Algorithme Pharma, the Canadian contract research organisation (CRO) that focuses on bioequivalence and Phase I/IIa clinical trials, has followed up its acquisition of a clinical research centre in Baltimore, US last month by taking over Simbec Research, an early-phase specialist based in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales.

No financial details of the Simbec deal were disclosed. The UK company will continue its operations in Merthyr Tydfil as a new division of Algorithme Pharma, supplying the latter with its first foothold in the European market and, “most importantly”, additional advanced scientific and medical expertise for Algorithme’s North American teams, the CRO noted.

“Given the considerable growth of our ‘international’ clientele, it became necessary to acquire a location in Europe in order to better serve our fast-growing market once we had expanded to the United States,” explained president and chief executive officer Louis Caillé. In early July, Algorithme paid US$850,000 in cash to pharmaceutical development company Bioanalytical Systems for a Clinical Pharmacology Research Unit in Baltimore, a move it described as “the first milestone” in a US expansion strategy.

The acquisition of Simbec’s “strategically located and highly respected” clinical research centre is “the first step in our European expansion strategy and provides us with an important base for future growth in the European market”, Caillé added.

Established in 1976, Simbec offers Phase I to Phase IV clinical research services in the UK and internationally, with a particular emphasis on Phase I and IIa development. The CRO has offices in Japan along with its headquarters in South Wales. The Merthyr Tydfil site includes a 38,000sq ft early-phase facility with 48 beds that is divided into five separate research units, enabling a number of studies to be carried out simultaneously at the facility.

Along with two other Phase I clinical research centres in the UK, Simbec recently passed a Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) inspection for Standard and Supplementary Accreditation under the MHRA’s new voluntary scheme for Phase I units. The scheme was introduced in the wake of the disastrous first-in-man study with TeGenero’s monoclonal antibody TGN1412 at Northwick Park Hospital in London.

This means Simbec can conduct Phase I studies with all types of investigational medicinal products, including those requiring preliminary review by the MHRA’s dedicated Expert Advisory Group (EAG) for first-in-human trials of higher-risk compounds.

The new Algorithme Pharma division in Merthyr Tydfil will include a core staff of around 100 employees, supplementing those already working for the CRO in Baltimore and at its Canadian locations in Laval and Montreal.