US-based contract research organisation (CRO) PPD has agreed to acquire AbCRO Inc, an American-owned and -managed CRO operating in Central and Eastern Europe, for an undisclosed sum.

The acquisition will give PPD immediate access to established infrastructure and expertise in Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Croatia, while bolstering its existing staff and operations in Poland, Russia and Ukraine, the company noted.

Founded in 2000 and based in Sofia, Bulgaria, AbCRO provides a full range of Phase II-IV clinical trial services, including study management and monitoring, patient recruitment, site identification and regulatory affairs. The CRO has offices in seven Eastern European countries (Bulgaria, Croatia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine) and employs more than 230 full-time professionals.

AbCRO “has built a strong regional clinical research business and established a solid reputation in the region”, commented Fred Eshelman, chief executive officer of PPD. “This acquisition will strengthen our foothold in Central and Eastern Europe and enhance our ability to conduct global trials for our clients. We see many synergies with AbCRO and anticipate a relatively seamless integration, with many of the AbCRO employees already well-versed on basic PPD procedures and systems.”

Dana Leff, chief executive officer and co-founder of AbCRO, will oversee PPD’s Central and Eastern European operations while Christa Pleasants, AbCRO co-founder and chairman, will join PPD’s clinical operations in the UK as a senior director. The acquisition, which is subject to regulatory approvals and the customary closing conditions, is expected to be completed at or around the end of the first quarter.

PPD opened its first office in Central and Eastern Europe in 1995 and established a presence in Russia and Ukraine last year through the acquisition of InnoPharm, an independent CRO based in Smolensk, Russia. The US company claims to be one of the largest CROs operating in the region, which “offers well-trained investigators, a large pool of easily reachable patients, and a lower density of clinical trials compared to Western Europe and North America”.