To date, the rapidly-growing trend of outsourcing drug discovery work to CROs in China has been largely driven by the large global pharma firms. In Europe, NovaSecta is a specialist R&D service provider for smaller to mid-sized Businesses and the firm said it is now time for European pharmaceutical and biotech companies "to make use of the scientific skills, creative talent pool, flexible resourcing and cost-effectiveness that many global big pharmas already take for granted in China". "This alliance is therefore a natural step in Novasecta's evolution as an R&D services company". Its two new partners, Sundia Meditech and HD BioSciences have already been working together in China since May 2007, when they formed the country's first CRO alliance so that they could expand their range of services to better serve clients worldwide, while still minimising cost. Robert Thong and John Rountree, NovaSecta's co- founders and managing directors, said that they selected these two Chinese firms to work with in particular, "based on their professionalism and track record in repeatedly delivering drug discovery solutions to their US and multinational clients". With the Chinese CRO market continuing to develop as it has been, we can expect to see more and more of these types of domestic and western alliances formed in the country, with the aim offering international clients better access to quicker and cheaper preclinical services from within China. Only last month, US-based MPI Research and China's Shanghai Medicilon formed a joint venture to provide preclinical services in China. Together, the two firms said they will establish a facility, expected to be fully operational by 2009, that provides both good laboratory practice (GLP) and non-GLP preclinical services including investigatory new drug (IND) enabling studies and assistance with IND submissions and new drug applications (NDAs) for the US and other regulated markets. The country's emergence as a favourite destination for outsourcing drug development has been reflected in a flurry of activity in this field of late involving several large pharma firms including AstraZeneca, Merck & Co, Pfizer, Novartis and Eli Lilly, who have also established bases there. "The Chinese scientific community has identified this as a niche area and the government has been working to provide an environment where these studies can be conducted to the satisfaction of global sponsors and regulatory bodies so that the country can become a leader in the field', DA Prasanna, vice chairman & managing director of Manipal Acunova recently told Outsourcing-Pharma.com. The speed of studies conducted in China has also contributed to the country's appeal, as is the low cost base the country is able to offer to those partaking in the high risk world of drug discovery. The new alliances now being forged between western and Chinese firms are opening the door for the western firms who do not have the scale and resources that the big pharma firms do, to now also start taking advantage of what China has to offer.