Eisai has become the first Japanese pharmaceutical company to open a regional clinical research centre in Singapore. Eisai Clinical Research Singapore Pte Ltd will serve as a hub for clinical trials in the Asia Pacific region of new Eisai compounds ranging from breast cancer therapies to potential treatments for severe sepsis, epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease.

Already active in Asia for 40 years, with subsidiaries in China, South Korea, Hong Kong, Thailand, Taiwan, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, India and Australia, Eisai said it was expecting productivity and efficiency gains from the investment, which recognised Singapore’s “enormous growth in the biomedical sciences industry over the last few years”.

Eisai Global Clinical Development, the unit created to centralise the company’s management of clinical development worldwide, proposed setting up the Singapore centre in response to the recent clinical research growth of Asia, Oceania and the Middle East (AOME), Eisai noted. According to Aw Kah Peng, assistant managing director for the government’s Economic Development Board, Singapore is “well positioned to be the clinical research and co-ordination hub in the Asia-Pacific region with its strategic location, comprehensive supply chain solutions, strong intellectual property protection and a well-established clinical research infrastructure”.

As Eisai pointed out, the Asia Pacific region now accounts for almost 56% of the world’s population, 25% of its gross national product and 22% of its trade. Moreover, the company added, “current trends indicate that the next centre of gravity for the global pharmaceutical market will be in Asia, with China, India and Singapore being the key countries”.

Dr Raymond Chua, managing director of Eisai Clinical Research Singapore, said the Asia Pacific and Middle East countries would “play an increasing role in clinical research activities over the next 10 years, with the fast maturing regulatory environment, increasingly experienced investigators, higher data quality yield and growing patient base in these regions”.

More efficiency and flexibility
As a global pharmaceutical company, he added, Eisai “acknowledges the need for more efficiency and flexibility in responding to markets in the region where there are multiple differences in the culture, disease structure and the regulations, unlike that of the US and EU”.

Pharmaceutical multinationals such as AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck & Co, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Pfizer, Sanofi-Aventis, Eli Lilly, Schering AG and Schering-Plough have already set up clinical trial co-ordination centres in Singapore. A number of contract research organisations, including Covance, Quintiles, ICON, MDS Pharma and PPD, have also caught the drift eastwards and set up regional centres in Singapore.