Since first establishing an affiliate in China back in 2017, Gilead Sciences has been able to introduce 11 innovative medicines to the Chinese market - eight of which have been included in the National Reimbursement Drug List - across HIV prevention & treatment, viral hepatitis, invasive fungal disease, and cancer. VP and General Manager for China Jim Jin outlines what first attracted him to the company, the crucial importance of China to the global group - including leveraging local innovation and collaboration with Chinese biotechs - and how Gilead is contributing to addressing significant public health challenges like HIV and cancer with - and beyond - its innovative treatments.


Could you share your trajectory and experience in the life science industry and what attracted you to Gilead three years ago?

I began my career in 1996 as a sales representative at a multinational pharmaceutical company. Since then, I have worked in this industry for over two decades, gaining experience in Sales, Marketing, Business Development, Franchise Integration, Alliance Management, and Strategy Development, both in China and internationally. Over time, I advanced to senior leadership roles with a proven track record of achieving business success in leading multinational healthcare companies. For instance, I successfully expanded the diabetes and endocrinology business I managed at one company by nearly five times in six years. Before joining Gilead, I was the General Manager at another leading healthcare company for its Established Pharmaceuticals division in China.

In 2021, I gladly joined Gilead, due to its stellar reputation within the industry and among healthcare professionals, particularly for its groundbreaking work in curing HCV and its advancements in virology diseases. Additionally, the company’s forward-looking approach, including expansion into oncology over the past five years, was appealing. Despite Gilead China’s relatively short history, it presented significant growth opportunities, allowing me to contribute to expanding Gilead’s presence in China and improving patient access to innovative medicines. This exciting potential for growth and impact motivated my decision to join Gilead.


Reflecting on your three-year journey at Gilead China, what have been some of your key achievements in terms of product launches, improving access, and elevating brand recognition among healthcare professionals?

Over the past three years, our areas of focus have been on introducing innovative medicines and enhancing patient access to those innovative treatments. Last year, we expanded our business beyond virology and launched two new products in China. One is in oncology for triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). Another one is for invasive fungal disease. Today, among the eleven medicines that we market in China, eight are included in the National Reimbursement Drug List (NRDL), ensuring reimbursement and affordability for patients. Additionally, we continue to expand our coverage through diverse channels, including pharmacy and online platforms on top of the traditional in-hospital channel. By bolstering our team and forming strategic partnerships, we’ve significantly improved patient access. Another notable accomplishment is accelerating innovation in China by strengthening our research and development capabilities, resulting in the initiation of more than 20 clinical trials for both oncology and virology treatments.

Lastly, we’ve prioritized team development and organizational growth, doubling our team size from 400 colleagues to nearly 800 colleagues, establishing the business unit model, and fostering strong leadership to enhance collaboration and operational efficiency. As a result, we’ve seen a significant decrease in turnover rates, ensuring continuity and stability within the organization.


With increased investments in Gilead China, how does the company view the Chinese market, and what is its strategic positioning within the international business?

China holds significant importance for Gilead, being one of its three strategic markets globally. We recognize the substantial unmet medical needs in China and the growing potential of local innovation to drive global advancements. We’re experiencing rapid growth and envision further expansion. Our long-term plan for China involves bringing more innovative therapies to China and leveraging local innovation to accelerate our global initiatives. This includes increasing clinical trial activities in China to expedite global trials and fostering collaborations with local biotech firms, particularly in oncology and virology areas. These efforts align with our broader goal of advancing healthcare solutions and addressing critical medical challenges both locally and internationally.


If considering Gilead’s virology franchise, particularly in a market as vast as China, what metrics do you prioritize to gauge success, especially given the prevalence of generics in the market?

The virology segment, encompassing HBV, HCV, and HIV, addresses critical public health concerns in China, aligning with the government’s ambitious targets for Healthy China 2030. Our focus remains on meeting unmet medical needs and supporting national health objectives. While our approach to a relatively limited sales force deployment hasn’t drastically changed, we’ve adopted a collaborative model, partnering with local distributors, online platforms, and healthcare providers to enhance coverage and education efforts. Engaging with the central government is essential, given their policy directives, but we also recognize the importance of cascading these discussions to regional and local levels for effective implementation. This decentralized approach necessitates significant coordination and resources, involving partnerships with various stakeholders, including diagnostics and pharmaceutical companies, to drive key initiatives forward.


At the advocacy level how is HIV perceived in China, and what policies are in place to support patients?

