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In Race for Blood Cancer Therapy, a Chinese Biotech Firm Surges 500%

In the global race to use human immune cells to fight cancers, a little-known Chinese firm called GenScript Biotech Corp. is emerging as one of the biggest stock gainers.

Among the first Chinese developers of so-called CAR-T cancer therapies, GenScript’s shares have risen more than sixfold since June, when it reported positive results from early studies in 35 patients with a type of blood cancer.

Now the company expects the go ahead from Chinese regulators to start formal human trials as early as the second quarter. The drug could be ready for sale by the end of 2020 if not sooner, Chief Executive Officer Frank Zhang said in an interview.

Novartis AG and Gilead Sciences Inc. have already hit U.S. and European markets with CAR-T therapies, which involve extracting a patient’s immune system cells and modifying them to attack cancers. A string of Chinese firms are jumping in, highlighting the growing ambitions of the country’s pharmaceutical industry, which has long focused on cheap generic copies of branded drugs.

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