Reporting back from China, November 2019 | Steve Bates CEO

If you would like more information on the BIA’s work in China, please visit our China Special Interest Group homepage. To find out more information and how to join this group please email Miriam Gedge.

Steve Bates BIA CEO introducing UK companies to delegates at the China Healthcare Summit 2019

I was proud to lead a delegation of BIA member companies to China recently which resulted in a deeper understanding of the valuable and exciting opportunities that exist in the Far East for UK companies.

Our trip included attending, presenting and networking at the China Healthcare Summit presented by BioCentury and Bayhelix. This trip also allowed me to see first-hand the fast development of the state-of-the-art Wuxi I – campus and its ability to be a practical launching pad for UK companies into China. 

Insights on the China Market

The Healthcare Summit provided rich analysis and insight into how China is developing its innovation footprint in healthcare to tackle health challenges in China and across the world. The China market for biotech and pharma continues to grow at scale and the impact of the new regulatory environment has led to numerous new launches.

The domestic innovation ecosystem remains buoyant and the Chinese were proud that the first drug developed with Chinese data had been approved by the FDA. The deal between BeiGene and Amgen was highlighted as significant, as a way that a US company has accessed the Chinese innovation ecosystem.

Funding remains positive and Hong Kong has continued to see biotech and pharma IPOs. The new Star board on the Shanghai exchange had seen its first life science IPO and people were hopeful and positive about it for the future.

Venture Capital looking for partnership and investment opportunity was visible and present at the conference.

The impact of the US China trade war

The continuing trade war between the Trump administration and China has become the “new normal” and I believe this will mean a continued focus by the Chinese on innovation ecosystems outside of the USA. It was notable that Chinese investors had attended BioEurope this year and there are plans for a China track at next year’s BioEquity. Significantly there were presenting tracks by the UK, Korea and Belgium but none from the USA, which wasn’t lost on conference delegates.

Chinese biotech’s are building and planning to manufacture

When listening to UK biotech and Chinese biotech pitching at the conference a key difference that struck me was that many of the Chinese companies were expecting to build their own manufacturing capability as part of their growth strategy.

At the same time much of the established ecosystem in China are large CRO/CMO capable organisations such as Tigermed and Wuxi AppTec – who are now developing their innovation and proprietary IP.

The UK track and networking at the UK Consulate Reception

A number of BIA member companies presented at the China Healthcare Summit 2019, these included LightOx, Arecor, Oxford Biomedica, Crescendo, Vaccitech and Retrogenix

The UK track was well attended by Chinese delegates and from a rough headcount, the BIA day two slot had more attendance than either the global or Belgian track in terms of people in the room. BIA members found the partnering useful and straightforward, which was a major plus.

The British Consulate kindly hosted our delegation, where it was great to hear from Chris Wood the new Consul-General in Shanghai over a traditional British meal of pie and mash. 

BIA member companies enjoying pie and mash at the British consulate in Shanghai

The Wuxi I-campus is moving from strength to strength

Dr Jane Osbourn OBE at the Grand Opening of the Wuxi I-campus in September 2019

On the ground there had been major developments in just a few months. The top floor of the first building at I-campus has been refitted for AstraZeneca and the team are expected to move in within the next few months. Next on the refit will be the seventh floor, and the sixth floor has been earmarked for the AZ university training facility.

The I-campus team expect the second floor, which has shared space and a coffee shop to be completed very soon, while floors three, four, and five will be available for companies as needed. This would be office space rather than lab or manufacturing space, but the Wuxi New District government were happy to show Oxford Biomedica potential manufacturing buildings nearby that could be adapted.

The China Healthcare Technology centre, which represents China’s innovative internet of things, has also been remodelled with new demonstration areas focused on oncology solutions for breast and ovarian cancer. Again, this vision centre – selling a holistic package of a healthcare pathway approach remains a healthcare model that is sold to partners, governments and healthcare systems across China. It’s a far cry from what Chinese public hospitals look like now but sells the vision well and I-campus companies will have the ability for their innovations to be showcased within it.


The Chinese innovation ecosystem is keen to do business with the UK and we have made sure that at a time when US China relations are cooler UK companies are well able to take advantage of the positive profile, we are able to attract. Where once the focus of Chinese partners was generic or similar drugs in recent times that ambition has changed, and China wants to be seen as a market for truly innovative therapies. I believe that our relationship with Astra Zeneca China in Wuxi, and our network experience with the key sea turtle community now provides a de-risked route for BIA members to cross the bridge, explore and partner effectively in this key market of the future. I believe it is vital for all UK biotech companies to have an Asian strategy to match their USA plan, and I look forward to helping companies deliver just that in 2020. 


Steve Bates

Chief Executive Officer


Steve Bates has been the CEO of the UK Bioindustry Association since 2012. He currently chairs the International Council of Biotech Associations and has been a Board member of Europabio since 2015. Steve is the visible face of the vibrant UK life sciences industry to government and media. He sits on the UK’s Life Sciences Council and Life Sciences Industrial Strategy Implementation Board. Steve has championed with government effective industrial incentives like the Biomedical Cataylst which have crowded-in private sector investment into UK SMES. He has forged links for the sector across the USA, Europe and in China. In his time at the BIA Steve has developed new member groups focused on cell and gene therapy, genomics and engineered biology. A strong advocate of partnership working, Steve champions sector collaboration with research charities and academia. Proud to lead an organisation with a diverse Board with over 40% female representation, Steve is committed to next generation talent and developing the skills needed for the sector to flourish. Before the BIA, Steve worked for Genzyme and as an advisor to the UK Government of Tony Blair. He was made OBE for services to innovation in 2017.