Forging biotech ties with Asia

Forget funding from Asia - partnering is the best way for Kiwi biotech companies to crack the region, according to Janette Dixon, who’s been there, done that. Here are her top tips for succeeding in Asia.


It’s better to pursue partnerships than venture funding in Asia. Governments in countries like Singapore are focused on building the local sector with infrastructure and employment. Build lasting value for the local communities by partnering with them. To find partners, contact local government agencies or ask New Zealand Trade and Enterprise to set up meetings for you.

The benefits of partnering include access to capital; development expertise; third party validation of your technology which can help with the share price or with accessing funding. 

Make sure the partner allows you access to their data so you can use it in other territories and when you come to partner with big pharma.

Doing business in Japan

Japan has the world’s biggest functional foods market in the world and a category: FOSHU (food for specific human health use) – just for functional food products. Once a product is approved, a company can make quite specific claims about the benefits in combating disease.

Japanese companies are used to playing a supporting role in the development of your technology. Second tier companies are very credible partners and accepting of doing regional rights deals. Many of those companies will have functional foods divisions.

India, China and Korea

There are a number of sizeable Indian pharma companies. They have generally grown out of generic pharmaceuticals backgrounds so they usually have revenues and profit. Many have also developed proprietary drug delivery systems.

Generic manufacturing is a very low margin game and increasingly Indian companies are looking to partner on innovative products. 

Chinese pharma companies have also often grown from generic manufacturing backgrounds. Chinese pharma companies have excellent connections with local government which can lead to additional project funding.

Korean pharma firms are often part of huge conglomerates. Many have grown up as local distributors of big pharma, but big pharma are setting up in that space so smaller companies are looking to partner. They’re actively looking for Korean rights to products.

How to make connections in Asia

Attend biopartnering conferences there and in other countries – increasingly Asian companies are attending the big conferences in the US and Europe and some smaller conference in other countries outside Asia as well.

Janette Dixon is the senior vice president of global business development for QRxPharma. She has set up distribution networks in Southeast Asian countries, established startups and done licensing deals with Chinese companies. The above is based on her address at the NZBio Conference in Auckland.