US-based contract research organisation (CRO) MDS Pharma Services has opened an office in Tokyo, Japan, saying it will enable the company better to serve the local pharmaceutical and biotechnology markets as well as opening up new growth opportunities both in Japan and the broader Asia-Pacific region.

The new office is co-located with Molecular Devices Japan, which is part of the MDS Analytical Technologies unit. The latter supplies life sciences tools such as mass spectrometry. Together with MDS Pharma Services and MDS Nordion (molecular imaging isotopes, targeted cancer treatments, sterilisation products and systems), it is the third strand of the businesses run by Mississauga, Canada-based parent, MDS Inc.

MDS Pharma Services already has an “extensive network” in the Asia-Pacific region, including global central laboratory facilities in Singapore and Beijing (China), discovery and preclinical operations in Taiwan, and monitoring offices for late-stage clinical trials in Beijing, Malaysia and Australia.

A five-year plan to regenerate the environment for clinical trials in Japan, including subsidies for medical institutions, resourcing initiatives, standardisation, a review of guidelines on ethics approvals, the development of centres for regenerative medicine and the promotion of trial site networks, was announced by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) in March 2007.

Other factors that have traditionally held back the Japanese clinical trial sector include high costs, the reluctance of many patients to take part in trials and poor communication between doctors and patients.

Next-generation ClinQuick

MDS Pharma Services has also launched the next generation of ClinQuick, its proprietary electronic system for Phase I study set-up, data capture, project tracking and personnel credential management.

System enhancements include a more user-friendly interface, improved menu navigation and a more robust data platform, MDS Pharma said, adding that the new platform would enable faster and more flexible reporting and would ultimately allow clients to access their data via the internet.

Originally launched in 1993, ClinQuick has been used in more than 3,000 Phase I studies involving nearly 100,000 participants, MDS Pharma noted.