UK drug giant GlaxoSmithKline has launched its new R&D centre in Shanghai, China, with Jingwu Zang taking the reigns under his new role as Senior Vice President.

GSK R&D China will concentrate its research efforts on neurodegeneration to discover novel therapies for conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, the company said.

Neurologist Dr Zang, who most recently served as founding director and a professor at the Shanghai’s Institute of Health Sciences, will lead the scientific activities of the centre and the hiring of staff, which will begin immediately. The group anticipates that, over the next decade, GSK R&D China will develop into one of the larger R&D facilities within GSK, directing the global R&D efforts within its flagship therapeutic area.

“We are entering an exciting period of expansion for our R&D organization as it builds on the strength of the superb science now being conducted in China,” said Dr Moncef Slaoui, Chairman of GSK R&D. “We intend to be part of a future in which the phrase ‘discovered in China’ is heard as often as ‘made in China’ is heard today.”

Looking east

Shanghai is fast becoming an attractive base for multinational pharmaceutical R&D, not in the least because of the research services it has to offer. Just yesterday, it was announced that three local contract research organisations with international management experience merged to form the Contract Research Organisation Service Alliance at Shanghai's Zhangjiang HiTech Park.

The presence at the Zhangjiang site of so many contract research organisations, as well as pharmaceutical multinationals such as Roche and Novartis, has helped the science park develop into the most important base for biopharmaceutical CROs in China, the member groups of CROSA noted.

Looking towards the east in general, a recent report from PricewaterhouseCoopers says that the pharmaceutical industry in Asia is looking to position itself at the centre of the global market, and most drugmakers in the region expect this shift to happen pretty quickly.

According to Gearing up for a Global Gravity Shift, 58% of companies it surveyed, both domestic and multinational, "believe the centre of gravity of the global pharmaceutical market will be in Asia rather than North America and Europe in the near future." Matthew Wyborn, Asia Pacific Advisory Leader at PwC, said that, "not surprisingly, China and India head the list of target countries for expansion, with Singapore and South Korea next in the sights of multinational companies."

And Li Wang of consultancy firm Kline & Co claimed last year: "By 2010, China is predicted to be the fifth-largest pharmaceutical market in the world."