,获得的鼓励政策越多。”

尽管有这些福利,没有公司能保证成功,例如,Hu说,对于小公司而言,中国的运营成本并非一直有竞争优势。由于基础供应不能到位,他不得不依赖进口,而对于加工而言,由于劳工成本低,所以看起来比较低廉。但同时技术成本区花费更多。

然而这些挑战不能阻挡Hu。“这确实是个很好的市场,晚进入市场的代价太大了。早进入市场时我们在这里的原因,而并非一贯处于成本的考虑。”他说,“我们的成功依赖于我们是否能够在当地生存下来。”

同时,当地市场缺乏医疗设备行业的人才,因此,Hu还要依赖来自美国的研究人员。

探寻新药合同研究组织

我想了解当地新药合同研究组织如何区别于一家跨国公司的研究组织,因此,我到了桑迪亚,希望和王小川进行交流。在寒冷的办公室里,王全身裹着冬衣。桑迪亚的首席执行官看上去就像你的一位友好的姑妈。

她说起她的公司时就像在说她的家人,但她还具备直截了当的商业理念。她在90年代作为联合国教科文组织的成员来到美国,之后便进入了生物科技领域。当她觉得时机成熟时,她回到了中国。“我看到环境在变化,人们的观念在改变,政府在改变,所以我相信历史性的机遇来到了,尽管我在美国有体面的工作和舒适的生活,我还是回到了祖国。”她说,“无论你的母亲如何丑陋,”她坦率地说,“你仍然爱她。所以,虽然我们很多已拿到美国身份,我们仍然与祖国有着这层联系。我们在这里有亲人和朋友。我们仍然挂念。”

王小川认为中国的生物科技要赶上美国仍有一段路要走。大多数本地公司不过才成立几年,缺乏药品研发经验。“药品研发,需要经验。”王强调说。

王说中国制药业需要本地创新。“你可以通过从中国的制药公司生产出来的新药数目判断,这是一个很好的预示。如果他们只是生产仿制药,那只是在复制,不是一个真正的制药行业。”虽然,中国的新药很少,王小川预见到了改变:“我听说有许多,或许是上百种新药正在研发。”

作为一家本地公司,桑迪亚曾到过张江高科技园区。“张江政府好的方面在于他们真的喜欢学习,而且他愿意帮助和支持我们。”王小川告诉我,“他们经常到我们公司问我们,‘我们能为你们做什么?我们能帮助你们?’”

但是,王不满意的是那里是郊区。“我希望那儿的文化生活水平能够改善,可以提供更多便利和更高层次的生活水准。我们除工作以外还需要有好的生活。这非常重要。”她说。

中国的生物科技发展越来越繁荣,美国人需要担心么?“我认为,美国应该为此高兴而不是担忧,”王说道,“科学是无边界的。任何国家开发出来的重要技术应造福全世界。”她说的时候像一个真正的外交家。

从水稻到罗氏

为了了解张江高科技园区内发生的变化,我采访了罗氏公司。

自1994年搬到张江高科,罗氏是第一家落户张江高科的企业。在那时,张江高科技园区还在一片水稻田里。在中国完成学业后,Andreas Tschiry回到了瑞士,但觉得生活无趣于是又回到了中国。这次是作为罗氏中国研发中心的总经理。

在张江高科技园区内工作,对于罗氏而言是一个很好的经历。Tschiry 说:“我们得到许多支持,这里对于各种问题都是坦诚公开的,这些是我在西方未曾见到的。”

Tschiry预测了许多问题,“中国将成为一个重要的创新国家。”他称,“但我看到,这种崛起引起了西方国家的恐惧。我认为我们应该专注于合作,而不是继续持有偏见的态度。” Tschiry说,他的语气带有责备。“医疗行业应该服务全人类,如果我们只是强调竞争,我们错过许多机会。”

谈到中国生物科技的将来,Tschiry保持着慢而稳的语调。“我为生物科技的发展感到兴奋。但我的是理性的兴奋,”他说,“你是这里的合作伙伴,你必须支持你的份额,并扮演好一个负责任的企业角色。在过去数年间,有得到快速发展的方面,有需要继续努力的方面。”

