Korean pharma booster recruits Novotech to boost local R&D

Novotech, which bills itself as Australia's largest CRO, has signed a deal with a South Korean outfit to help bolster the country's status among global drug development locales.

Under the memorandum of understanding, Novotech will lend its expertise in R&D to the Korea Drug Development Fund, a local effort designed to nurture a biotech hub in the country. The fund is a consortium of South Korean governmental ministries, and it has about $1 billion in its coffers to spend on drug development, aiming to produce 10 new treatments by 2019.

Novotech is the third CRO to join KDDF's efforts, following agreements with Parexel International ($PRXL) and WCCT Global. For a bit over a year, the company has expanded its reach across Asia through outposts in Hong Kong and the Philippines, and the new deal dovetails with Novotech's ambitions in South Korea, CEO Alek Safarian said.

"Korea is rapidly becoming a hub for clinical trials in Asia," Safarian said in a statement. "The country is a priority market for the company, with its population of 49 million people, first-world infrastructure and highly skilled medical and scientific staff."

Since its foundation in 2011, KDDF has identified more than 25 candidate therapies through its development program, and the partnerships with Novotech, Parexel and WCCT are designed to speed along the process of getting them tested, approved and marketed around the globe, the group said.

The effort comes as South Korea has taken up some of the spotlight in the outsourcing world. The number of clinical trials conducted there more than doubled from 2006 to 2009, and CROs like Icon ($ICLR), INC Research and Catalent have recently looked to partner and expand in the country.

- read the announcement