Biotechnology incubator from China opens doors in Boston

Chinese investors have begun to shift target industries in the US to the high-tech sector and the trend just took a big step in Boston.

The city's first innovation centre founded by a Chinese pharmaceutical enterprise - Qilu Boston Innovation Center (QBIC) - had its grand opening on Friday.

After launching, "QBIC will be serving as an incubator for biotech startups, with the aim of helping biotechnology startups implement their ideas, to sooner transform their research results into medicine to meet clinical needs and improving Qilu's domestic product lines," said Larry Cai, head of business development in New England at Qilu.

Founded by Qilu Pharmaceuticals, a Chinese drug company with more than US$2 billion (S$2.7 billion) in annual sales, QBIC will be set up in a two-story building at 50 Soldiers Field Place that was acquired by Qilu last year for around US$10 million.

Along with the incubator, Qilu's first branch company in Massachusetts - QLB Biotherapeutics Inc (QLB Bio) - also set up shop in the new facility on the same day.

With the remodeling, the 25,000-square-foot centre with lab and office space becomes Qilu's biggest overseas research and development site.

Established in 1958 and headquartered in the city of Jinan, Qilu Pharmaceutical is one of the leading pharmaceutical companies in China, with a value chain focusing on the development, manufacture and marketing of drugs and biologics.

After years of expansion, the company now has nine manufacturer sites, 13 domestic subsidiaries, 10 overseas subsidiaries and more than 9,000 staff worldwide. With sales revenue of approximately US$2.1 billion, Qilu products are available in more than 70 countries worldwide.

"The opening of QBIC and the entering of QLB Bio is not only a milestone in the history of Qilu Pharmaceutical, it's a brand new start for the company," said Li Yan, general manager of Qilu.

Li said she believes that having access to affordable innovative drugs is everybody's basic right, rather than a few people's privilege.

"Over the past 30 years, Qilu has been committed to continuously provide high quality drugs to protect and promote public health," she said.

"Boston is the world's leading city in bioscience," Li said. Qilu choose to settle there because the company wants to interact with biotech elites, explore the unknown areas of bioscience and continuously research and develop innovative drugs to meet urgent clinical needs.

Cai said the company's total investment in Boston was about US$40 million.

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh lauded Qilu's partnership, which he said helps reinforce the city's reputation as a global champion of life science research and development.

QLB Bio, a startup focusing on discovering and developing biological medicines, is devoted to developing next-generation cancer therapies using the "transformative potential of immunotherapy", according to its website.

According to a report co-authored by the Rhodium Group and the National Committee on US-China Relations, Chinese companies invested US$46 billion in the US last year, tripling the amount seen in 2015, sending two-way direct investment to a record high.

Xinhua said the report shows that with China transitioning away from an export-driven economy to one led by consumer spending and services, Chinese investors have begun to shift their target industries in the US away from traditional energy and real estate industries to consumer services and the high-tech sector.

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