颇具风险的回报

在回家前,我穿过街道去拜访张江高科的一位全能明星——记黄埔医药公司总裁杜莹。当我进到杜莹的办公室时,我看到墙上摆放着有她照片的《福布斯》杂志。她站在办公桌旁,正对着手机说话,耳边挂着蓝牙。

她的话语间断但直击要点,且富有深意。2001年,她离开了辉瑞,开始在中国创立公司。回忆起张江高科技园区的转变,杜说:“那时,许多人对中国创新研究的能力表示怀疑。现在,人们相信这里是研发的地点之一。因为有有利的配套设施,你看到许多人都回国了。”她说,“风险投资业来到中国。市场本身也证明了这一点。”

作出回国的决定,对杜莹来说并不容易,“我从没有想过我会回来,我整整考虑了6个月,才决定接受这份工作。”她说,“这并不是出于好奇和冲动。我希望我能创造影响力,做一些不同的事情,所以,我成为了第一批回国的海归。”

开始时是比较困难。“我们回来时,张江这里非常偏远。”杜莹回忆道,“你觉得自己并没有很多资源。”但同时,这又带来了更多的创新空间。杜说:“你将拥有什么比你已经拥有什么更重要。那种希望,那种激励,推动着许多人。”

即便在将近10年后,她说作为一位开拓者仍需要付出很多。“直到今天,你依然是在位这个行业铺路,这将是一条无止境的道路。”

生物科技行业比起几个高科技园区所能包含的内容要大得多,杜莹认为,但在中国发芽的一些生物科技高科技园区有点被误导了。“这并不是必须的,且可能是一种浪费,”她说,“从政治角度来看,各地方政府给予支持是件好事。但底线是:你有基础设施么?你有足够可以支撑的资金么?你有吸引力吗?”她的建议是:“变的不同,不做同样的事。”

我走回到子弹头列车时,感觉到张江是一个成功的故事。但中国其他的高科技园区同样能成功么?中国的生物科技能在一个层面上与美国竞争吗?仅凭我乘车回家的这段时间内是无法回答这些问题的。

To learn more about the explosion of biotechnology in eastern China, I take a trip to China’s largest production and export base of medicines, Taizhou, a third-tier coastal city almost 300 miles from Shanghai. Just three years ago, where the bulldozers and construction workers now shift piles of dirt, farmers once tilled 10 square miles of farmland. Construction for the massive China Medical City (CMC) began in 2006, and one fifth has been completed. As I visit just before the Chinese New Year break, the place is quiet. The only vehicle on the road besides ours is a lone electric bike.

Despite CMC’s beginning stages, many buildings already have popped up. China’s State Food and Drug Administration has opened offices here, and 200 companies have moved in. In 10 years, there will be 1,000. It’s an ambitious project; an entire city based on the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. A hospital, luxury villas, apartment complexes, R&D, cafés, a four-star hotel—it’s all in the blueprints. Taizhou’s biggest obstacle for now is bringing in the people who will transform the city into an innovation capitol. The city is far away from Shanghai but the government is tackling its transportation problem head-on. A new direct high-speed train line runs to the capital, Beijing, perhaps thanks in part to the fact that China’s President Hu Jintao hails from Taizhou. Hop on at 6 p.m. and you arrive the next morning at 7 a.m. Another high-speed train line is in the works and will be finished in two years, shortening the commute to Shanghai to one hour. In January, ground was broken for an airport that will be finished in 18 months.

My guide points out a scale model of the CMC, and tiny buildings light up in sync to the wide-screen video blasting out facts and figures behind it. It looks like a Lego dreamland, an entire city laid out below us. But it’s a dream that’s being made possible through the support of government leaders from the national on down. That becomes apparent just a few steps away, where large photos of politicians who have supported the CMC’s development line the room’s entryway. In case I haven’t gotten the message, my guide adds for emphasis, “I saw the vice governor of Jiangsu province walking around here today.”

Soon, I’m talking to He Rong, the “mayor” of CMC, and I can see that this dream is a well thought out one. “We’re not building a high-tech park—we’re building a city. It’s a complete package,” he says. He has been involved in the development of CMC from the start.

