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Volume 87 Issue 48 | p. 10 | News of The Week
Issue Date: November 30, 2009

Drug R&D Heats Up In Beijing

Globalization: PPD buys Bioduro, Merck Serono builds new lab in Chinese capital
Department: Business
Keywords: China, Beijing, drug discovery
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BioDuro operates modern research labs in Beijing.
Credit: Jean-François Tremblay/C&EN
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BioDuro operates modern research labs in Beijing.
Credit: Jean-François Tremblay/C&EN

Pharmaceutical Product Development, a U.S.-based contract drug R&D firm, has agreed to acquire BioDuro, a drug discovery services supplier that mostly operates out of labs in Beijing. Separately, Merck Serono says it will spend $225 million to build a corporate research lab, also in Beijing. Together, the deals demonstrate the drug industry’s acceptance of Beijing as a worthy R&D hub.

Employing about 660 people in chemistry-oriented research facilities in the Chinese capital, BioDuro was one of the first companies in either China or India to offer integrated drug discovery services from target validation all the way to the supply of clinical candidates. The four-year-old company was formed in San Diego by two California entrepreneurs, Masood Tayebi and John Oyler.

In an interview last year, Oyler said he had no intention to quickly sell BioDuro at a profit, as he had done with other companies (C&EN, Feb. 4, 2008, page 11). “I’d like to be involved in the development of a new technology that could cure a major disease,” he said. “That would be spectacular.” Oyler did not respond to C&EN’s request for comments about the change of heart.

BioDuro’s “management team will remain,” a PPD spokeswoman tells C&EN. PPD is buying BioDuro, she says, to “expand our drug discovery segment and better position PPD in China.” Employing 10,500 people in 38 countries, PPD is best known for its clinical and postapproval research services.

Meanwhile, Merck Serono says its new Beijing lab will employ as many as 200 scientists within four years. The facility, which Merck says will be one of its key R&D hubs worldwide, will mostly manage clinical trials.

Up to now, Shanghai has been more popular than Beijing for foreign companies establishing R&D operations in China. The two cities are quite different, says Han Yongxin, the Beijing-based head of China operations at the drug discovery services firm Chemizon.

“Shanghai is a very well developed services- and business-oriented city. You can also do business in Beijing,” Han says, but the city’s environment is best for research. He adds that scientists in Beijing tend to stay in their jobs longer “because they’re really interested in conducting research.”—Jean-François Tremblay

 
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