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  • Inheriting the Spirit of Red Pharmaceutical Enterprise, Experiencing the Innovation of a Modern Enterprise


    Editor’s notes: From November 20 to December 10, 2013, Hubei Daily published a series of articles on a Wuhan-based pharmaceutical company that has kept producing life-saving drugs at loss for consecutive 57 years, triggering wide public attention. The report reflects the rational choice made by GrandPharma (China) Co., Ltd. (“GrandPharma"), the conscientious medicine producer, in addressing corporate development and social responsibility, greatly promoting the spirit of red pharmaceutical enterprise inherited from the Taihangshan Mountain era half a century ago. For the further practice of “going down to the grass-roots units, and changing both working and writing styles, the student journalist society under Hubei Daily came to GrandPharma and visited the conscientious medicine R&D center and workshop, talking with corporate leaders, watching the manufacturing process of conscientious medicines, and gaining a better understanding of the latest development of the company.

    Time has changed. Although these student journalists born in the 1990s have never studied the article titled Just to Save the Lives of 61 Class Brothers, which was once in the textbook for middle-school in the past, they were deeply touched and inspired by the visit. They saw the stone mill and kollergang used by the pharmaceutical factory of the Eighth Route Army in Taihangshan Mountain, and the stone monument with inscriptions of Chairman Mao Zedong that reads “producing medicine to cure the wounded and having no fear of the enemy’s blockade is a prerequisite to defeat the enemy”. They were also lectured by the company president, in his 60s, on the stories of military surgeons testing medicines on themselves during the Anti-Japanese War.


    Witness the dissolution test of a new drug 

    Yesterday, the student journalists of Hubei Daily visited the R&D center of GrandPharma. This white laboratory building in Wuhan Zhuankou Development Zone is GrandPharma’s R&D core unit.

    After a series of strict disinfection procedures, they entered the new drug dissolution laboratory where the dissolution test for a hypotensive drug was in process. Seven glass cups were put in the water bath of an automatic dissolution tester. The water temperature in the water bath, initially at 6°C, slowly rose to 37°C, a figure similar to the temperature of human body. The balling gun above the seven glass cups automatically dropped tablets into the aqueous solution in the glass cups one after another. Soon afterwards, the rotating rods above the glass cups descended and rotated rapidly to stir the aqueous solution and tablets till the tablets were completely dissolved.

    Lifeng Wang, a laboratory technician in his white lab coat, stood by the testing device and watched closely on the changes in water temperature and drug reaction. He explained that the seven glass cups were used to simulate the dissolution and digestion processes of drug tablets in the stomach and intestines of a human body in order to study drug absorption. “The rotating rod is used to simulate the squirming motion of a human stomach. The speed of the rotating rod can be set differently according to age group. For example, to imitate the squirming motion of a young person’s stomach, the rotating speed needs to be set a bit faster at 100 rounds per minute. For senior’s, 50 rounds per minute is enough”, explained Wang Lifeng. To show how the test works, Mr. Wang Lifeng set the sampling time to once per hour. One hour later, a needle next to the rotating rod automatically moved in and the solution was transferred through the needle and a water pump to the tubes at the left-most of the testing equipment. Samples collected could be sent to liquid chromatography and other laboratories to study if the concentration of the released pharmaceutical ingredients can meet manufacturing requirements, or if further process adjustments are needed.

    Yang Bo, the manager of this R&D center, explained that “Most oral tablet drugs need to reach certain concentrations in the blood circulation system to be effective. The drug absorption rate in our body usually depends on its dissolution rate. Some drugs need to be quickly released for efficacy while some others need to be released slowly. Therefore, dissolubility is very important in new drug R&D processes. Solid doses have different dissolution rates. For instance, an ordinary drug formulation usually needs 15 minutes to dissolve, while the process can last for 24 hours for some controlled release ones.     

    Modern instruments have accelerated the speed of drug R&D. Pointing at the two retired manual dissolution test apparatus in the laboratory, Yang Bo commented with proud that “The old apparatus requires manual sampling. After dissolution, solution has to be manually transferred with a syringe, and the results are not accurate. With the new one now, both test time and labor are significantly reduced, and data is more accurate”.

    With these modern equipments, GrandPharma R&D Center can commercialize at least two new drugs each year. Currently, the company has 30 products in R&D pipeline and an additional 24 that have finished R&D work and submitted to CFDA for approval.

    New Stories of “Conscientious Medicine”

    Six Emergency Medicines will be produced this year

    Yesterday, a student journalist of the Hubei Daily was told that GrandPharma will increase the amount of production for “life-saving medicines” this year, and will expand the number of these “Conscientious Medicines” to six to continue its “conscientious Medicine” quest.

    According to the report, the company plans to increase the production of dimercaprol injection from 33,200 ampules in 2012 to 50,000 doses this year. Production amount of other emergency medicines will also see increase. These life-saving emergency medicines include noradrenaline bitartrate injection, epinephrine hydrochloride injection, and dopamine hydrochloride injection. They are mainly used for the emergency treatment of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Among them, the production amount of epinephrine hydrochloride injection is the largest and stays at 13 million ampules, and priced at less than one yuan per ampule. The planned production of the six emergency drugs will amount to 24.85 million ampules, nearly doubling the production amount of 2010. The total production value of emergency medicines is expected to reach 100 million about one twentieth of the total production value of the company this year.


    Dialogues between Post-50s and 60s with that of Post-90s

    Student journalist: The report on “Conscience Medicine” published by the Hubei Daily have drawn a lot of public attention, and put GrandPharma in the spotlight. As a role model for social responsibility-fulfilling pharmaceutical companies in Hubei, do you feel the pressure?