He talks fast. In the manner of many government officials in China, bullet points pepper his speech, which rises and falls in exaggerated cadences. The clubhouse where he entertains his visitors has four ornately decorated private banquet rooms, in Chinese, Japanese, American and European style to make sure his guests feel comfortable wherever they’re from. He walks briskly, with purpose, while juggling a banquet lunch with foreign business people with numerous phone calls and a visit from provincial government officials. Everyone wants a word with him, whether to give advice on how to develop CMC or to gain a foothold in the fast-developing park.

He wants to compete but doesn’t want China to be seen as a threat. “We want to catch up to the U.S. but not overtake them,” he says. “We are studying the U.S.’s successes and we have top government support at national levels—that’s really important.”

He Rong believes the CMC is attempting something new. “Why is everyone coming here?” he asks. “We’re doing something different here. Everyone [else] is doing high-tech parks, saying, ‘I’ll sell you a piece of land.’” But He Rong takes a different approach: “I have to take the dreams of the scientists and make it reality. We’re here to be the maids for the scientists.”

Scenery And Starbucks

Leaving CMC, I embark on a three-hour car ride to Shanghai. As we alternate between zipping past farmland and the occasional city and sitting in long lines of tra c, I pass the time by chatting up my fellow passenger, a Chinese-American doctor and CEO who met with He Rong that afternoon. “ is is my third time to CMC, he says. “I see both excitement and potential trouble.” He worries that it will be di cult to attract talent to stay long term at CMC because of its remoteness, and says the results won’t be visible for  ve to ten years. But regardless, he is jazzed up from his audience with the “mayor” because “you’re talking to the decision maker, and he has the same vision [as you].”

In Shanghai, I board a subway train and ride out to the last stop on Line 2. I’m heading to Zhangjiang High-Tech Park (ZJHTP), a government-associated development  lling up fast with biotech firms.

Passengers carrying laptops jump off the subway and onto a shuttle—one with a futuristic bullet train design— that makes stops around the high-tech park’s software, semi-conductor and biotechnology neighborhoods, spanning 25 square kilometers and crossed by streets named after scientists like Halley. Multinationals and local university departments are all within a short walking distance of each other.

Despite the fact that the park is a busy and bustling place, the six-lane roads around it feel empty except for the shuttle, a sign that I’ve made it to the edges of Shanghai, a teeming metropolis whose city center is usually packed with cars. I pass the large THanksgiving Church, but beyond that, a few convenience stores and a Starbucks are all I see that isn’t housing or o ce space.

In Zhangjiang, 80 percent of the workers are under the age of 35, and while Yin Hong isn’t quite one of them, I think he could pass for one when we meet. As ZJHTP’s vice general manager, he has seen the park grow from its start in 1996 and watched it switch focus from light manufacturing to the high-tech sector.

“As China’s economy develops, people’s needs for healthcare are becoming more important,” Yin Hong tells me. “Chinese want to have the same quality of medical care as Americans. We believe that American advanced technology and medicine can beneFIt Chinese people.”

China’s fast growing medical market is one reason for the swi development of the sector here. “tHe increased demands of people in China are a big opportunity for Western companies,” Yin Hong explains. “That’s the reason why overseas companies love doing business in China. They have the market and the right people.” But he believes that Chinese patients are savvy enough to not just look to a foreign brand name. “There’s a need for R&D in China for U.S. companies, because medicines need to be made more suitable for Chinese people.”

Zhangjiang has thrived, Yin Hong says, partly due to its location. “Shanghai has already become a very good place for biotech development. Management people have an international perspective. The rules and regulations are transparent,” he says. “We have built a good relationship with multinationals, so they feel safe doing business here.”

The environment at the park, he brags, is ripe for cooperation, with larger companies working together with smaller companies. “We have formed an ecology chain.” Innovation is starting to breed here, he says, pointing out that 119 new drug patents have been approved in the past few years.

Yin Hong certainly is a good salesman. He ends his pitch with a warning for those still in doubt: “Whoever doesn’t jump on this opportunity might lose out in the future.”

Pharma From Pfizer

When I ask Yin Hong who else I should talk to, Steve Yang’s name is one of the first to pop up. He’s the quintessential sea turtle—the nickname given to Chinese who went abroad for study and are now returning in droves to capitalize on opportunities here. As a young college grad, Yang left China for the U.S., and returned 18 years later as Pfizer’s vice president, head of R&D, Asia, in 2006. “At that point, China was very di erent,” Yang recalls. “When I went to undergrad in Shanghai, [Zhangjiang] was all farmland. It’s almost a miracle to see China’s economic development progress so fast.”

