Being a world leader in the diabetes field, Novo Nordisk already has a 60 per cent stake in India's $55m domestic insulin market and said it has a number of "India specific growth plans". As part of this, Jesper Høiland, head of Novo's International Operations specified that the firm expects to grow from 600 employees now to between 1,500 and 2,000 in 2012. The scope of this "varies from research to sales," a Novo spokesperson confirmed with Outsourcing-Pharma.com. "The expansion we expect to see in the sales force in India is due to the fact that India is one of the world's largest markets for insulin products," they said. It is estimated that there is around 40m people in India living with diabetes. Meanwhile, new drug discovery and manufacturing partnerships with Indian firms are also on the cards, the firm indicated. One such relationship has already been forged, linking arms with Ahmedabad-based manufacturer Torrent Pharma, which runs a dedicated insulin manufacturing facility exclusively for Novo, which it is currently expanding to allow a "major" capacity increase. In addition, its clinical trial operations are slated for a "major expansion" over the next few years: "India is interesting to Novo Nordisk due to extremely well educated people in the country," the Novo spokesperson said. The firm is currently already running nine trials involving around 600 patients across India. Moreover, in the near future, the company is also looking at further outsourcing and offshoring of its data management and financial services requirements to India. In September, Novo began relocating its clinical data management centre to India after closing down the operation in Singapore, where it had been previously run for many years. The Danish biopharma giant already has an office in Bangalore, where the centre is being relocated to, although until now the firm only had sales and marketing staff located at this site, along with a small team conducting data management for local clinical trials. The plan is to soon have all the data management for Novo's global trials from 60 countries across the Asia-Pacific (excluding Japan), Africa and Latin America done from this new location. Meanwhile, another drug giant, Merck & Co. is also reportedly keen to sink its teeth further into India and the Asia region. The company is looking to engage in more research collaborations with Indian and other life sciences companies and academic institutes across Asia over the coming 12-18 months in order to reduce both costs and time involved with drug discovery, especially at the Phase I and clinical trial stages, according to Indian media reports. The firm is said to be particularly interested in soliciting research collaborations in India in the therapeutic diseases area including oncology, metabolic disorders, diabetes, and neurological disorders. It is apparent that Merck has already begun to make inroads on its India plans. So far it is involved in research alliances with Nicholas Piramal, Advinus, as well as the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education & Research (Niper) and the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) in a bid to boost the number of chemistry graduates. ''We are serious about the R&D relationships in Asia in areas such as contract research and clinical trials and will be embracing partnerships,'' Bharat M Chowrira, executive director of licensing/external research at Merck told The Financial Express, adding that by externalising more of its research to partners, Merck is building a "virtual laboratory". Merck was asked by Outsourcing-Pharma to comment but failed to do so by the time of publishing.