    Xie Guofan, a post-50s, Chairman of GrandPharma: Sure, we do feel the pressure. However, we are determined to turn the pressure into the power and pass on the “Conscience Medicine” spirit to each employee and work hard to produce more and better life-saving medicines, “Conscience Medicines” and highly effective medicines under the new national GMP requirements. Our goal is to make better and affordable medicines for ordinary people and drive the growth of our company. 

    Student journalist: During this visit, we saw the stone mills and kollergangs that have been kept in GrandPharma for half a century. We also saw your modern manufacturing and R&D equipments. We recognize that GrandPharma not only assumes social responsibilities but also has thrived in free market for all the years so far. How does your company strike a balance between social responsibility and free market? 

    Xie Guofan: Besides producing life-saving medicines, we’ve been working hard to develop innovative bio-pharmaceuticals, special API, and emergency medicines for eye diseases, cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases. From 2004 to the end of 2013, GrandPharma submitted a total of 112 patent applications, 34 of them were already granted, 86 are under review. We believe only continuous innovation can make a company grow and thrive. A thriving company can assume and fulfill its social responsibility better. 

    Student journalist: GrandPharma once saved numerous lives with its me-too life-saving medicine called Dimercaprol. What are the current accomplishments of your R&D efforts for new life-saving drugs? 

    Yang Bo, a post-60s, GM Assistant of GrandPharma: Recently, we have developed Tirofiban Hydrochloride Injection, Noradrenaline Bitartrate Injection, and Adrenaline Hydrochloride Injection. These commercialized medicines all have become important urgent care medicines in surgeries and for the urgent treatment of serious cases in China. Tirofiban Hydrochloride Injection, an anti-coagulant drug, is a leading drug in domestic market. GrandPharma owns more than 90% of the market shares. 

    Student journalist: GrandPharma organized staff to visit Taihangshan and Jinggangshan to search for the root of the company. Have these trips helped 

    Zhu Jun, bore in the 1960s, GM of GrandPharma’s drug product manufacturing subdivision: During our root searching trip to the pharmaceutical factory of the Eighth Route Army in Taihangshan, we helped local villagers to repair roads and made donations to local schools. These activities helped our staff to relive our history and understand more of the core spirit of red pharmaceutical firm heritage. The purpose is to encourage staff to work diligently and enthusiastically.


    Student journalist: What do you think of the media after this report on conscientious medicines?

    Xie Guofan: We feel that media is more of a society builder than simply an observer. The news report reminded our company to keep self-discipline and encouraged us to grow. To summarize it, media is the builder of spiritual civilization while enterprises are the constructors of material civilization, and they should work hard to build a harmonious society together.

    Student journalist: this is our first time visiting a red pharmaceutical firm. We have learned the touching story of ‘For the Lives of Our 61 Brothers’. Mr. Xie, as the leader of the company, what messages and expectations you would like to convey to our post-90s generation and the future successors of your company?

    Xie Guofan: I would like to offer you three points: not being afraid to lose, being ethical, and following your heart. My parents always taught me to be ethical and diligent. When I was young, I once worked in a factory cafeteria. I got a good scolding from my father because of a bowl of pork chop soup I bought from the cafeteria at a lower price. “We can afford it. Don’t try to take advantage of your job for personal gain.” That is a big lesson for me. Although 44 years has passed, I can never forget my father’s words. Our corporate culture is ‘being devoted, not being afraid to lose, and being consistent’. In my opinion, these are all fine qualities that young people should develop.


    Journalists’ notes 

    This is the first time we visited the red pharmaceutical company. Stone Mills and Kollergangs remind the history while the modern production line shows the present and the future. We feel deeply that “people have faith while medicine has soul”, a point the “Focusing on Conscientious Medicine” report has made. 

    Feng Sisi from Hubei University

    The Kollergangs of Taihangshan can crush medicinal herbs but not the indomitable spirit. With ten visits to GrandPharma, the media and society together witnessed the spiritual inheritance and technological innovation of the red pharmaceutical enterprise. 

    Zhan Huilan of Tsinghua University

    I’m not only a student journalist, but also a student majoring in medicine and pharmacy. The spirit of “healing the wounded and rescuing the dying” cherished by GrandPharma has inspired me to study hard and become a qualified healthcare worker.

    Tang Han from Hubei University of Chinese Medicine


    Times have changed so has the technology, but the conscience of serving the people remains unchanged.

    Yang Chenghua from Wuhan University of Science and Technology at Wuchang

    Today, I gained a deep understanding of the importance of corporate spirit. Pharmaceutical company is a material producer while media is a spiritual creator. We college students must work hard to become the future builders of the country and the society!

    Wang Zhe from College of Wuhan, Zhongnan University of Economics and Law 

    GrandPharma’s persistence of keeping the spirit of red pharmaceutical factory is really admirable and will exert positive influences upon my growth in the future.

    Sun Shuo from Wuhan University of Technology

    GrandPharma delivered positive energies! Gold has a price, but life-saving medicines are priceless. GrandPharma is really the role model for pharmaceutical industry.

    Zeng Xiankun from Wuhan Institute of Technology

    In GrandPharma, I can feel its sincere heart for serving the people and I can also see the hard work it has done to survive and develop in the market-oriented economy.

    Guo Qianyun from Huazhong University of Science and Technology at Wuchang

    I often deal with medicines in daily life, but never paid attention to any pharmaceutical company. This trip helped me better understand the persistent spirit of a red pharmaceutical enterprise, and taught me to be a person with conscience in the future.

    Xu Zhen from Wuhan Railway Vocational College of Technology

    (Quoted from the Hubei Daily on February 12, 2014)