Boehringer Ingelheim has opened a site in Shanghai to connect its R&D, business development and venture capital groups to Chinese drug developers. The site brings together all the units involved in the identification and support of promising drug development projects.

With China’s domestic biotech scene blossoming, Boehringer has identified the country as a source of programs of interest to its business development and venture funding groups. That thinking led Boehringer to choose Shanghai as the location for an External Innovation Hub designed to connect the company to the Chinese life science sector.

Boehringer thinks its decision to house three units at the site will support such connections. Housing Research Beyond Borders, a unit that explores emerging science and technologies, at the site enables Boehringer to evaluate promising projects underway at Chinese research institutes and biotechs.

The inclusion of the other two units at the site equips Boehringer to support the best projects. In some cases, Boehringer will partner with Chinese drug developers through its business development group. For other projects, Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund, which operates as a separate legal entity, will take the lead and provide financing for Chinese R&D programs.

It is unclear how much money is available. Boehringer told Shanghai Daily it will invest €451 million ($509 million) in China over the next five years. However, that figure covers clinical development and the expansion of manufacturing sites as well the sort of research partnerships handled by the new Shanghai site.

The establishment of the site is part of a broader push at Boehringer to access innovation in Asia. Last year, Boehringer committed $40 million in upfront and near-term payments, plus up to $830 million in milestones, to access a nonalcoholic steatohepatitis candidate in development at Korea’s Yuhan Corporation. More recently, Boehringer struck a fibrotic disease deal with Singapore’s Enleofen that could be worth more than $1 billion per product. 

Boehringer is yet to strike similarly sized deals with Chinese biotechs. However, with the innovation hub up and running, Boehringer now has the infrastructure to foster relationships with Chinese R&D groups. 

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