Eli Lilly and Novartis have made substantial investments in investigator training in China recently. Both companies are planning to make a big play there. Novartis has already said that it’s opening an R&D center in Shanghai this year. Lilly has not made its plans public.
With a population of 1.3 billion and a centralized healthcare system with access to millions of treatment-naïve patients per day, China has certainly attracted the interest of top 20 pharmaceutical companies. AstraZeneca has by far the largest presence in China. The country’s pharmaceutical market has been growing at a double-digit clip, dwarfing the growth seen in Western markets.
To further their goals, Lilly and Novartis have each donated tens of thousands of euros to the Vienna School of Clinical Research (VSCR) to fund the organization of investigator courses. VSCR seeks funding from industry and government to fulfill its mission of raising the level of professionalism in clinical research in Central and Eastern Europe and developing countries...
The goal of Lilly's courses was to teach the physician investigators how to submit articles for publication in international medical journals so that their research becomes more widely known in the international sphere. As the participation of Chinese physicians in international research expands, access to their data could have an enormous effect on international clinical research and medical practice. The courses were given in cooperation with Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou as a pilot activity to members of their faculty.
Novarits funded a VSCR-organized course held in Shanghai for oncologists from all over the Asia-Pacific region. The company hand-picked each participant, believing that each had the potential to be a successful physician investigator for oncology research. The course taught Good Clinical Practices (GCP), ethics, protocol development, etc., specifically targeted to oncology clinical trial conduct.
Participants in both the Lilly and Novartis courses did not work for the respective companies nor were they obliged to. Neither company had advertising or logos on any of the course materials. But, clearly it is in the interest of both companies, and any other biopharmaceutical company, to have a pool of physician investigators not only in China but the Asia-Pacific region as a whole, who are well-trained in clinical research conduct.
Lilly is also funding a VSCR course in India this month on GCP and ethical conduct of clinical research, etc.
VSCR is doing important work for Lilly and Novartis, and ultimately the goal is to teach those potential investigators in developing countries how to conduct clinical research properly and ethically according to international standards and apply those standards to research in their own countries.