Developing talent – Chinese education and the pharmaceutical sciences

Richard Tadd Blog

There’s a revolution taking place in China’s healthcare sector, and it has nothing to do with COVID-19. Despite all the reports you may have seen suggesting that new medical infrastructure in the country was being developed in response to the emergence of the new coronavirus, this is something that was in motion long before, and it’s set to change millions of lives. The Healthy China 2030 initiative is a long-term plan that has seen the Chinese government make a massive investment in improving life expectancy, quality of life and the global economic potential of its healthcare sector. Much of this hinges on education.

Healthcare education reform

Where healthcare is concerned, China has two major points of focus. Firstly, it’s seeking to improve the wellbeing of its citizens. Secondly, it wants to take full advantage of the economic opportunities that stem from having such a large population, one of which is that in China clinical trials can find suitable participants much more easily, making it extremely attractive to the biotech sector. With this latter factor in mind, it wants to develop the facilities to attract outside investment through partnerships between foreign companies and Chinese Healthcare companies (particularly Pharma, Biotech, Medical Device and CROs), and it wants to train enough highly skilled researchers to provide for those partnerships at the same time as fast-tracking the development of its own biotech sector.

China’s pharmaceutical universities

In an effort to achieve the above, China has developed centres of excellence in three dozen of its leading universities, most notably the Chinese Pharmaceutical University in Nanjing, Fudan and Shanghai Jiao Tong Universities in Shanghai, Zhejiang University in Hangzhou and Sichuan University in Chengdu. By concentrating talent, these institutions have succeeded in training researchers who can provide China clinical trial quality on a par with the best to be found elsewhere in the world.

With the NMPA (National Medical Products Association) recently tightening regulatory standards, this intensive training programme makes it possible for home grown talent to meet the demands of the new China drug registration process that now requires a more precise and diligent approach from all involved. The picture is also changing because of the establishment of improved infrastructure and new, high-quality equipment in which the new students are trained, ensuring that clinical professionals are able to match the approach taken in trials conducted elsewhere in the world. This approach is essential in comparative work, for instance, when seeking to understand how different ethnic groups respond to a new product.

Training doctors

As well as educating researchers, China is training an increasing number of doctors in order to meet the demands of its population, of which most have at least basic medical insurance. The Chinese government is trying to get all its citizens insured within the next few years. There are two parallel medical systems in use in China, with the dominant scientific approach used elsewhere in the world increasingly taking over from traditional Chinese medicine, though the latter remains much in demand, especially in rural areas.

It’s these more remote areas that the government is most keen to reach, and it’s seeking to improve the standard of care offered by local community health centres (CHCs) so that people using them are less likely to need to be referred to hospitals. This has resulted in an increase in training for doctors and other frontline healthcare workers. Many of these personnel also play a role in medical research by helping Chinese healthcare companies to reach into minority ethnic communities that may otherwise be difficult for researchers to access.

Educating the public

As well as educating medical personnel and pharmaceutical researchers, China recently passed a new law promoting basic health and medical care, which requires healthcare authorities at all levels to establish systems for promoting scientifically accurate information to the public. This includes a focus on encouraging schools to provide healthcare education, and building up healthcare knowledge and skills within the community. The aim is to ensure that people will be better able to care for themselves, will know when they need to seek a doctor’s assistance and will be able to follow courses of treatment as instructed.

A changing nation

As it improves the health of its citizens, China is improving their economic productivity, which in turn makes it easier for them to afford better standards of health care. This is making the Chinese market even more attractive to drug and medical device development companies around the world. Together with a simplification of the registration processes that foreign companies need to go through with the NMPA in order to bring products to market in China, this is attracting a lot more attention to the country. Additionally, in the slightly longer term, China’s intensive investment in health and health education is likely to see its own biotech sector become one of the strongest in the world.

Professional Chinese CRO

As one of the top Chinese CROs, Clinical Service Center has an abundance of local talent and experience at its fingertips for sponsors to take advantage of when looking to conduct clinical trials in China. If you have any questions regarding clinical trials in China, or would like to request a proposal, just get in touch.