China’s Biotech Market Is Heating Up

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China’s biotech market is on the cusp of its truly boom given the huge market size and supports from the government.

Like in many other fields, the sheer size of China’s population has become one of the major advantages to boost biotech sector. “China is the second largest market in genetic sequencing industry, next only to the U.S. Sometimes, the number of patients being treated by one cancer hospital in China exceeds that of a small country. In addition, it also generates large amounts of data for researchers” said Zhao Ruilin, China head of U.S. genetic sequencing service Illumina, at TechCrunch Beijing this Tuesday.

As the country announced its plan to invest 60 billion RMB (US$8.86 billion) by 2030 to accelerate precision medicine initiative, domestic companies started to lay out in the rising industry. Several major capital injection cases in the sector marked this trend.

In April 2015, biotech startup iCarbonX secured a $154 million USD round of Series A funding. One month later, LIVZON Pharmaceutical Group invested 10 million USD in U.S. cancer diagnostics company Cynvenio.

Noticing the change, Illumina plans to expand its biotech accelerator program to China in the beginning of next year, Zhao introduced.

However, there’s still obstacles for large-scale application of the technology. “Currently, the largest market in commercial use is for non-invasive prenatal testing for genetic diseases. So you can imagine, a false negative could have disastrous impacts on a family.” Zhao said.

But increasing the accuracy rate is no easy task and it seems that there’s really little thing we could do about this, even for industry experts. “We could start from the sequencing of a certain gene rather than the whole genetic system,” said David Deng, founder of Ardent BioMed. Ben Chen, vice general manager at Wondfo, suggested users to confirm the result from multiple institutions.

Gene editing is another field that’s been widely talked about. But according to the speakers at the panel, most of the current services target at depiction or discovering the myth behind gene codes. Gene editing has been largely a concept now because there’s a lot of social and ethical issues behind it.