Leading contract research organisation (CRO) Covance has opened its first nutritional chemistry laboratory serving the Asian market.

The US-based CRO is investing $2 million in the 5,000sq ft facility in Singapore, expanding on its “world-renowned” nutritional chemistry laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin. The new laboratory consolidates a presence first established more than 10 years ago, when Covance started offering clinical drug development services from Singapore.

The nutritional chemistry laboratory will provide Asian companies looking to export food products and dietary supplements to the US with “independent and internationally recognised” testing, Covance said. At the moment, companies exporting from Asia have to send their food and supplement product samples to laboratories in the US for analytical tests.

The Covance laboratory can “pre-qualify ingredients and products before shipment, which simplifies export requirements, eases logistics, and significantly reduces product release times,” the CRO commented.

Initial focus infant formula

The initial focus of the Singapore laboratory will be on testing infant formula for release, stability and labelling data. The region is home to several of the world’s largest infant formula producers, Covance noted, adding that the facility would also offer testing of food and health supplements.

Food exports from Asia have come under increased scrutiny following a succession of safety alerts over pet food, toothpaste and other goods sourced from China. In June the country published a five-year plan for stricter monitoring and testing of foods and medicines.

Covance opened a newly expanded central laboratory in Singapore in April 2006, quadrupling its former capacity to service clinical trials in the region. A number of other CROs, including Quintiles, ICON, MDS Pharma and PPD, have set up regional centres in Singapore.