The life science and health industry of China is entering a golden age, as the nation’s most recent 5-year plan becomes fully implemented, putting into motion various health reform policies. Such policies include the expansion of health services to rural areas and the mobilization of substantial resources to foster growth of the industry. In the midst of these developments, Tianfu Life Science Park can be found nestled in the Chengdu High-Tech Zone, which ranks fourth among the 55 High-Tech Zones in China. Companies located in the zone benefit from a broad base of support mechanisms designed to promote business growth.
Built 2,300 years ago, Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan Province, is known as the Land of Heaven owing to the fertile Chengdu plain and favorable growing conditions. Abundant harvests are characteristic of the region and have been for millennia, thanks to a feat of ancient engineering. The irrigation structure known as the Dujiangyan, built in 256 BC, protects Chengdu from extreme conditions such as drought or flooding. Today Dujiangyan dams provide irrigation for over 5,300 km2 of land in the region. ‘Tianfu’ means ‘paradise’ to the locals, and the Tianfu Life Science Park serves as the city’s financial, trade, scientific and technological center.
As the gateway for the life science industry in Western China, Tianfu Life Science Park is supported by the Chengdu municipal government and the Chengdu High-Tech Zone. Construction of a 221,553 m2 area has been completed. Within the park are many biomedical and medical enterprises providing products and services, both within the Chinese market and abroad. The park is home to the West China Hospital Medical Transformation Center. Another park resident is the fast-growing Renhe Pharmaceutical Group.
Chengdu Municipal Bureau of Science and Technology, Chengdu High-Tech Zone Administrative Committee and the Tianfu Life Science Park believe in doing more to foster bio-medical entrepreneurism than simply providing space in a prime location. These organizations have launched the BioTianfu Forum initiative to provide a platform for scientific exchange between companies in the area and leading industry, university and research organizations from China and abroad.
Chengdu is already home to nearly 400 biomedical enterprises that cover various aspects of the industry, ranging from modern applications for traditional Chinese medicine, to synthetic drug formulation, optimization and production, biologics and biomedical engineering, drug packaging, and pharmaceutical research and development services. Blood-based products and major transfusion products manufactured in Chengdu account for one-third of the nation’s market share. Furthermore, Chengdu’s pharmaceutical and manufacturing industry’s gross annual output ranks first in West China.
The natural resources located in and around Chengdu are a source of over 2,000 types of Chinese herbal medicines, which account for approximately one-half and one-third of those marketed in Sichuan Province and China, respectively. Not surprisingly, Chengdu is known as the ‘hometown of traditional Chinese medicine’ or the ‘traditional Chinese drug warehouse’. The area dedicated to planting traditional Chinese medicinal materials, such as chuanxiong rhizome, curcuma root, Chinese goldthread and magnolia bark, is maintained at or above 400,000 mu (about 266,660 m2) throughout the year.
Universally, successful biopharmaceutical clusters encompass three elements: universities to drive innovation and train a scientific workforce, financing to support companies founded on innovation and, of course, laboratories and space for businesses to grow. Chengdu enjoys strong ties to the international community (eight consulates including those for the USA, Germany and Singapore are located there) and possesses all the elements necessary to support a burgeoning biomedical cluster. Chengdu boasts vast, rich natural resources (which have facilitated a leading position in manufacturing as well as traditional Chinese medicine), a large pool of professionals and numerous research institutions, universities and hospitals. Among them are Chengdu Institute of Biology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chengdu Institute of Organic Chemistry of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chengdu Institute of Biological Products of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, and Sichuan Industrial Institute of Antibiotics. The region is thought to have the highest density of R&D institutes in West China.