Roche

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Company: Roche ($RHHBY)
Investment: $410 million over several years
Themes: R&D and diagnostics

Roche takes a slightly different approach to China than its Big Pharma peers. Instead of treating China as a special case with a specific strategy, it addresses the country as part of its global plan. But that doesn't diminish its importance to Roche, and the Swiss drugmaker is stepping up its game in China. Just over 12 months ago Roche said it will make $100 million of additional investments in China in the next 5 years.

The cash will go toward expanding the Roche R&D center in Shanghai--which employed 250 scientists preinvestment--and adding manufacturing capacity. "China is absolutely critical to our global strategy. It is a source of innovation. It is a key source of talent," Joe McCracken, global head of business development at Roche, told ChinaBio Today. The goal is to triple head count in China by 2020.

Singling out China--or even emerging markets--for discussion is rare for Roche. But it has been quietly working at the opportunities. "You did not hear us spend that much time talking about emerging markets in the past, but I think we have been very successful with our strategies," Roche marketing chief David Loew said in a company statement. While the company talks of a global plan, it has tailored its strategy to China, notably through tiered pricing approaches.

Herceptin is a good example. Roche spotted a growing segment of people who got initial treatment but could not afford to finish the regime. In response, Roche introduced a free period of treatment after the initial doses. "The introduction of these patient access programs … actually turned out to be a real trigger to increase access and eventually our sales," Roche CEO Severin Schwan said. 

Roche is also investing in its diagnostics business in China. In June, Roche committed to investing $310 million in China over the next few years to expand its presence in nine cities. New hires and offices are planned to help Roche make China its second biggest diagnostics market. The investment builds on work to increase the diagnostic testing rate in China and other emerging markets.

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