Yang says the environment reminds him of a different era in the U.S. “I think the environment is vibrant. It really feels like Silicon Valley [when] I was there in the ’90s. During that time there was a lot of optimism. Entrepreneurism was respected,” he remembers.

Today, Yang feels an excitement in China that the U.S. lacks. “In the U.S. the mood is sober because the biotech industry is facing constraints,” Yang states. “In China, there are several factors driving the growth. There’s government funding for basic research. It does feel like it raises the innovation level.” Biotech in China is not as strictly defined as in the U.S., Yang adds, and in China boundaries are blurred, incorporating contract research organizations (CROs), basic research groups and integrative research firms.

The sea turtles, Yang says, are an important factor to China’s biotech boom. “There’s a very strong sense of innovation and intellectual rigor. I often joke this is a mini New Jersey plus the Eastern Seaboard. You bump into people like myself, as many scientists—especially senior ones—have worked in the U.S., or in academia. Anywhere you have critical mass of high-tech R&D you see the returnees. It’s actually a very small and tight-knit community.”

Still, Yang emphasizes that there are some stumbling blocks that make working in China inconvenient for now. For one thing, importing sample reagents from the U.S. can take a few weeks. Space also poses a problem, because ZJHTP is full. “So new companies have to go somewhere else or wait for vacancy,” Yang points out. “We’re literally running out of space.”

Developing Devices After leaving Yang’s office, I return to walking around the park. Yin Hong’s assistant suggests that I speak with the CEO of a young startup. After spending close to 20 years in the U.S., Ty Hu returned to China to found a medical device R&D center with four colleagues. Tall and lanky and dressed in khakis, a long sleeved t-shirt and a pu y down Southpole vest, he’s laid back but speaks excitedly and candidly about his work. In the medical device sector, Hu thinks being an early player will give his company an advantage. “In five years, the market will be populated with devices from centers like ours,” he predicts.

Hu tells me that China’s possibilities pulled him back. “The sheer size of the population is incredibly attractive for any product,” he remarks. “The market for my area is growing at 30 percent year over year. Nowhere in the world can you find that.”

Moreover, Hu reaps the benefits of both his returnee status and U.S. citizenship. “We step on the boundary,” as he describes it. “It’s an important advantage. When we need legal protection we’re on the foreign side. When we want state grants we’re on the Chinese side.”

Cities in eastern China have been eager to jump on the biotech bandwagon, and different areas offer various incentives. As Hu explains: “If you’re in Suzhou or Wuxi, they give you a tremendous amount of incentives: low-cost, even free land so you can build your offices or use as equity to get bank loans, start up funds, grants. The further away from Shanghai you are, the more incentives you’ll get.”

Even with all the handouts, no company is guaranteed success. For example, Hu explains that operating in China is not always cheaper for smaller companies. Basic supplies are not available, so he has to rely on imports. Manufacturing, on the other hand, is cheaper because of lower labor costs, but technology costs more. Still, the challenges aren’t stopping Hu. “It’s really the market. We can’t afford to come in late. Being here earlier is the reason we’re here, not cost,” he says. “Our success depends on whether we can survive locally.”

At the same time, the local area lacks the needed talent in medical devices. So Hu depends on researchers from the U.S.

Exploring A Cro

I wanted to get a sense of how a local CRO’s experience differs from a multinational’s, so I headed over to Sundia for a talk with Wang Xiaochuan. Bundled in a winter coat inside her chilly office, Sundia’s CEO looks like your friendly auntie, and she speaks of her company as her family, yet she also possesses a straightforward business sense. After going to the U.S. as a UNESCO fellow in the 1980s, she entered the biotech field. When she felt the time was right, she returned to China. “I see the environment is changing, people’s minds are changing, government is changing, so I believe the historical opportunity is here, even though I had a decent job and good life in the U.S.,” she explains. “It doesn’t matter how ugly your mother is,” she puts it bluntly. “You still love her. So a lot of us are American citizens but we still have this connection. We have relatives and friends here. We still care.”

