Is China preparing to challenge the U.S. for biotech supremacy?

Blogging for Fortune, contributor David Ewing Duncan says it appears that the answer to that question is yes. And after he reads out the grim record on new drug approvals in the U.S. over the past decade and what he sees as a misguided approach at the NIH to throw billions at basic research, it doesn't even sound all that hard.

Duncan, a regular life sciences writer for Wired as well, cites a recent story in China Daily on the country's 5-year plan for biotech, which calls for $308 billion in spending and the creation of a million new biotech jobs--big numbers by anyone's standards. That looks as ambitious as the Clinton administration's plan to double down on medical research, he says. Only now the Chinese can scoop up all the U.S. science for free and dive straight into drug development work.

"The opportunity for the Chinese--and, of course, for the U.S.--is to learn from this overemphasis on the "R" (research) in the "R&D" equation, and to focus more on the "D" (development)," he opines. "The other opening for China (and others) is to take the mass of basic research bought by America's trillion-dollar investment, which is readily available in journals and databases, and turn it into products--and into gold."

Of course, China's biotech industry is light years behind U.S. companies. But with its rep for lightning advances, the Asian nation could be on our heels before we know it.

- here's the blog post from Fortune