US-based life sciences services company i3 has joined the fast-expanding ranks of contract research organisations (CROs) making their presence felt in China by acquiring Shanghai CRO ChinaGate for an undisclosed sum.

ChinaGate provides product development and regulatory services to pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device companies looking to enter China, as well as helping to steer domestically manufactured products into global markets.

It has extensive experience with China’s State Food and Drug Administration, while the ChinaGate management team, comprising former senior managers and executives of pharmaceutical multinationals, has global regulatory expertise including the US, Canada and the European Union, the two companies noted.

i3’s customers will benefit from ChinaGate’s on-the-ground presence and expertise in overseeing clinical trials, regulatory filings, obtaining licences and navigating the regulatory process, they added. For their part, ChinaGate clients will have access to i3’s development, data and commercialisation services on a global scale.

The ChinaGate executive team, led by chief executive officer Joyce Chiu and managing director Janice Ma, will retain these roles as the company integrates with i3’s Clinical Development Services group.

China aims to invest 2.5% of its gross domestic product in pharmaceutical R&D by 2020, which would put it in a range comparable with the US, the two companies pointed out.

And as disease patterns and prevalence in the Chinese population shift towards those of the West, 75% of the country’s total drug development pipeline is in i3’s areas of specialisation, including oncology, central nervous system diseases, infectious and cardiovascular diseases, and endocrine/metabolic conditions.

Another benefit of the acquisition is that ChinaGate’s headquarters are close to the Shanghai R&D Park, where the “substantial majority” of i3’s customers with operations in China are located, the companies said.