Novartis to boost China headcount

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 May, 2007, 12:00am

Novartis, the world's third-largest pharmaceutical firm by sales, aims to boost its mainland research and development team tenfold in four years to facilitate a new centre in Shanghai.

The company's US$100 million research centre was due to open in 2009 and it hopes to have a team of 400 by the following year, according to Yao Changxu, an executive director of Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research.

'Eventually Novartis hopes to have 50 per cent of its manpower in China from 12.6 per cent now,' Mr Yao said.

Switzerland-based Novartis planned to boost the number of R&D staff in the mainland to 80 by the first quarter next year from 30 now, he said. Mr Yao was speaking on the sidelines of the Impact China III: Pharmaceutical R&D Global Summit held in Shanghai.

Foreign drugmakers are expanding in the mainland where production costs could be as low as half those in the United States and Europe. China also welcomes global players to set up research facilities to help develop the local market.

Novartis invested US$250 million in the mainland last year, 3.65 times more than in 2005, the company's China chairman Li Zhenfu said.

Pfizer spent US$25 million to build an R&D centre in Shanghai, while Roche is planning a US$11 million facility in the same city. Astrazeneca will also invest US$100 million in the mainland.

Global accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers' associate advisory director Beatrijs van Liedekerke said that foreign companies were also encouraged by the increasing intellectual property rights protection in the mainland, especially after a mainland court fined three local drug firms for making fake Viagra in February.

'[Multinational corporates] are more comfortable to move their research and development work in China than before as a legal precedent on IPR protection is indicated,' Ms van Liedekerke said.