Current Service Capabilities
At present the most popular services offered by majority Chinese CROs are early-phase drug discovery research, such as lead generation and optimization, assays and assay method development, etc. Only a handful of them are able to provide advanced discovery research services, such as high-throughput/content screening, computer-aided drug discovery (CADD), and structure-activity relationship (SAR) study. However, more CROs in India than in China are able to provide integrated discovery services besides the routine medicinal chemistry research services that are also offered by the Chinese CROs. A number of Indian CROs also have internal R&D programs. They thus generally have stronger capabilities and richer experiences than their Chinese counterparts in the SAR-based lead optimizations and pharmacological property optimizations.
However, the service features in preclinical development in these two countries seem just opposite. China is currently leading over India in drug testing in large animals such as nonhuman primates, as a large number of Chinese CROs possess good capability in this area. But in the in vitro studies and in small animal in vivo testing, the two countries have almost equal service capabilities.
In clinical development, India currently is a more ideal choice than China in terms of the service capability, experience, and CRO choice. However, if considering the factor of the attraction of the local pharmaceutical market, China seems to be more attractive than India as its current pharmaceutical market is much larger than the Indian market and, more importantly, poised to still grow faster than India.
Besides the professional CROs, a number of Indian major pharma companies are also involved in R&D outsourcing services. In contrast, at present, none of the Chinese major pharma companies have dedicated divisions that provide R&D outsourcing services to multinational companies. As they started R&D earlier than Chinese companies and currently have products in middle-to-late development stages, many Indian drug companies have gained experience in most stages of the drug R&D value chain, whereas the majority of the Chinese drug companies are currently still significantly inexperienced, in particular in terms of their ability of moving a drug from one development stage to the next. However, China currently is becoming one of the most focused countries for global pharmaceutical and biotech companies to look for outlicensing or co-development opportunities for their new products, largely because of the attraction of its pharmaceutical market.