GT Voice: Can Loqtorzi improve China-US tech cooperation?
Published: Oct 29, 2023 10:07 PM
File photo

File photo

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the first China-developed cancer drug similar to Merck & Co.'s blockbuster therapy Keytruda, Bloomberg reported on Friday, at a time when recent interactions between China and the US have fueled hopes of a rebound in bilateral relations.

The FDA granted approval for Loqtorzi to Shanghai Junshi Biosciences and its US partner Coherus BioSciences to treat Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma (NPC), Bloomberg reported. According to Coherus' website, Loqtorzi is a next-generation, programmed death receptor-1 (PD-1) monoclonal antibody that enables the immune system to activate and kill the tumor.

NPC is an aggressive cancer that starts in the nasopharynx, the upper part of the throat behind the nose and near the base of the skull. Due to the location of the primary tumor, surgery is rarely an option, and patients are treated primarily with radiation and chemotherapy. Loqtorzi is the first FDA-approved agent for NPC patients. The antibody has reportedly demonstrated a statistically significant and clinically meaningful improvement in overall survival, with treatment resulting in a 37 percent reduction in the risk of death versus chemotherapy alone.

NPC is rare in the US, with an incidence of 0.4 cases per 100,000 people, but the cancer is much more common in Central, South and Southeast Asia, the Arctic, the Middle East and North Africa. Given that some statistics show that there are as many as 21 cases per 100,000 people in some parts of China, it comes as no surprise that Chinese drugmakers and biopharmaceutical companies have invested a large amount of resources in the development of drugs that treat NPC. 

Loqtorzi's US approval is a milestone for American patients. Although the total number of people suffering from NPC in the US is not large, for each individual, it means they can have access to cheaper and more effective treatment options, thereby improving their chances of survival. 

To some extent, it offers a window to observe the practical significance of China-US technology cooperation. Some politicians in Washington mistakenly claim that China is the only beneficiary of bilateral technology cooperation, hyping fears of "core technology leakage." The ridiculous logic reflects only their hypocrisy, arrogance and ignorance. Such political propaganda is detached from reality, acting like a type of cancer that hinders the development of China-US technology cooperation.

Of course, the US has many advantages in the fields of biomedicine and new drug research and development, but it cannot be denied that China is on the rise. There are approximately 400 pharmaceutical and biological enterprises listed in China's A-share market. In terms of the number of patents, such listed companies see fast growth. 

China's medical research and development still lags behind that of the US, but China's pharmaceutical market is enormous. It can provide reliable and extensive big data, which is of great significance for biopharmaceutical research. It is on this basis that China's research and development achievements are gradually emerging.

Simply relying on suppression and blockades cannot hinder China's technological progress. More importantly, medical progress and new drug development should not be victims of the zero-sum geopolitical games being played by some American politicians. Many believe that the FDA approval of Loqtorzi will serve as a crucial step for Chinese biotechnology firms to break into the US market, and then the global market. 

If such hopes become reality, this will be a good thing for not only cancer patients in the US and the world, but also Chinese biotechnology companies. As some medical professors said, it is hoped that Loqtorzi will close the treatment gap for international NPC patients struggling to find effective therapies, bringing them renewed hope for better survival.

The FDA approval of Loqtorzi took place against the backdrop of increased dialogue between high-level officials in China and the US, and increased expectations of a rebound in bilateral relations. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Friday said while meeting with US President Joe Biden that his visit is aimed at communicating with the US side to prevent bilateral ties from further deteriorating and bring the China-US relationship back on the track of healthy and steady development at an early date.

Although the cooperation around Loqtorzi is only a grain of sand on the big field of China-US technology cooperation, it once again proves that technology cooperation is beneficial for both sides. It is hoped that China-US technology cooperation can continue to move forward, rather than being influenced by some American politicians' anti-China thinking and turning back.