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Sanofi bullish on nation's prospects

By LIU ZHIHUA China Daily Updated: 2023-07-20
Visitors gather at Sanofi's booth during a trade expo in Shanghai. The French pharmaceutical giant has been in the Chinese market for more than 40 years.  [Photo/CHINA DAILY]

French pharmaceutical giant applauds policies aiding investment, local ties

China continues to attract foreign investors thanks to favorable policies for multinational companies amid the country's opening-up, high-quality development and modernization, a senior executive of French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi said.

The Chinese market has provided a conducive environment for Sanofi's development, and it will increase investment and strengthen local partnerships in the country, Olivier Charmeil, executive vice-president and head of general medicines at Sanofi, told China Daily in an exclusive interview.

"I can feel the strong vitality of this market. China's economy has shown a strong resilience despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic," Charmeil said, citing the country's sustained endeavor to promote high-quality development and deepen reforms.

"China's economy is expected to achieve a sustainable state of steady growth due to the uniqueness of the China market — the large market scale, and a rapid pace of innovation… The vibrant and dynamic market in China gives Sanofi great confidence in our continuous development here," he said.

Sanofi has emphasized the importance of China in its global strategy and in driving its future growth, and the company will continue to invest in the domestic market and cultivate local talent, the executive said.

Despite subdued global economic growth and challenges to China's economic recovery, the nation has continuously attracted foreign direct investment, as investors have a positive outlook about the world's second-largest economy pursuing Chinese modernization, experts said.

Data from the Ministry of Commerce showed that the actual use of FDI on the Chinese mainland expanded 0.1 percent on a yearly basis in the first five months, to 574.81 billion yuan ($80 billion). FDI in manufacturing, in particular, rose 5.9 percent year-on-year.

Charmeil said Sanofi will advance rapid market entry of innovative products and introduce more than 25 innovative products into the China market between 2020 and 2025.

The company is also exploring innovative models for management of chronic diseases as well as reinforcing innovation expertise in early-stage research and development with key partners in the country.

The company has already introduced more than 40 innovative products and solutions spanning prevention and chronic disease management to specialty care and self-care in China.

It has also set up a dedicated team for internet hospitals and launched its first global research institute in the country in 2021 to deepen collaboration with local companies and startups.

Besides, several of its innovative products in the areas of autoimmune, cardiovascular and kidney diseases as well as diabetes have been included in the latest version of the National Reimbursement Drug List.

"Sanofi has received strong support during our 40-year history in China. For example, government policies related to optimizing the business environment, speeding up the review of new drug approvals, and access to medical insurance helped bring our innovative health solutions to more people in China quickly," Charmeil said. "In the future, Sanofi will continue to improve the strategic layout in China and increase investment and strengthen strategic cooperation."

The executive also highlighted China's significant strides in increasing self-reliance and strength in science and technology, which he said were key to realizing Chinese-style modernization.

"The Chinese government has invested heavily in R&D and implemented policies to foster an innovative environment and promote innovation," he said. "For example, for the last 20 years, the global share of R&D investment in China has increased substantially from 1 percent to 8 percent, to almost the same level as Japan".

"China's efforts toward modernization and innovation, especially in areas such as artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and renewable energy, are likely to attract foreign investors who are interested in investing in cutting-edge technologies," Charmeil added.

The country has been included in more early-stage global R&D projects of the company. Sanofi has set up four R&D centers in China. At the end of 2021, the country had participated in more than 80 percent of Sanofi's global late-stage development programs.

Sanofi set up a Digital Innovation Hub in Shanghai in 2018, which has grown into a major incubator for local startups to realize innovative ideas.