United BioSource Corporation’s (UBC’s) new office in Tokyo, Japan, is the company’s first office in that country and in all of Asia-Pacific.
The contract research organization (CRO), which has 21 offices worldwide, has conducted work in all of Asia-Pacific but did not have a legal entity there until now. UBC CEO Ethan Leder said the Japan office will have a staff of 12 by the end of this year, with almost all of those new to UBC. These employees will support UBC’s investigator training and certification services as well as ongoing clinical research monitoring in the region. UBC has 1,450 employees worldwide.
The company has hired Kumpei Kobayashi as country manager. Kobayashi began his career as a research scientist and most recently managed operations for i3 Japan. In addition to managing the Japanese office, he will focus on expanding UBC’s operations in Japan.
The Asia-Pacific region, especially Japan, has grown increasingly important to UBC as both regional and worldwide clients have requested increased services there.
“We’ve been doing work for Japanese companies for a long time, and they’re some of our best customers—in both the rest of world and in Japan,” Leder said. “We felt it was important—not just with those Japanese companies but with some of the other ex-Japan companies that are developing drugs and marketing drugs in-country—to be on the ground.”
Whereas many CROs have opened offices in other Asia-Pacific countries where there is a large potential patient population, UBC does not rely heavily on patient recruitment because the company focuses on late-stage projects that already have enrolled patients.
“Right now, Japan is the most logical place for us to set up our first Asia-Pacific office because it has a robust pharmaceutical community that we currently support and have for years, both in the states, in Europe and in Japan. We think we can build off of that Asia-Pacific location, and, if need be, look at other segments of that region for offices,” Leder said.
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) highlighted Japan’s importance to the drug development industry in the company’s year-end earnings conference call last week. GSK CEO Andrew Witty told investors that he expects Japan to be “big business” for the company in the future.
UBC plans to aggressively grow its global footprint in 2010, Leder said, but where the company expands will depend on existing clients.
“Since inception, we’ve had $220 million in institutional blue-chip equity invested in our company. We’re a private company, so we’re exceedingly well capitalized. The purpose of that is to be able to do what makes sense, when it makes sense,” Leder said. “On the one hand, we’re not driven by quarterly expectations. On the other hand, we’re not under-capitalized. We’re well capitalized, so we can make the necessary investments in capital, resources and people. Our goal is to take our good clients and be able to service them.”
UBC acquired two companies in Europe last year, expanding both its services and service areas. Leder said the company will likely look at expanding more in central and western Europe in the coming months.
“It would not surprise me if we are as active [in 2010] as we were last year,” Leder said.