The move was described by MDS' president David Spaight as a "key component of our global expansion strategy." "It allows MDS Pharma Services to provide clients access to a large, diverse pool of clinical trial participants and abundant healthcare resources, including more than 237,000 qualified physicians and more than 46,000 health institutions", he said. The new location will provide late stage clinical trial management services, adding to the nearly two dozen similar offices the firm has already set up in 21 countries throughout Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America and North America. Latin America is of growing importance to the drug development industry, with Brazil - where it is estimated that 645 Phase I-IV clinical trials are currently taking place - followed by Argentina, leading the way for the region. Drug development activity exploded in Brazil between 1995 and 2000, when the country experienced a 1000 percent increase in clinical trial activity. The incidence of heart disease, arthritis, cancer and infectious diseases in Brazil is on par with the US, although a greater percentage of the Brazilian population is treatment-naive, providing a major source of potential clinical trial participants who are not taking prescription drugs that could interact or interfere with the drug being tested - a major drawcard. The Southern Hemisphere location is another lure of Brazil and its Latin American neighbours. Because they experience summer when it is winter in the Northern Hemisphere, their inclusion in multi-centre trials allows CROs to offer their pharma clients year-round testing of drugs for seasonally-induced conditions such as allergies and other respiratory ailments. MDS has operated in Latin America since 2002 and already conducts clinical trial management from locations in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Santiago, Chile; Lima, Peru; and Mexico City, Mexico, but Despite Brazil's regional dominance, the company has not had a presence in the country until now. Meanwhile, global expansion plans are not the only thing on MDS' mind. In late January the company also opened a new Phase I clinic in Arizona - the largest of its kind on the US west coast. Built to the tune of $25m, the new 300-bed facility more than triples the capacity of the firm's Phase I presence in Phoenix, which combined with a nearby existing unit, totals 420 beds.