The Swiss pharmaceutical firm Novartis is to build a 100 million-U.S.-dollar research and development center in Shanghai, China, employing 400 scientists, Swiss Radio International (SRI) reported on Monday.
The investment aims to tap into the fast-growing Chinese drugs market, and to take advantage of China's cheap scientific talent, the report said.
A start-up operation is expected to open next May, and construction work should begin in July. The new center's primary focus will be the infectious causes of cancer endemic in Asia.
"The level of scientific expertise in China is rising rapidly," Novartis CEO Daniel Vasella was quoted by SRI as saying.
"At the same time, the healthcare needs of the Chinese are growing, primarily the result of urbanization, lifestyle changes and associated chronic diseases," he added.
Specialists say that as Chinese salaries and purchasing power rise, diseases such as hypertension and diabetes are appearing along with more sedentary lifestyles and richer diets.
Sales of pharmaceuticals in China are expected to nearly double by 2010, rising from 13 billion U.S. dollars in 2005 to 25 billion U.S. dollars, according to Boston Consultancy, an independent consulting group. The global market is worth 570 billion U.S. dollars.
Novartis also plans to use the Shanghai center to combine modern drug discovery with traditional Chinese medicine, a move that will require local expertise, the report said.
In the past, Western drugmakers have been wary of making investments in China because of perceived weaknesses in patent protection. But the situation has been improving.
Source: China view