Glaxo studies traditional Chinese medicine

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Scientists from GlaxoSmithKline (Other OTC: GLAXF.PK - news) are to study how traditional Chinese medicine can be applied to modern drugs as part of a revamp of the company’s research and development.

Britain’s biggest drug maker last week unveiled the outcome of a review of its 38 groups of scientists, known as Discovery Performance Units (DPU), saying it would close three units and open four.

The Sunday Telegraph can reveal the new units will look at traditional Chinese medicines, investigating how their principles can be applied to making new, synthetic, molecules.

“Within our discovery organisation in China we have created a DPU that will marry traditional Chinese medicine with modern drug discovery and clinical efficacy,” said Moncef Slaoui, Glaxo’s chairman of research and development. “With modern technology we have the potential to yield new molecular entities with significant efficacy.”

The new unit will be based in China Glaxo launched an R&D centre in Shanghai almost five years ago.

With its pharmaceutical market forecast to mushroom to more than $100bn (£63.5bn) by 2015, China is one of the most important battlegrounds for drug companies facing pricing pressure and more competition from generics.

Glaxo’s move reflects a wish by drug companies to adapt their research to particular regions. Six (SNP: ^SIXY - news) years ago, AstraZeneca (LSE: AZN.L - news) established a centre in China to study diseases prevalent in Asia, such as liver and stomach cancer, and lung conditions.

Last October, Astra also said it planned to invest $200m in a new Chinese factory making intravenous and oral solid medicines.

Astra’s sales in emerging markets, including China, grew 10pc to $5.8bn last year, while Glaxo’s Asia Pacific (Chicago Options: ^RASPUSD - news) revenues grew 7pc to £1.8bn.