US giant Merck & Co is establishing an Asian R&D headquarters in Beijing, as part of a $1.5 billion investment into research in China over the next five years.

Located in Wangjing Park, described by the firm as "one of Beijing's rapidly expanding science and technology parks", the facility will consist of 47,000 square metres of office and laboratory space and be home to 600 employees. They will be working in drug discovery, translational research, clinical development, regulatory affairs and external scientific research programmes, Merck says, noting that the first phase of construction is scheduled to be completed by 2014,

Peter Kim, president of Merck Research Laboratories, said the move "represents an important milestone as we implement our strategy of building capabilities and relationships to succeed in fast-growing geographic regions". He added that "by strategically locating in China, we are able to complement our existing R&D capabilities, and facilitate new collaborations with scientists in the region and across emerging markets".

Merck is by no means a new entrant to China, and its commercial  headquarters are in Shanghai. It also has manufacturing operations at other locations across the country.