The global clinical trials landscape has seen continued growth between 2017 and 2022. While all regions have faced significant disruption, including the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and macroeconomic factors, the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region has emerged as the site of sustainable growth and enormous future opportunity. Of almost 27,000 clinical trials initiated in 2021, nearly half of them had locations in APAC.

A new report by APAC clinical research organisation Novotech and GlobalData reveals how metrics including trial numbers, growth and density cluster in APAC to make it one of the most promising geographies for future clinical research. Download the report below to deep dive into the analysis.

Between 2017 and 2022, APAC posted a growth in clinical trials of around 10%, outstripping growth in other major regions including the US, Europe and RoW. APAC’s growth far exceeded the overall average figure of 5.3% per year.

This trend has persisted since before the COVID-19 pandemic, indicating sustainable growth in APAC and a resilient market for clinical trials. Between 2017 and 2019, APAC saw more growth than other major markets, reaching 12.1% while the US, RoW and Europe didn’t exceed 2% growth.

The number of trial sites in APAC has also increased at a combined annual growth rate of 6.9% since 2017, while both the US and Europe have seen a decline. While APAC’s overall figure for clinical trial sites is currently lower than other major markets, it remains on a strong trajectory to match or exceed them. As of 2021, APAC accounted for nearly 13,000 new trials, while Europe, the US and RoW saw less than 5,000 each.

Asia Pacific dominates early-stage trials worldwide

Phase II clinical trials account for the majority of clinical research in all regions, a trend that has been consistent over the last five years, and APAC is also seeing a growing number of Phase I trials. As of 2022, APAC accounts for 57% of Phase I trials and 49% of Phase II trials worldwide. The geographical distribution of Phase III trials is more uniform, but APAC still dominates.

Unlike the US and Europe markets, APAC’s clinical research landscape is dominated by domestic trials. While 66% of Phase III trials in the US and 58% of those in Europe also have sites in other countries, 70% of trials in APAC do not. This makes for a unique internal environment in APAC, suggesting huge potential for growth in multinational trials in the region.

Clinical transformation

As COVID-19 has accelerated modernisation and digitisation, web-enabled solutions have enabled trials to become decentralised or virtual around the world, offering access to subjects that were previously inaccessible. Advanced technologies have enabled trial participation, retention and data collection to continue during challenging times. In APAC, decentralised Phase I trials grew 60% between 2017 and 2022, compared to an overall average of 10-20%. APAC also accounted for the highest usage of in-home devices for clinical trials in any region in 2022.

The value of biotech IPOs in APAC nearly tripled between 2017 and 2020, fuelled by COVID-19 and clinical research. In 2020, there were 55 deals worth USD 9.6 billion. While other regions, including the US, saw funding growth taper after 2021, APAC has demonstrated sustainable growth by H1 2021 and higher deal values than the pre-pandemic period through Q1 2022.

The cluster effect

Overall, APAC offers a larger urban population than the US and Europe, while hosting a growing number of trial sites. Trial site density is an important metric that indicates a region’s potential for growth. APAC’s trial site density is 3.1 trial sites per million urbanised population, compared to the next lowest density, 22.2 trial sites per million in Europe. This figure demonstrates that APAC has enormous opportunity to offer sponsors looking to capitalise on growth.

APAC has seen nearly double-digit growth in clinical trials over five years. Its population is considered largely untapped and treatment naïve. Furthermore, many countries in APAC have historically been favourable to biotech R&D, offering incentives like rebates in Australia and the Chinese government’s continued investment in biotech development.

Despite overall uncertainty in the global economy and the biotech industry, sustained growth is still expected, and APAC is set to be one of the most promising and resilient markets.

To find out more, download the report below.