Australia's clinical trial industry is taking steps to promote itself further on the world stage, along with the forging of closer ties with the budding Asia-Pacific region.
The country's biotechnology industry body AusBiotech is petitioning the government to make clinical trials a National Innovation Priority.
In a recent submission to the Federal Government's National Innovation Review, Dr Anna Lavelle, CEO of AusBiotech wrote: "Australia has sound expertise, a rigorous ethical approach and a well-resourced public health system (by world standards).
"We have an opportunity to take advantage of our expertise in clinical trials and become a world leader in clinical trial services."
She reasoned that in addition to the obvious benefits to industry, the move would also have the benefit of giving Australians first access to new health treatments.
According to data recently-released from a study initiated by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Australia currently sits in 11th spot in the world in terms of clinical trial activity, with 1,131 sites and a 1.5 per cent share of the market, growing at an annual rate of 8.1 per cent.
The US still dominates the clinical trials scene by a large margin - holding a 48.7 per cent share with 36, 281 sites, although its activity is decreasing by 6.5 per cent a year, giving other countries the opportunity to scramble for new business.
In order to achieve the dream of raising the profile of clinical trials in Australia, AusBiotech made several recommendations to the government as part of its submission.
These included the development of an "aggressive" marketing strategy in order to "position Australia as a convenient and expedient service centre of excellence for global clinical trials."
Matching funds could be offered to companies, hospitals and institutions to achieve this, the organisation suggested.
In addition, AusBiotech said that for this strategy is to be successful, and improve Australia's status as a "number one destination" for clinical trials for global companies, "complex regulatory and clinical trial requirements must be streamlined".
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has also weighed into the matter, lodging its own submission appealing for the clinical trials approval process to be sped up in the country. In doing so, Australia would increase its appeal as a clinical trial destination, and the temptation would be less for pharmaceutical firms to take their business elsewhere, GSK reasoned.
There is "increasing global competition for trials, particularly in developing countries", the drug titan wrote.
Meanwhile, in its proposal to the government, AusBiotech also identified what it sees as a "clear need" for a special focus to be placed on Australia's position in the budding Asia-Pacific region, when considering the direction of the country's national innovation system.
Australia needs to "promote programmes that will build Australian biotechnology and medical device capabilities in the Asian region," wrote Lavelle.
The Asia Pacific region is poised to witness heightened activity in terms of outsourced drug development to contract research organisations (CROs), with India and China remaining the preferred destinations.
Along with Australia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and to a lesser degree, South Korea and Japan, are among the other countries in the Asia Pacific tipped by Research and Markets to experience an increase in the number of CRO-conducted clinical trials.
Recent estimates by Frost & Sullivan have determined that Asian CROs conducting Phase I-IV research earned revenues of $1.2bn in 2006, with the figure expected to reach $2bn in the next two years.