University opens city's first clinical trial centre

Drugs to treat common diseases such as cancer and diabetes will be developed at new facility

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 December, 2013, 5:12am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 December, 2013, 5:12am

The city's first dedicated drug trial centre opened yesterday to help bring new medicine to market quicker and turn Hong Kong into a regional pharmaceutical hub.

Chinese University has set up the Phase 1 Clinical Trial Centre at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sha Tin to develop drugs for diseases which are prevalent in Asia, such as diabetes, viral hepatitis and certain cancers.

"Typically, the whole process takes seven to 10 years, and most trials have been done in the West, mostly in the United States or in Western Europe," centre director Professor Anthony Chan Tak-cheung said. "This means the drugs take even longer to reach Asia, including Hong Kong - typically another three to five years after registration.

"The bottom line is that our patients can't wait that long."

Drugs need at least seven years of rigorous testing on humans before they can enter the market. Phase-one trials are the first step, to find the safest effective dose for testing in the next two phases.

Chan said the centre cost tens of millions of dollars and was funded by the university and a five-year grant from the Food and Health Bureau.

He would not reveal the exact cost of the centre.

The facility has 17 experienced staff, 36 beds, 24-hour monitoring and surveillance, and a recreation room.

One patient has survived recurring lung cancer after taking drugs which have been on trial at the university since 2009, after all other treatments had failed. He is still taking the drugs.

Several multinational pharmaceutical companies and academic institutions have moved their research and development centres to Asia in the past decade.

Professor Francis Chan Ka-leung, dean of the university's medicine faculty, said it conducted more than 150 trials a year and the centre would "add impetus to Hong Kong becoming a biotech and medical science hub in Asia and worldwide".

Chan said the centre would develop drugs of immediate use to Hong Kong, such as those used to treat common cancers and age-related diseases such as diabetes and degenerative conditions. He said Hong Kong's straightforward and transparent regulatory system and Hospital Authority support made it ideal for a pharmaceutical hub.