HIV remains a significant public health concern in China, with over 1 million reported cases and approximately 100,000 new cases annually. The government, through the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has established comprehensive programs for epidemiological tracking, testing, diagnosis, and treatment. Notably, China offers free HIV treatment, a unique policy compared to other countries. However, stigma and discrimination persist, underscoring the need for widespread education and awareness campaigns. We collaborate with medical associations, patient /community groups, and government agencies to promote accurate understanding and de-stigmatization of HIV. Moreover, recent advancements have led to the inclusion of HIV treatments in the National Reimbursement List since 2019, expanding access to advanced therapies beyond the limitations of free treatment options, which tend to deliver the drugs that have been already in the market for several decades. This progress empowers patients with more treatment choices while aligning with national health objectives to combat the HIV epidemic effectively.

In addition to HIV treatment, there is a growing focus on prevention methods such as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP). While we currently offer products in this area, innovation continues to advance. Our aim is not only to develop effective preventive measures but also to educate the public on their availability and benefits. By promoting awareness and understanding of PrEP and PEP, we contribute to the broader goal of ending the HIV epidemic. This evolving landscape underscores the importance of ongoing research and the potential for future reimbursement of preventive medications.


How is Gilead’s oncology franchise being strategically reshaped in China?

Gilead’s entry into the oncology field in China has been marked by significant developments. We recently launched one of our leading global products here for its first indication, triple-negative breast cancer and established our oncology Business Unit to drive commercial efforts. Concurrently, we have bolstered our research and development capabilities, initiating several phase three clinical trials for oncology treatments in China. Moving forward, we plan to leverage our global development initiatives, conducting more clinical trials at various stages, including early-staged ones, within China. Moreover, we remain open to partnerships, to further enhance our oncology portfolio and advance our presence in China.


How do you evaluate the success of the recent oncology product launch in China, particularly in the context of the extensive competition from both global MNCs and local biotechs?

Launch success can be assessed through several lenses. Firstly, we have provided a crucial treatment option for patients with late-stage triple-negative breast cancer, filling a previously unmet need in the market. This not only extends patients’ lives but also aligns with our mission to create a heathier world for all people. Secondly, we have surpassed our initial business expectations within less than a year of its launch, indicating strong progress. Additionally, the launch has enabled us to build and strengthen our teams in both commercial and R&D domains, laying a solid foundation for future oncology endeavors. Lastly, through our launch efforts, we have enhanced Gilead’s reputation in the oncology sector, particularly in breast cancer and overall in oncology, elevating our status among the top companies in the field. These indicators collectively suggest a successful launch, despite the challenges and dynamics of the Chinese oncology market.


How do you assess the quality and efficiency of the regulatory frameworks and the clinical trial data emerging from China, particularly as Gilead aims to integrate it globally while investing more in clinical development here?

The regulatory frameworks and the quality of clinical trial data in China have seen significant progress over the years. Many companies have been operating in China for decades, establishing robust commercial and R&D infrastructures. These companies have conducted numerous clinical trials in China, contributing valuable data to the global pool. While Gilead entered China more recently in 2017, we recognize the importance of aligning with global standards while adapting to local circumstances. Therefore, we view China as an integral part of our global R&D efforts, and we are confident in the reliability and integrity of the data generated from clinical trials conducted in the country.


What message would you like to share with your global colleagues who may be visiting China for the first time in a while, given the recent lack of interaction and the current geopolitical tensions?

I would warmly welcome our global colleagues to visit China, to gain firsthand insight into the regulatory and policy progress, as well as the government’s agenda, particularly in the context of Healthy China 2030. It’s crucial to recognize that despite the geopolitical dynamics, there are substantial unmet medical needs in China. We have a significant opportunity to bring innovative medicines to China, leveraging both local innovation and global collaboration.

Taking our efforts on driving health equity as an example. It is a critical part in our Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Commitments at the global level. It’s also a strategic imperative for us in China. We’re improving access to life-changing medicine for patients by expanding reimbursement lists, developing multi-channel approaches, and increasing our footprint to expand coverage. We’re committed to delivering scientific innovations and bringing more innovative medicines. Additionally, we’re aligning with our global strategy to help increase social impact by educating the public, reducing discrimination and stigma, and supporting underserved patients and communities.

We need to have a balanced view of China, acknowledging both challenges and opportunities, and work together towards common goals for the benefit of patients, not only in China but around the world.