The move is in recognition of the importance of the Italian pharmaceutical market, which is currently the fifth largest in the world and the third largest in Europe.
The new office will support Icon's expanding clinical research activity in Italy, where the global company already carries out a large part of its operations and has over 25 studies in progress, after legislation passed in the late 1990s helped to speed up the approval process for clinical trials, which can now take only two to three months.
"The increasing demand for drugs and the simplified approval process for clinical trials on new medicines have helped the pharmaceutical industry in Italy to develop significantly," said Domenico Criscuolo, VP Regional Operations Europe for Icon.
"The opening of Icon's new office in Milan illustrates the company's strong commitment to a lasting presence in Italy and supports Icon's growth strategy in Western Europe," said Dr Peter Sowood, president of Icon Clinical Research in Europe.
Only two months ago Icon also announced the acquisition of Medeval Group, a UK clinical pharmacology group that will provide Icon with a new growth area in Europe in the form of Phase I and bioanalytical services, and compliment its existing area of specialty, Phase I clinical trials.
In February, Icon was also successful in securing a new contract with biotech company Giaconda, to run a Phase IIIb trial in the US for its Crohn's Disease drug, Myoconda.
This large clinical study is the next step in the regulatory approval process for Myoconda, in the US and the European Union, targeted for 2008.
In January, Icon was also chosen by BioMS Medical as the global clinical research organisation (CRO) to run its ongoing phase II/III clinical trials for its novel compound MBP8298 in patients with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS).
"Icon has identified additional clinical trial sites in Europe that will ensure the timely completion of enrollment of our trial in mid-2006. We now anticipate up to 553 patients at an estimated 50 sites will be participating across Canada and Europe in the two year trial," said a statement from BioMS Medical at the time.
The scope of the deal has already been expanded, after BioMS Medical have initiated an expansion of the MBP8298 trials planned for the second half of 2006, to include a second major MS patient population, relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) patients.