Merck blueprints Asian R&D HQ in Beijing in $1.5B research blitz

Pharma giant Merck ($MRK) has mapped out 47,000 square meters of new lab and office space for itself in a Beijing business park destined to become its new Asian R&D headquarters. The first phase should open in 2014 as the new home for 600 workers, who will handle everything from discovery through clinical development and regulatory projects for the company's global operations.

Peter S. Kim, Ph.D., president of Merck Research Laboratories, announced the news to a gathering of reporters. "By strategically locating in China, we are able to complement our existing R&D capabilities," he said in a statement, "and facilitate new collaborations with scientists in the region and across emerging markets." The R&D complex is part of Merck's ambitious $1.5 billion plan to grow a major research operation in the country, which it sees as an important emerging market.

Two primary disease focuses for the Merck investigators will be cardiovascular disease and diabetes, both big growth markets in China and indeed around the world. Like other Big Pharma groups, Merck expects its relatively low-cost China R&D operations to tackle new drugs that can be marketed around the world. Shifting research work to China helps eliminate some costly overhead--and employees--in the U.S. and Europe while giving the company a more prominent place in the Chinese pharma industry.

"We have plans to invest in research and development at all stages of vaccine discovery and development, starting with basic early discovery all the way through clinical programmes," Kim told Reuters. "We see opportunities to include China in our worldwide clinical trials for our drugs and vaccines."

- read the press release
- here's the Reuters story