HomeArticlesBusiness & InvestChina’s home of the Pandas has giant health investment promise
two Panda bears cubs playing Bifengxia base reserve Sichuan China

China’s home of the Pandas has giant health investment promise

Kathy Kruger | June 2019

As the Gold Coast signs a key Sister City agreement with Chengdu, capital of China’s Sichuan province and home to the famous giant pandas, the promise of investment into the Gold Coast Health and Knowledge Precinct (GCHKP) is rapidly taking shape.

With a vaccine licensing agreement already in place between Griffith University’s Institute for Glycomics and Chengdu-based Olymvax Biopharmaceuticals to deliver a world-first vaccine for Streptococcus A infection, the next steps in engaging the sector in China will see expansion of biotech company relationships to position the GCHKP as a key location for Chinese investment in drug, vaccine and diagnostics development and other health technologies.

GCHKP Project Director Di Dixon joined Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate in a 40-strong Gold Coast group, the largest ever Australian delegation to Chengdu, to celebrate the Sister City agreement, host strategic partnership meetings and make key presentations to significant investors.

Mayor Tate joined Mayor of Chengdu, Mr Luo Qiang and other government and industry VIPs from both cities at a ceremony to formally affirm the sister city relationship.

“Becoming sister cities has been a work in progress over the past five years and I’m so pleased to have secured this agreement for the Gold Coast with one of China’s economic powerhouse cities,” says Mayor Tate.

“The signing recognises the momentum that has built up over the past few years and we’re pleased to see an increasing focus on health technology and medical research as the relationship now matures,” says Ms Dixon.

Why Chengdu?

Home to a metropolitan population of 10 million in a catchment of 16 million, Chengdu is at the centre of China’s fastest growing region as the Chinese government fosters development of its western cities and global influence through its signature ‘Belt and Road’ (BRI) policy initiative.

The Southern starting point of the historic Silk Road overland to Europe, Chengdu is being reimagined as a modern hub for Chinese trade and investment linking through the Eurasian ‘belt’ to European markets, and a burgeoning global centre of health technology.

The Sichuan capital offers global reach without the competition and costs of China’s eastern seaboard centres, where the cost of business is 20-40% higher.

  • 63 higher education institutes and 50 scientific research institutes
  • Leads China in blood products, vaccines, stem cells and genomics
  • Strong in clinical trials with eight clinical trial bases
  • two key biotech precincts

Long Term Relationships

Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate has visited Chengdu six times, while GCHKP Project Director Di Dixon has now joined four Mayoral delegations to the city and has actively worked alongside Institute for Glycomics General Manager Dr Chris Davis to mature a growing relationship with Olymvax, cemented in a 2016 licensing deal to co-develop a potential blockbuster vaccine for the Strep A bacteria.

“Since the co-development deal a joint lab has been established and pre-clinical evaluation has commenced en route to a Phase 1 clinical trial, while we’ve been working towards a longer-term vision for expanding the partnership into a physical presence in the Precinct,” says Ms Dixon.

With education, civic and cultural links forging initial foundations of the emerging relationship between the Gold Coast and Chengdu, health was firmly a focus for the Sister City signing mission, with visits to the Sichuan Academy of Medical Services, Sichuan Provincial People’s Hospital and the Chengdu International Medical City, as well as presentations to health focused investors.

The GCHKP hosted representatives from Olymvax, Chinese research and infrastructure investors and major Chinese biotechnology company Sinobioway for the celebration dinner, following signings of MOU’s with Sinobioway by the GCHKP and Griffith University in January, as the new partnership builds towards significant investment.

The delegation also visited Chengdu Medical city, an impressive 65 square kilometres land area focussed on the development of medicine, medical device manufacturing, medical research and services. The impressive approach to investment and facility development, alongside significant industry partners provides an opportunity for a future sister park collaboration.

Austrade Health Focus

“We can use the Sister City agreement to drive commercial opportunities in key areas of health and education – the timing is perfect for the new relationship to drive these opportunities.”

Tim White Austrade Trade and Investment Commisioner, Chengdu

The China (Chengdu)–Australia Health Industry Fund is an initiative of Chengdu Municipal Government and Chengdu-based health industry representatives, with support from Austrade and the Australian Consulate-General in Chengdu. The objective is to provide new channels for project funding, IP incubation and research commercialisation partnerships in health and life sciences.

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