XJTLU partners with biopharma start-up Convergen to drive drug discoveries

28 May 2021

Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University’s Wisdom Lake Academy of Pharmacy has joined forces with start-up Convergen Pharmaceuticals to open a new laboratory set to fast-track discoveries in drugs targeting tumours and immune-related diseases.

The partnership, which was formalised at a ceremony at XJTLU on April 30, will involve sharing resources, knowledge, funding and personnel to advance novel drug development.

Professor Mu Wang, Executive Dean of the Academy (pictured below, right), said the new joint laboratory was a significant step in the Academy’s strategy to foster collaboration between academia and industry.

“Everybody knows that Wisdom Lake Academy of Pharmacy is trying to work very closely with local industries. This is a very good start, and we are just getting established a collaborative laboratory here on the XJTLU campus with the local start-up company called Convergen,” he said.

Dr Jinquan Sun (pictured below), Chief Executive Officer of Convergen, agreed that similar outlooks and priorities were key drivers of the new partnership. She said both the University and her company shared a desire to make people’s lives better.

Dr Sun and Professor Wang have the same view on “the right thing to do” and “the thing that makes money”: “Sometimes the two overlap, and sometimes they are different,” Dr Sun said. “How you make the choice actually determines eventually where you are.”

Biopharmaceutical is one of the most rewarding industries to Dr Sun. “In this industry, it’s intrinsically overlapping personal fulfillment with values to the society,” she said.

“In other industries, people need to use something else to actually make a living. But in this industry, we are saving lives to make a living.”

The Academy will provide space, project topics and technical support and platforms, as well as taking responsibility for the management, operation and staff resourcing of the laboratory. Convergen will contribute research funding, industrial equipment, and industry expertise.

The laboratory’s research agenda will focus on understanding tumour and immune system dysfunction caused by chronic disease, and developing anti-tumour drugs.

Dr Sun said there was no better time to be working in the biopharmaceuticals industry in China as many scientists are driving innovation through their own start-up companies.

“We have great scientists and there are good funding opportunities,” Dr Sun said.

“By working together with the same vision, we can really do something with all the resources available to us – we can make a real difference.

“I'm looking forward to seeing all those things in the future we can create.”

The XJTLU Wisdom Lake Academy of Pharmacy was jointly built by the University and the Suzhou Industrial Park local government. In cooperation with government, industry, and the wider community, it aims to incubate an ecosystem of world-class biopharmaceutical innovation.

By Huan Zhu, translated by Yadi Chen

28 May 2021