Celerion is the name of the privately owned contract research organisation (CRO) formed from the Early Stage Development operations and the Development and Regulatory Services consultancy of MDS Pharma Services.

The new identity was revealed as Celerion, owned primarily by private investment firms Bain Capital Ventures and SV Life Sciences, completed the acquisition of MDS assets including five clinical research facilities and two bioanalytical laboratories in Lincoln, Nebraska (US), Neptune, New Jersey (US), Phoenix, Arizona (US), Zurich (Switzerland) and Belfast (Northern Ireland), as well as operations in Richmond, Virginia (US) and Quebec, Canada.

With headquarters in Lincoln and more than 700 beds worldwide, Celerion is positioning itself as an industry leader in early clinical research. Services will range from clinical studies (first-in-human to proof-of-concept) to clinical pharmacology, bioequivalence trials, bioanalysis and cardiac safety services. The company said it was “committed to the same level of service excellence on which MDS Pharma Services built its reputation”.

The name Celerion derives from the Latin celeritas, meaning swiftness and speed. According to the company, it “reflects one of Clerion’s founding principles: to deliver services that enabled clients to get their products to market faster. It also underlies another key goal of the business: to assist clients in reaching informed go/no go decisions on compounds in development as early as possible”.

Heading up Celerion as chief executive officer (CEO) is Susan Thornton, formerly CEO and managing partner of health advisory services firm BioVerum Partners. Thornton has more than a decade’s experience in the CRO industry and has also held various drug development positions at GlaxoSmithKline and Merck.

“Her appointment sets the precedent for the new leadership team at Celerion – individuals with extensive industry experience and knowledge, strongly positioning the company to address a broad range of drug development challenges,” Celerion stated.

Canadian life sciences company MDS announced in February that it had found buyers for the rest of its MDS Pharma Services unit, rounding off its exit from the contract research sector.

In addition to the deal with what is now Celerion, MDS agreed to divest its Discovery and Pre-Clinical operations in Bothell, Washington (US), Lyon, France and Taipei, Taiwan to Ricerca Biosciences, a leading provider of early-stage contract research services based in Concord, Ohio.

The Canadian parent is now focusing on its MDS Nordion medical isotopes operation, although it maintains a minority interest in Celerion, comprising a five-year, US$25 million note and a 15% equity stake. Last June, MDS divested the Pharma Services Phase II-IV operations to INC Research for US$50 million. In October 2009 it agreed to sell the business’ global central laboratory operations to Czura Thornton, the private investment group that owns UK-based CRO Chiltern International.