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German Drugmaker BI to Establish Digital Lab in Shanghai

By Ding Yi / Mar 31, 2020 01:09 PM / Business & Tech

German drugmaker Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) will open a digital laboratory in July in Shanghai as part of efforts to penetrate the Chinese market, where pharmaceutical companies are scrambling to leverage digital technologies to boost their health care services.

With an initial investment of 3 million euros ($3.3 million), the laboratory, officially known as BI X, will look to recruit 20 experts in the field of digital health care to help develop medical products and therapies for the Chinese market, according to a statement published Monday on BI’s public WeChat account.

BI originally built the BI X laboratory at its headquarters in Germany in 2017, setting it up as an independent unit to the rest of the company. The lab works with specialists in the areas of data science, agile software development and user experience design to develop prototypes for new healthcare products and then turn them into applicable digital solutions.

The Shanghai-based facility is BI X’s first overseas branch outside Germany, the company said.

In recent years, foreign drugmakers have sought partnerships with China’s tech giants in a bid to ride the wave of the ongoing health care digital revolution.

Last year, Merck — BI’s German rival — and tech titan Tencent signed an agreement, under which Merck would use the Chinese company’s internet and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to build a digital platform to improve public disease awareness and provide health care services to patients based in China.

In China, 94% of health care professionals use digital health technology or mobile health apps, while 39% of the general public in China thinks AI technology in health care aids more accurate diagnoses, according to a report by health technology firm Royal Philips published in 2019.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

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