Why You Shouldn’t Underestimate Clinical Research in China

Waving flag and skyscrapers show China's strong clinical research industry

As Medrio grows, and we expand our ability to partner with organizations conducting clinical trials anywhere in the world, we’ve been keeping close tabs on trends in the global clinical trials market. The thinking here is not complicated: without knowing where the greatest opportunities for the next medical breakthrough lie, it’ll simply be hard to have the impact on public health we hope to achieve. Readers of our blog and other thought leadership material have likely noticed that our observations have kept us looking at the Asia Pacific (APAC) region more so than many others. But APAC is huge, and if we drill down a bit, it becomes clear that that growth is centered largely in just a small handful of countries – chief among which is China.

With circumstances aligning to spark an explosion of clinical research in China, researchers across the world are seeing opportunities to overcome some of the most stubborn challenges in our industry – and to advance some of the most exciting medical developments on the scene today. It has also guided our strategy at Medrio, as we position ourselves to help researchers take advantage of these opportunities. What’s causing this remarkable growth in China? What does it mean for the industry? And what are we doing about it?

Setting the stage for a clinical trial revolution

The growth of the Chinese clinical research market is difficult to overstate: Between 2010 and 2017, the total number of clinical trials in China grew a whopping 451%. During that time, Phase I clinical trials came to occupy a larger share of the total number of trials in the country, indicating a rise in early-phase innovation that could keep overall growth steady or increasing for years to come.

Driving the growth of clinical research in China are a number of factors. Let’s look at a pair of them here:

With approximately 1.5 billion people, China hosts the world’s largest pool of potential clinical trial patients. A growing elderly population and high incidence of cancer mean that researchers in China have an opportunity to get ever closer to life-saving breakthroughs in oncology and other areas. And there are signs that researchers are already taking advantage of these opportunities, as China has seen a spike in immunotherapy clinical trials over the last few years.

The Chinese government is well aware of the opportunities presented, and has acted accordingly. A recent overhaul of the China Drug Administration has included a harmonization of Chinese clinical trial regulations with those of other countries. The government has also implemented a 5-year extension of patent protection for pharmaceutical companies.

These factors mean big things for the clinical research industry, from an easing of long-standing patient recruitment challenges, to opportunities for organizations to hang their hats on major buzzworthy topics like immunotherapy. Above all, they represent a chance to make big strides toward saving lives and making the world a healthier place.

What we’re doing about it

Organizations conducting clinical research aren’t the only ones who have an incentive to act on this growth. As an eClinical software provider, it’s also incumbent upon us here at Medrio to make it as easy as possible for researchers to strike while the iron is hot. And with particular growth in Phase I, where Medrio leads the market in delivering efficiency and facilitating success, our mandate is clear.

With that in mind, we’ve focused much of our international expansion efforts not just on China, but on APAC as a whole. We presented at DIA Japan last year, and have hired business development and customer success managers across the region. Since ramping up these efforts, APAC has become home to some of the first users of our eSource platform, as organizations discover the power of eSource to streamline monitoring and reduce clinical trial timelines. The clinical research industry is growing fast – not just in APAC, but across the globe – leading to new discoveries that are already saving lives everywhere. Our job is simply to better enable organizations to take part.

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1 WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP), October 2018
2 WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP), February 2018
3 ClinicalTrials.gov, October 2018
4 Worldometers, China Population, 1950-2018
5 China extends drug patent exclusivity to 25 years, IPWatchdog.com, May 29, 2018