The low cost of doing business in China

A couple of days ago I made a small blunder on my way toward making a larger point. In summarizing a Wall Street Journal piece comparing the low cost of drug research in China to the United States, I said that China's research scientists earned about $30,000 a year, about 10 percent of what research scientists earned in the U.S. As a number of readers pointed out, the Journal piece was talking about the total cost of a research scientist, which registers at about $30,000 a year in China and $250,000 to $300,000 a year in the U.S.--according to analysis done by Credit Suisse in Hong Kong. It was not only about pay. OK. Point taken.

But the larger point stands. Drug companies don't need a Nobel Prize-winning math expert to tell them that an R&D hub in Shanghai will cost them a fraction of what it would in Boston, or Paris. Scientists would have to cut their salaries to something more in line with a grocery clerk to compete with that. And there's a major shift underway in research activities that makes that point loud and clear. I'd like to know more about what researchers think about that trend--and what it portends for drug development work. Biotechnology thrives in places where scientific talent is plentiful. Many top scientists go on to become entrepreneurs. Any lessening of talent in one region can have some serious long-term repercussions. And if Chinese companies buy into research outfits in the Europe and the U.S., isn't it likely that they will shift much of the work to China? - John Carroll