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Five years ago, the world's big drug companies were reluctant to set up shop in China. The main qualm was the country's fledgling intellectual property rights laws, which could mean discoveries within its borders would fail to receive adequate legal protection.

Yet the lures were obvious, from China's growing appetite for Western drugs to its cheap but skilled science labour. Clinical trials, for instance, cost 30 per cent less in China than in Europe or the United States.

Now, reports Gong Yidong, the drug giants are moving in to tap the talent and take advantage of lower costs. Denmark's Novo Nordisk set up a research facility in Beijing in 2002. They were followed by a string of other Western companies. Most recently, Roche, the Swiss pharmaceutical giant, opened a new laboratory in Shanghai.

So there are high hopes for future development in this area. But concerns remain, and not just over intellectual property rights. While most Chinese scientists believe the arrival of Western drug companies will bring long-term benefits for their country, a few observers worry that China's own research and development will be stifled as a result.

Link to full article in Science

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