April 21, 2011 -- A Malaysian scientist is poised to lead successful Scottish clinical research organisation Bio-Images Research Ltd in a transformational push into the emerging Asia Pacific markets. The ambitious expansion, starting this summer, could see sales soar from £1m to £5m.
Dr Lee Ann Hodges, Chief Operating Officer at the Glasgow-based company, will set up and run a facility in Singapore which will partially mirror Bio-Images’ operation in the Royal Infirmary – which has already made it No 2 in the world for using imaging techniques to trace the fate of dosage forms in the body.
Dr Hodges, from Kuala Lumpur, is targeting burgeoning markets in India, China, Japan and South Korea and plans investment totalling £10m over the next three to five years with the intention of increasing turnover fivefold.
The new chief executive of Bio-Images Asia Pacific said at her office in the Infirmary’s medical block, where she was overseeing a clinical trial: “This is absolutely the right time to be getting into these markets. People in the Asia Pacific region are getting really excited about the potential of scientific R&D and its commercialisation.
“We are already talking to the top Indian pharmaceutical company, the second biggest company in Japan and several serious players in South Korea. The world really is our oyster at the moment.”
Dr Hodges has worked with Bio-Images from shortly after it was spun out of the University of Strathclyde’s Pharmacy Department in 2000 by Professors Howard Stevens and Clive Wilson. She followed her degree in pharmacy with a PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences, specialising in drug delivery and formulation.
She has seen the company carve out a valuable niche in gamma scintigraphic imaging, which it describes as “allowing non-invasive visualisation of drug formulations and body systems”. It is close to leading a small field of very specialised providers of imaging services who essentially allow major multi-national pharma companies to outsource some of their clinical research.
She said: “We do four or five clinical trials a year and have run about 50 since the company was founded. We put small amounts of radiolabel into a client’s formulation, such as a tablet or capsule, then give it to healthy volunteers or patients and track what happens to the dosage form.
“For instance, if we have a client whose tablet is designed only to break up in the colon, the gamma camera can follow it as it progresses through the stomach and the small intestine to the colon where we can see it break up and release the drug.”
Bio-Images’ expertise in early stage and proof of concept trials has found it clients of the stature of GlaxoSmithKline as well as smaller companies in the US and Europe. It also undertakes regulatory and ethical submissions, effectively allowing big pharma to outsource this time-consuming process as well.
The move to Singapore is seen as a valuable foothold in the markets of the future and the island state was specifically chosen because it is positioning itself as Asia’s bio-technology hub. Dr Hodges is relocating there because of the importance of personal contact in the region. She said: “Business has to be done face to face in these countries. There is no point in trying to run things remotely. You have to have the personal touch and the final handshake on a deal.”
Bio-Images has also been encouraged and impressed by the amount and quality of the inward investment packages offered by the Singapore government. Dr Hodges said: “The response from Singapore when we initially went to see them last year was tremendous. They are very supportive and quite determined to invest in order to build up their research and development capability.
“There is also wonderful social and technical infrastructure, excellent local scientific talent and receptive sources of funding. We will be keen to recruit locally and bring staff to the UK to see how we run things – that was another aspect the Singapore government was very keen on.”
In the Royal Infirmary, Bio-Images has a symbiotic relationship with the NHS, using hospital facilities and employing consultants as principal investigators in trials. It hopes to replicate the model in a Singapore hospital.
But Dr Hodges said that growth will come less from gamma scintigraphy trials and more from the added value of intellectual property arising from the commercialisation of drug formulation and delivery, including the dissemination of aspects of traditional Chinese medicine into the West.
She said: “It is much cheaper and much easier to protect intellectual property in Singapore and we want to be able to take advantage of being in the early stages of what I believe will be exponential drug development R&D growth in the area.”
For more information please email firstname.lastname@example.org, visit www.bio-images.co.uk or Michael Crawford at Blueprint Media.
Issued by Michael Crawford at Blueprint Media 0141 353 1515
Date: 21 April 2011
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