Chinese biotech has a way to go before it catches up with the U.S., Wang believes. Most of the local companies are just a few years old, she notes, and lack experience doing drug discovery and development. “For drug development you need experience,” Wang asserts.

Wang says the industry needs local innovation. “You can see how many new drugs come from Chinese pharmaceutical companies. That could be a good indicator. If they’re just doing generic drugs, just copies, that’s not a real pharmaceutical industry.” Although China has not produced many new drugs so far, Wang foresees a change: “In the pipeline, I hear there are lots, maybe hundreds.”

As a local company, Sundia has had a positive experience at ZJHTP. “The good part about Zhangjiang’s government group is that they really like to learn, and they want to help and support us,” Wang tells me. “They often come to our company and ask, ‘What can we do for you guys? How can we help you?’” But Wang isn’t so happy with the cultural desert that is the suburbs. “I wish that the cultural life here could be better and provide more convenience, and a higher level lifestyle for us. We need some life in addition to work. That’s important,” she says.

 

“ Science never has boundaries. Any country which has developed great technology is a benefit to the whole global society. ”

 

Should Americans be worried about China’s biotech boom? “I think America should be excited rather than concerned,” Wang says. “Science never has boundaries. Any country which has developed great technology is a benefit to the whole global society.” Spoken like a true diplomat.

From Rice To Roche

To understand the changes that have occurred in ZJHTP, I visited Roche, the first company to move into ZJHTP in 1994, back when the park was still in the midst of rice paddies. After studying in China, Andreas Tschirky returned to Switzerland but felt so bored that he was inspired to come back to China, this time as the Roche R&D Centre China’s general manager.

Working in ZJHTP has been a good experience for Roche. As Tschirky describes it: “We had much more proactive support and openness to problems … than I have ever observed previously in the West.”

Still, Tschirky expects even more ahead. “China will become a major innovator in the future,” he claims. “What I see at the moment is a very fearful attitude in the West. I think we should focus on partnerships [rather] than maintaining this very biased attitude,” Tschirky says, with a hint of chastisement in his tone. “The healthcare industry has to serve humanity. If we just emphasize competition, we miss a lot of opportunities.”

Speaking of China’s future in biotech, Tschirky keeps a measured tone. “I’m excited about this development, but I’m excited in a realistic way,” he says. “You are a partner here. You have to pay your fair share, to play your role to be a responsible organization in China. There are things that have progressed significantly in the last few years, and there are things that we still have to work on.”

A Risky Return

Before heading home, I cross the street to meet one of ZJHTP’s all-stars, Samantha Du, Hutchison MediPharma’s CEO. When I enter Du’s office, I see her Forbes cover shot hanging on the wall. She is standing by her desk, talking on her cell phone with a headphone attachment plugged into her ear. She speaks short and to the point, but full of depth. In 2001, she le a position at Pfizer to start this company in China.

Remembering that transition, Du says, “Back then, most people were very skeptical about China’s ability to do innovative research. Now people believe this is one of the places to do R&D. Because there is the supporting infrastructure, you see people coming back.” She adds, “VCs are coming to China too. The market itself also justifies it.”

It wasn’t an easy decision for Du to come back to China. “I never thought I would come back. It took me a good six months to decide to take [the job],” she says. “There was curiosity. I wanted to make an impact, do something different. So I became one of the first group of sea turtles to show up on China’s shore.”

It was tough at the beginning. “When we came back it was very remote,” Du recollects. “You felt you didn’t have many resources.” But there’s more to innovation. As Du points out: “What you have is less important than what you think you will have. That hope, that incentive, drives a lot people.”

Even after close to a decade back in China, she says being a pioneer takes a lot of energy. “You’re still paving the road for the industry. It’s an exhausting place to be.” The industry is bigger than a few high-tech parks can handle, Du believes, but some of the biotech high-tech parks sprouting in China are a bit misguided. “It’s not necessary, it may be a waste, she says. “From the political savvy point of view it’s a good thing for every local government to support. The bottom line is: Do you have the infrastructure, do you have sustainable funding, do you have the attraction?” Her advice? “Differentiate. Don’t do the same.”

As I walk back toward the shuttle train, I believe that Zhangjiang is a success story. But will other high-tech parks succeed the same way? And will Chinese biotech ever compete at a global level with the U.S.? It will take far longer than my ride home to answer those questions.

 

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