AstraZeneca has announced plans to launch three “large-scale” initiatives, in order to help advance global research and development (R&D) for innovative new medicines.

The news, which was unveiled at the 2nd annual China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai, includes the creation of a new Global R&D Centre and an artificial intelligence (AI) Innovation Centre, as well as a first-of-its-kind Healthcare Industrial Fund with China International Capital Corporation Limited (CICC).

The company says that the Global R&D Centre will carry out R&D for potential new innovative medicines and more than double AstraZeneca’s Shanghai R&D headcount to around 1,000. The primary focus of the project will be on diseases that are prevalent in China, home to around a quarter of world’s disease burden, as well as other parts of Asia.

The new AI Innovation Centre is set to be established to “capitalise on the latest digital technology in R&D, manufacturing, operations and commercialisation in order to accelerate the delivery of medicines to patients in China and globally.”

The fund, the first and largest-scale healthcare industrial fund established by, has a target size of $1 billion, seeking to support domestic companies and partners including those based in the Wuxi International Life Science Innovation Campus, as well as international companies looking to establish a presence in China.

China is rapidly emerging as a “global scientific powerhouse,” commented Pascal Soriot, chief executive officer of the company, “which is why we have taken this exciting decision to follow the science, by expanding our R&D presence and by working with the investment community.”

He continued: “We will make the most of our global resources and network to strengthen the connections between China and the rest of the world in the field of healthcare innovation and, ultimately, bring the benefits of that work to patients everywhere.”

In 2017, the AstraZeneca China Commercial Innovation Center was established in Wuxi, with the aim to explore innovative internet-connected diagnosis and treatment solutions. In the same year, AstraZeneca cooperated with SDIC Fund in establishing Dizal Pharmaceutical to accelerate local development of innovative medicines.