US-based contract research organisation (CRO) PRA International has established a legal entity and hired staff in New Zealand, both complementing its existing operations in Australia and providing another gateway to the in-demand Asia Pacific region.

According to PRA, New Zealand is a key research location for clinical studies in skin cancer, multiple sclerosis, asthma and a number of other conditions. The new resources mean the CRO can now monitor New Zealand study sites with in-country staff.

“This local presence, combined with PRA’s continued expansion in the region, further enhances its position as a CRO gateway to the world’s most rapidly expanding clinical research environment,” the company commented.

Staff in New Zealand will work closely with PRA’s office in Sydney, Australia. “This presents an ideal situation for collaboration, since the countries share similar healthcare and clinical research environments,” the CRO explained.

Moreover, companies often conduct clinical trials simultaneously across Australia and New Zealand, while the two countries’ health specialists “are linked through joint professional associations and research organisations”, it added.

PRA cited the following attractions of New Zealand as a location for clinical trials:

- Traditionally high recruitment rates across major therapeutic areas such as cardiology, respiratory diseases and gastrointestinal conditions

- An efficient regulatory environment
- Counter-seasonality – meaning, for example, that influenza studies can be started/continued through spring and summer in the northern hemisphere and allergy studies through the northern autumn/winter

PRA already claims an “extensive network” of operations and partnerships in the Asia Pacific region. Last November the CRO moved to a larger, more centrally located facility in Seoul, South Korea, where it had opened an office only the previous July.

The swift upgrade reflected substantial growth in demand and South Korea’s status as one of the most important countries for clinical trials in Asia, PRA said at the time.