News & Information | START In The News

January 28th, 2011
Express News
By: Patrick Danner

START to Open China Center

San Antonio-based South Texas Accelerated Research Therapeutics announced Friday it will open a research center in China for early phase trials of anti-cancer drugs.

The Phase I center in Shanghai will be a partnership with China-based venture-capital firm Cenova Ventures. The investment is valued at $6 million. START said it will be the first Phase I site for early phase oncology drugs in China.

START already operates a large Phase I clinical trial program from its headquarters in San Antonio, where it employs about 90 people. It also has a research center in Madrid.

“This is aimed at trying to accelerate drug development because most of the work is too slow,” said Dr. Anthony Tolcher, START's clinical director. “When researchers are ending the day in one START location, our colleagues will be starting their day and will pick up right where we left off.”

START Shanghai will operate at the Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center, described in a statement from START as Shanghai's largest cancer hospital. The hospital has an estimated 600,000 patient visits a year.

In the statement issued by START, Dr. Li Yan, managing director of the US Chinese Anti-Cancer Association, called START's Shanghai center a “game changer.” He couldn't be reached for additional comment.

“Most oncologists in China want to have access to better medications, the same types of medications that are currently in clinical studies in the United States and Europe,” Tolcher said. “So they want to be participants. We hope to open up China by bringing high-quality clinical trials there.”

START Shanghai will employ about 30 people within a year, Tolcher said.

Cenova Ventures, START's joint-venture partner, has a newly formed health care fund dedicated to China's health care industry. Cenova invests money from private sources as well as from the Shanghai and Chinese governments, Tolcher said.

Carol Zhu, a Shanghai native who is training at START in San Antonio, will serve as CEO for START Shanghai. Dr. Junning Cao has been appointed clinical director for the Shanghai facility.

About 400 patients a year participate in START's Phase I trials. The privately operated START doesn't receive any government subsidies, relying instead on payments from drug companies and biotech firms for the research it performs.

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