The number of global contract research organisations (CROs) operating in China has doubled over the last year, according to an updated directory of the marketplace.

“The landscape of global CROs in China has completely changed in the past year,” says Chloe Liu, managing partner of Modular R&D, which produced the China CRO 2010 directory.

Modular cites a series of acquisitions and new openings in China, with the acquisition activity – which includes PPD’s takeover of Excel Pharmastudies and Bioduro, RPS/Paramax, INC Research/MDS Clinical Research, i3 Research/Chinagate, Pharmaron/Bridge Pharma and Tigermed/Macrostat – arising partly from “leading CROs trying to gain dominance in the Chinese market and in part from CROs new to China trying to quickly establish themselves through developed local firms”.

Global CROs are also expanding their service offerings and moving into new therapeutic areas in China, with an especially marked increase in the number of companies offering central laboratory and drug supply management services, Modular R&D notes.

At the same time, local CROs are growing, using mergers, acquisitions and partnerships to broaden their service offerings and compete with their global counterparts, it adds. And new CROs are being formed, some with local government backing, some funded by venture capital.

Some advanced institutional service providers, such as Good Laboratory Practice-standard laboratories certified by China’s State Food and Drug Administration, are starting to act as commercial entities, opening up services to international drug developers, Modular points out. 

China CRO 2010 lists 168 verified CROs offering drug discovery, preclinical and clinical trial services. Domestic operators account for 54% of the sector, CROs based in China but with international reach for another 31%, and global CROs for 15%. Of these, 111 offer clinical trial services, 36 preclinical services and 35 drug discovery services.