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Plotting Asia expansion, Amgen blueprints plans for Shanghai research center

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Amgen CEO Robert Bradway

Some of Big Pharma's most prominent global players may be rethinking their China strategy in the wake of the bribery scandal that has rocked the country's medical establishment, but Amgen is all in. Under CEO Robert Bradway, Amgen made an Asian expansion one of its top priorities this year, and it's followed through with a decision to set up a new research center in Shanghai.

Amgen ($AMGN) is partnering with ShanghaiTech University, where it plans to develop a new research hub as it partners with the academic group on discovery and translational research work. The big biotech says it will co-locate its China R&D center with ShanghaiTech University's two life sciences institutes: the Shanghai Institute for Advanced Immunochemical Studies and the iHuman Institute.

Over the past few years the industry has invested billions of dollars into building a new China R&D infrastructure. Merck ($MRK), for example, outlined plans to spend $1.5 billion with plans to hire 600 scientists at a new Beijing center. Novartis ($NVS) set out to expand in 2009, adding 280 investigators in its Shanghai center, while Roche added a $100 million game plan for the booming country. Now Amgen is expanding as well, with an eye to developing new antibodies.

"We aim to become one of the world's leading antibody research institutes and the co-location of Amgen's China R&D center with us will help to steer our research to be more applicable and to ultimately help patients in the fight against serious illnesses," said Professor Richard Lerner, founding director of Shanghai Institute for Advanced Immunochemical Studies.

The new research center is expected to be up and running next year.

Amgen started out 2013 with a New Year's resolution to play catch-up in Asia, a market where it's been largely absent. And in recent months the company has executed a drug-development pact with Astellas Pharma, blueprinted a $200 million biologics plant in Singapore and forged a joint venture in China to market the cancer drug Vectibix. 

"The combination of Amgen's industry-leading expertise in biopharmaceuticals and the world-class academic excellence of scientists at the SIAIS and iHuman institutes of ShanghaiTech will be a very powerful force in advancing drug discovery and development," said Mingqiang Zhang, vice president of China R&D at Amgen. "We aim to address unmet medical needs that are particularly relevant for patients in China."

- here's the press release

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