Novo Nordisk

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Company: Novo Nordisk ($NVO)
Investment: $100 million
Themes: Diabetes

As one of the incumbent powers in the Chinese diabetes market, Novo Nordisk finds itself in the cross hairs of deep-pocketed rivals. But the Danish drugmaker isn't going down without a fight. It was among the first to make major moves in China--opening a research facility 15 years ago--and has continued to invest to fend off increasingly intense competition.

The latest step is a $100 million expansion of its R&D center in Beijing. Novo has equipped the facility to handle a full range of protein research services and is adding 70 more scientists to perform the work. As the hires are made, head count will move upward of 200. The new hires will work with colleagues at other R&D hubs in Europe and the U.S., making China a central part of Novo's drug-development network.

And more is still to come. Novo has room to further expand the Beijing facility and is also looking to invest in other areas. After Sanofi ($SNY) began training Chinese doctors last year, Novo COO Kaare Schultz sounded off in Bloomberg about his intentions to fight back. "You will see more manufacturing. You will see more education. You will see more training of patients. You will see more research locally," Schultz said.

The talk of education and training give an insight into the game Big Pharma is playing in China. As in the U.K.--where Big Pharma is offering added-value services to healthcare providers--drugmakers in China are looking for novel ways to work with authorities. A diabetes training program, for example, could improve patient outcomes and cut state healthcare costs. In a competitive environment, the company behind such an initiative could gain an edge in market access. 

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Novo Nordisk boosts China R&D with $100M diabetes research project