Radiant, formed in 2006, has taken on board the concerns European and US customers have voiced regarding outsourcing to countries such as China and India, establishing itself as a research- and technology-driven firm as opposed to the labour-intense manufacturing organisations often associated with these areas. The company offers a portfolio of laboratory and manufacturing services to pharma and biotech customers, ranging from discovery chemistry to biological services and bulk active ingredient supplies. However, the firm's founders are acutely aware of the reputation of Chinese companies in the West, and are determined to offer services that allow customers to be confident of the quality of the product they are paying for. Radiant has taken advantage of the recent return of many scientists and workers to China, allowing the company to form what it believes is a highly qualified team at its site in ZhenJiang, 150 miles west of Shanghai. "China [was] suffering from brain drain for many, many years, until recently" explained Radiant co-founder and general manager, Fei Zhang, at last week's Informex trade show. This situation changed after the September 11th bombings: "Because of tightened US immigration policy, people cannot stay. [Combine this with] the booming Chinese economy, [and there has been an] increase the number of Chinese elite choosing to return from the United States to where they really belong." However, alongside its qualified workforce, Radiant has sought to reassure potential customers further, with all the company's analytical machinery directly (and exclusively) imported from US and European firms, as are most of its research chemicals, "to ensure the best quality", says Zhang. The firm has also taken pains to ensure that concerns regarding external companies' intellectual property (IP) is well protected by setting up a contract with Zhenjiang Notary Public Office to protect all business transactions in and out of Radiant, dealing with another traditional worry for those considering using outsourcing organisations in low-cost economies. "The major and biggest concern for international pharmaceutical companies, particularly the ones in the United States, to collaborate with Chinese partners, is probably the IP protection issue," said Zhang. "There are residual concerns still [about] how bad the IP protection can be in China, even if notarised, because of the bureaucracy of the Chinese government. I concur that previously the proprietary protection, regulations and policies were not in alignment with international protocols. Gratifyingly, however, significant improvement has already been witnessed during the last couple of years, because I think China has realised its business practice needs to be more and more standardised and globalised in order to grow." However, alongside the agreement with the Zhenjiang Notary Public Office, Radiant has gone a step further by being only the second Chinese company to establish a real-time online tracking system so that customers can keep an eye on how their projects are progressing. Apparently, the only other Chinese company to offer this service is fellow service provider, WuXi PharmaTech. Developed by the company's dedicated IT team, the system allocates customers an encrypted account with user ID and password, with the server to which it is linked located in the US for added protection. According to Zhang, the company is sticking to its promises of delivering products and services reliably and efficiently. To date, almost 100 per cent of projects have been delivered on time, with 80 per cent within a standard four-week delivery period. Low-cost destinations are undeniably featuring more and more prominently in pharmaceutical companies' production and research strategies. If firms such as Radiant that can convince Western customers that they offer the advantages of these cheaper markets without the disadvantages that have been so widely chronicled of late, it surely cannot be long before they are winning considerable custom and threatening competitors in more established markets.