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Tigermed Grows International Business through Partnership with ICON
publication date: Apr 7, 2010
author/source: Richard Daverman, PhD
Including an exclusive interview with Tigermed Vice President, Wen Chen
Tigermed Consulting has formed a China alliance with ICON (NSDQ: ICLR), an international CRO that, like Tigermed, specializes in clinical services. According to the two companies, the alliance between Tigermed and ICON will offer their clients better access to Chinese patients, combining Tigermed’s knowledge of China drug development with ICON’s international experience. Our coverage includes an exclusive interview with Tigermed Vice President, Wen Chen.
“Because of our prominent position, we have been rumored as an M&A candidate,” said Wen Chen, MBA, VP of Business Development at Tigermed in an exclusive interview with ChinaBio® Today. “But we wanted to remain independent. We thought it would be in the best interests of our customers, offering a high-quality local clinical development service provider in China. On the other hand, we also wanted to improve our services, which would be a benefit of being part of a more established global organization,” he continued.
The partnership with ICON accomplishes both, according to Wen: “We want to make this alliance a successful collaboration model between a global CRO and a local one that offers quality and effective clinical development services in China for our customers.”
ICON was established in Ireland in 1990 as a global company with a wide range of clinical development services. It has a presence in China with an office in Beijing, though the company implies its China coverage was not as deep as its coverage in the rest of Asia. The partnership with Tigermed addresses that problem.
In 2002, Tigermed began operations when founder Xiaoping Ye, MD, PhD, then the Medical Director of Shanghai Roche, saw the undeniable potential in clinical development in China. To take advantage of the rapid growth of China’s pharmaceutical market, which would require registrational clinical studies for hundreds of drugs, Dr. Ye and co-founder Dr. Xiaochun Cao built Tigermed to meet the need for a high-quality local CRO. In the eight years since its founding, the company has grown to 300 employees in 21 offices.
Currently, about half of Tigermed’s business is from overseas clients for import registration trials as well as global studies, making real CEO Ye’s original vision for the company. “The other half is for China-based companies, of which a growing number of trials are for innovative class 1.1 drugs,” Wen declared. Tigermed has done work for a total of 250 clients.
China is expected to become the world’s second largest pharma market in the next 10 years, said Wen, which means that no drug company in the world can afford to ignore its pharmaceutical market. “The earlier [in the development process] a company begins involving China, the faster it can get approval to launch the drug in China,” he said. “The question we face is: How can we shorten the lapse between the global launch and its launch in China?”
According to Chen, Tigermed offers its clients a number of competitive advantages:
• Tigermed pays consistent attention to quality. As a result, over seven years of business, its earliest customers keep coming back.
• The company has built a very stable team, with below-average turnover rate. Clinical trials last several years, and clients appreciate that they aren’t always seeing new faces in their CRO collaborator.
• Tigermed is very proud of its broad geographical coverage. The wide range of established relationships allows it to provide a timely response to study PI and site, which according to Wen, few service organizations in China can match.
• By reducing the time spent in clinical trials, Tigermed can effectively cut the costs of drug development for its clients.
For Wen personally, China represents an exciting challenge. He did his academic studies in the US and worked for a number of years at Amgen (NSDQ: AMGN) as a bench scientist. When he left the company in 1998 to pursue an MBA degree, he knew there was a very good chance he wouldn’t return.
“In 1998, I could see where I would be in 10 years if I stayed in the States. For me, it was boring because I didn’t want my destiny set at that point. I wanted more excitement,” said Wen, who added that China offered a more open-ended sense of possibility. ‘We are living in a very exciting time. Look how fast we moved to form this ICON partnership,” he continued.
Headquartered in Dublin, ICON plc offers strategic development, management and analysis of programs that support clinical development - from compound selection to Phase I-IV clinical studies. The company operates from 68 locations in 38 countries and has approximately 7,100 employees.
“In the discussion with ICON, we found it shared our core values, which stress the importance of people, performance and client satisfaction. We believe by combining the strengths of Tigermed and ICON, the two companies can offer better service and products for our clients. Ultimately, the goal is to promote effective global drug development,” Wen concluded.
See our other articles on Tigermed.