Multinational pharmaceutical firms and CROs have been exploring Asian sites for clinical studies. The existence of a well-developed scientific and medical infrastructure has promoted the growth of a number of Taiwanese CROs, of which three have attracted significant attention.
Genovate Biotec (www.genovate-bio.com) is the most recent incarnation of Genelabs, a Californian biotech company. Genovate develops generic drugs for the global market and new drugs for the domestic one. Its three business sectors—drug development, manufacturing, and a CRO—are closely linked. China represents an important market for Genovate.
Protech Pharmaservice (PPC; www.i-bench.org) is more representative of the typical CRO. Its emergence in Taiwan paralleled the growth of the Taiwan drug market, as well as its pharmaceutical industry and tighter government regulation. Established in 1997, the initial business was based on laboratory work, mostly bioavailability and bioequivalence studies.
The growth of the business has allowed PPC to establish subsidiaries in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, and Australia, as well as form partnerships with firms in the Phillipines, India, and Thailand.
Much of the work is associated with local drug certification. There are two specific areas that represent opportunities for PPC—clinical trials in China (where there are 500 CROs, though most of them do not meet Western standards) and involvement in the modernization of TCM products.
Virginia CRO (VCRO; www.vcro.
com.tw) was founded in 1997, initially carrying out clinical trials in Taiwan as a way to create a more international business. The company developed a remote data-capturing system to save time and reduce errors. The clinical trial management business did not grow as rapidly as expected, so VCRO expanded into laboratory services and become a full-service CRO.