A recent report suggests that contracted biotech and pharma research is the largest chunk of subcontract work in Europe and is growing at a (spectacular by Europe standards) rate of 5%. Intriguingly this piece suggests that low costs in Asia are less attractive to companies in this sector than doing new product research in their home country. A few angles of the report makes sense. For example, pharma companies consider locating research at locations where there is access to market and large markets. Availability of good researchers and researcher networks make locating bio research in such countries worthwhile.
What the report leaves out is the intense secrecy that surrounds bio and pharma research and development. Quite literally any contractor (domestic or foreign) is frequently physically barricaded from the user. Thus say a scientist wants a compound to use in development work. Big Pharma gets the scientist to tell the requirement to an internal person who does the entire co-ordination and contact with the supplier scientists. As one of my pharma contacts revealed – "scientists love to talk and share" and this is too risky when IP is involved and pharma IP in form of patents is the only protection this industry has in its attempt to recover money particularly for so many failures it must sustain before coming up with a new drug success.