Chinese CRO buys software to bridge gap to global clients

Concerns about losing control and oversight when outsourcing and offshoring research have caused some companies to keep work in-house or use local CROs. To overcome these worries, Chinese CRO WuXi AppTec ($WX) has bought software that gives clients remote access to study data.

The software, Instem's Provantis Portal, is a browser-based platform that enables WuXi's clients to view data from their ongoing toxicology studies. Around 70% of sales at WuXi's toxicology unit are from international clients, management said in May, so the CRO is well placed to benefit from the remote monitoring platform. WuXi can also use the portal to share documents and files with clients.

Having the system in place could go some way to bridging the gap between the WuXi laboratory in Suzhou, China, and the overseas clients that are driving growth at the toxicology unit. Working with sites in different time zones makes project management and communication tricky. Fixing small problems can take longer than when partners are based locally, potentially delaying the study and offsetting the cost benefits of outsourcing to China. When Eli Lilly ($LLY) pulled some chemistry work back from China to Indianapolis, the CRO that supported the transition--AMRI--said the move was a response to these problems.

If WuXi is to continue growing its nascent toxicology business, it must reassure international clients it has these issues under control. Its toxicology unit faced some skepticism initially, in part because leading Western CROs had already tried and failed to establish profitable operations in the country. In 2010, U.S. preclinical CROs Charles River Laboratories ($CRL) and MPI Research pulled out of Chinese toxicology labs. WuXi took time to gain traction too, but toxicology demand has picked up in recent quarters. With capacity use at the toxicology laboratory expected to reach 80% later this year, the unit is increasingly well placed to benefit from software that increases efficiency by streamlining data reporting.

- here's the Instem release

Special Report: Outsourcing in China: Big Pharma wants partners, not just contractors