The rush to China continues, both among pharmaceutical companies and the contract research organisations (CROs) that service their outsourcing needs. This time, US-based CRO Parexel has opened two more Chinese offices, consolidating a presence that already includes offices in Beijing and Shanghai as well as in Kowloon, Hong Kong.

Last month another US-based CRO, Charles River Laboratories, underlined the importance of China to an increasingly global, outsourced and networked drug development model by acquiring Shanghai’s WuXi PharmaTech for US$1.6 billion – a deal believed to be the largest foreign takeover of a Chinese company in the pharmaceutical sector.

Parexel’s new offices are in Chengdu and Guangzhou. The CRO said the extra resources would “support a growing requirement for a broad range of clinical development and regulatory consulting capabilities in the country and throughout the Asia/Pacific region”.

The company now has a total of 17 offices across the region, extending from China to Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Phlippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand.

As Parexel’s chairman and chief executive officer Josef von Rickenbach noted, China is among the fastest growing pharmaceutical markets in the world, forecast to become the fifth largest market worldwide this year and to reach around US$47 billion by 2013. Parexel says it was a “pioneer” in establishing “a firm foundation for clinical development in the country”.

Among China’s attractions, von Rickenbach cited the country’s large patient population, cost effective environment for clinical research and expanding medical infrastructure, as well as a high prevalence of certain cancers, diabetes and other diseases.

“We are working with clients to reduce their development costs, accelerate patient recruitment, and decrease time to market by incorporating China in global development planning, thereby bringing important new safe and effective treatments to patients in China and around the world sooner,” he commented.