Pfizer has launched its previously-announced joint venture with Zhejiang Hisun Pharmaceuticals and is recruiting serious numbers of staff as part of its push into China.

Plans for the branded generics JV, called Hisun-Pfizer Pharmaceuticals Co, were unveiled in June and the state-owned company has a 51% stake and Pfizer 49%. The venture has a total investment of $295 million and registered capital of $250 million, and its registration facilities and production plants will be located in Fuyang, Zhejiang province.

Management offices and the R&D centre will be located in Shanghai and Hangzhou, respectively. The JV's "broad portfolio" will cover cardiovascular and infectious disease, plus oncology, mental health and other therapeutic areas.

Pfizer noted that the two parent groups "will also contribute manufacturing sites, cash and other relevant assets" and the JV aims to build "a robust sales network that covers most areas and hospitals in China and to enter the international market by leveraging on Pfizer’s global business networks".

Bai Hua, Hisun's chairman, said the deal "will help us better contribute to the development of the Chinese pharmaceutical industry, advance the drug innovation and manufacturing capabilities of Zhejiang province and China, and lay a solid foundation for Chinese pharmaceutical companies to enter the international market". Pfizer's emerging markets chief Olivier Brandicourt said the partnership "further supports the government of China's goals for improved access to medicines and treatments for the patients of China".

1,500 staff by end-2013

Kevin Xiao, Hisun-Pfizer's chief executive, told Bloomberg that the venture plans to hire 600 people in China by the end of the year and across all functions. The aim is to have about 1,000 employees by December, and some 1,500 by the end of 2013.

He told the news agency that “so far, in the sales force, we have more Pfizer people, but in manufacturing, it’s the other way around.” Mr Xiao added that "these are two totally different companies - one state-owned, the other one a big multinational [and] Wwe need to balance the foreign and local culture, practice and mindset. That’s a pretty big challenge for us.”

In China, branded generics account for 70% of the domestic market. Pfizer expects that the country will become the world’s second-largest pharmaceutical market by 2015.