Medidata's de Vries on disruption in Asia drug research with Japan a focus

Medidata ($MDSO) President Glen de Vries said he is a firm believer in putting talent in place on the ground in Asia. The company began with Japan in the region and that existing footprint, he said, has opened up opportunities as technology and biologics combine to disrupt drug discovery in the country.

Medidata president Glen de Vries

In a telephone interview with FiercePharmaAsia recently, de Vries discussed the company's prospects in Asia generally, highlighting the Medidata Clinical Cloud applications on offer, and how the emergence of more biotech work in the region shapes clinical development in life sciences with Japan a focus.

Medidata is not new to Asia, but like firms such as U.K.-based Almac Group, which last week launched a Singapore-based Asian headquarters, the scope to bring more technology and services has grown with an estimated 23% of global clinical trials for new pharmaceutical products being conducted in Asia, with biologics a growing part of the opportunity.

For de Vries, that business prospect was highlighted by a January deal with Japan's JCR Pharmaceuticals to work with the Medidata Clinical Cloud to support research on a therapy for the treatment of Fabry disease.

"We already had skin in the game in Japan with people on the ground who knew the local regulations and understood the interplay with data operations," de Vries said. "Those existing resources and time and effort help as technology changes along with drug development. The cloud has opened up ways to quickly and efficiently begin using the technology at sites across Japan and the globe."

In May, the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development, created this year in the model of the U.S. NIH, said it would welcome up to 200,000 substance samples from more than 10 drugmakers and then work with universities and other researchers to test a substance's use in treating various diseases and ailments, such as cancer and infection.

That effort is one of several by the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as Japan looks to shed decades of deflation by funding research and development in cutting-edge medical device and drug research, including in clinical trials with moves like the development of a patient registry from the National Cancer Center.

That wider access to patients would also jibe with a move by Medidata to connect its Clinical Cloud to Apple's ($AAPL) ResearchKit that would allow researchers to feed data gathered by ResearchKit apps into Medidata's cloud platform and integrated with other sources of clinical trial results.

Indeed the push deeper by Medidata into Japan was highlighted in October last year when Bryan Spielman, Medidata's executive vice president of strategy and corporate development, and Takeru Yamamoto, Medidata's managing director of the Asia-Pacific region, joined U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker on her first trade mission to Asia since taking office in June 2013 that focused on opportunities in the healthcare and energy sectors in Japan and South Korea.

"We're in a great time for biology in Asia even as R&D budgets draw the same hard scrutiny because costs can be managed better or shared in new ways," de Vries said.