As China continues to grow at a rapid pace, the allure of potential profits has many life science companies grappling with how to best access this important emerging market. That is why we spoke with Helen Chen, Managing Director and Partner at L.E.K. Consulting in Shanghai, who has deep experience helping companies develop and hone China market strategies.
1. What role does L.E.K. play in China?
L.E.K.’s China life sciences and healthcare practice covers commercialization and innovation strategies for biopharmas, medtechs and services on helping companies be successful in China. This ranges from organic approaches versus acquisitions and partnering to drive growth, product pricing and market access steps, R&D and localization decisions, to organization and performance factors. Preliminary results from our recent survey showed that 85% of the international biopharmas are interested in China entry due to China’s large and emerging market.
Being in China, we are highly tuned to Chinese government policies and interpreting their impact on business execution and outcomes. We also serve the private equity community in their China healthcare investments and increasingly, Chinese companies that are expanding internationally. So, we’re a version of L.E.K. Consulting “with Chinese characteristics,” which might be more familiar to companies and investors in their home markets.
2. How long has L.E.K. been operational in China? And, what types of partnerships has the company helped develop in the country over the years?
We are celebrating 20 years on the ground in China this year, and have supported easily over 600 partnership evaluations! We have designed partnership strategies, developed portfolio value, screened for targets, sat at the negotiation table, and recommended investments and their inverses.
We were honored by the Shanghai Municipal Government to author the first Chinese guidebook for life sciences and healthcare companies expanding internationally, From China to the World: An International Investment and Market Access Guide for Chinese Biopharmaceutical Companies, and its follow-up on private equity, China Funding the World: An International Private Equity Investment Guide for Chinese Companies.
3. There are sure to be many companies attending ChinaBio® Partnering Forum eager to learn what L.E.K. has to say about a market access strategy. Do you have any advice?
A short list is:
1) Start KOL engagements early
2) Assume there are multiple interpretations to every government statement
3) Craft your strategy and talking points around government policies
4) Cover a wide field.
Additionally, In our survey, only 15% of the international biopharmas feel confident they can enter China on their own without support from a partner. While recognizing that China can be very different than the US or Europe, this is a surprisingly low number. Partnering can be the right choice for many companies, especially those with limited resources, but we hope that decision is made with knowledge, rather than just as default due to lack of reference.
Our panel on Accelerating Market Entry and Access in China will focus on lessons from high value therapies via a dialogue of senior executives with hands on product registration and launch successes in China.
4. What are L.E.K.’s goals and expectation for the ChinaBio® Partnering Forum?
The ChinaBio® Partnering Forum has grown to become the single most concentrated location where international and Chinese life science community can meet and partner. As the leading commercial advisors to international biopharmas and healthcare investors, L.E.K. provides valuable insights and objective views on the options for companies to enter or partner in China. We want to add our perspectives to the mix, about and potentially beyond a partnering exercise.
We look forward to seeing Chinese and international friends of L.E.K. in Suzhou. We are continuing to gather inputs to our international expansion database and to collect real world case studies. Our international expansion to China and Asia report will be released in June, and we invite everyone interested to fill out our survey, join us at the launch party in Boston at the China Summit at BIO International Convention.
5. If you were to look into a crystal ball, what partnership opportunities do you see in China five years from now?
We expect all the upwards trends to continue, whether that is licensing for China, Chinese investments overseas, or co-investments or joint ventures in China. The exciting new development in five years will be out-licensing of China-developed innovation to other markets, not only new molecules like PD-1 to-date, but also new mechanisms of action, so true first-in-class.
6. What are some the key components that make a great partnership for years to come?
We believe there will be continued market and product opportunities for partnering. The keys to success, among others, are alignment of interests, complementary skills, mutual respect and sufficient funding and timeline runway to make the right decisions.
To learn more, attend Helen’s panel “Accelerating market entry and access in China: Lessons from high value therapies” at ChinaBio® Partnering Forum as she covers her viewpoint on working through the system in China and suggestions for international biopharmas considering the China market.