Semler Research Center (SRC), a privately owned pharmaceutical services company with offices in Los Angeles, US and Bangalore, India, has launched an Asia CRO Alliance (ACA) with a physical presence in six countries and capability to deliver contract research services in a total of 14 countries across Asia.

SRC, which was set up five years ago as part of the diversified US-based group Arnold A Semler Inc, says ACA is the “first ever exclusive integrated network of contract research organisations originating from Asia”.   

It includes the Bangalore-based Semler Research Center Pvt. Ltd. as well as China’s Shanghai SLG CRO Co. Ltd., Japan’s SRD Co. Ltd./SRD International Corp., South Korea’s LSK Global Pharma Services Co. Ltd., Malaysia’s Veras Research Sdn Bhd and Taiwan’s StatPlus Inc.

Together these companies are offering a broad range of contract research, medical marketing and consulting services to the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device industries worldwide. They also plan to expand the alliance membership at the earliest opportunity so that it covers the entire Asia-Pacific region.

Diversified populations

The Alliance as it stands can provide access to diverse patient populations for drug development across all therapeutic areas, SRC notes. Harmonised processes mean the ACA is able to operate seamlessly as a one-stop solution in a region that accounts for 60% of the world’s population, the company adds.

Recent data indicate that only 6% of eligible patients in the US actually take part in clinical trials and that 87% of trials in that market fail to complete on time, SRC points out.

Emerging markets in Asia have the advantage of faster patient enrolment together with the necessary regulatory, human resource and information-technology infrastructure for clinical trials, it says.

Flawed model

According to Semler Research, the Asian portion of a global clinical research programme is usually handled either directly by the sponsor or by affiliates of multinational CROs that are generally based in western markets.

This model has been in place for some time, “despite challenges such as the central team’s unfamiliarity with local requirements, slow reaction time to issues identified at sites and a larger budget to support the maintenance of regional staff”, SRC comments.

The Asia CRO Alliance can overcome these constraints while “preserving the existing advantages of the current global model as each of the ACA partners can spearhead a clinical project”, it notes.

As ACA board member and SRC vice president (clinical development) Dr Jayanti Gupta, observes, the alliance spans countries such as Japan and Korea, which “have always been important pharma markets”; countries “of emerging importance” like India and China; and those with “significant drug development advantages”, such as Taiwan and Malaysia.  

Board chairman of the Asia CRO Alliance is Dr Young Jack Lee, president of the Seoul-based LSK Global Pharmaceutical Services.