Bayer is to spend around 100 million euros over the next five years to establish an R&D centre in Beijing which it says will be “an important site for our global innovative drug development."

The German company’s Bayer Schering Pharma unit sees a move as an important part of increasing its presence in the Asia Pacific region, “where China is our key growth driver”, said the division’s chairman Andreas Fibig. Chief medical officer Kemal Malik added that “our aim is to systematically include Asian patients earlier in global drug development, breaking the tradition of ‘US and EU first’."

Adding more details to the plan, head of global drug discovery at the unit, Andreas Busch, noted that Bayer is also launching the ‘Global Drug Discovery Innovation Center’ in Beijing “where our scientists will expedite new innovative approaches together with our Chinese partners”. By doing so, “we also want tosupport the further development of local expertise," he added.

Mr Fibig claimed that "China is home to a large pool of skilled medical and scientific talents” and “our goal is to work closely together with our Chinese partners to support China conducting their own R&D activities”. At the same time, “we will be able to strengthen our own R&D capabilities," he noted.

Bayer also announced that it is in “advanced discussions” with Tsinghua University to set up a strategic partnership to discover new disease-related targets in its core areas of research, which are women’s healthcare, cardiology, oncology and diagnostic imaging. If a deal is agreed, Bayer would be the first multinational company in China to enter into a partnership “with such a respected and renowned Chinese university”, the company said.

Bayer already has a considerable presence in China and, according to IMS Health data, is the number one healthcare company in the country with a growth rate of 43% in 2007.