US-based eClinical specialist Datatrak is closing an office in Bonn, Germany as part of its continuing efforts to maximise operational efficiencies and haul the company into profit.

Datatrak said the office closure reflected the company’s transition to a newer, broader eClinical platform that called for less back-office support, allowing these services to be consolidated. Full implementation of the streamlined support services is expected to generate annual cost savings of around US$1.1 million.

Over the past year the Bonn office has mainly been providing global help-desk services to back up Datatrak’s two existing electronic platforms for clinical trials, the company explained. These included a legacy product suite, acquired from the German division of Electronic Data Systems in 1998, that offered only electronic data capture (EDC) capabilities. The legacy product required “more intense supervision and support, which translated into a higher-cost requirement”, Datatrak said.

The newer Datatrak eClinical platform “is far more user-friendly, modern and intuitive”, reducing the need for support and “allowing for a consolidation of these services within a lower-cost environment”, it added. Help-desk services will now be provided through Datatrak’s headquarters in Cleveland, US.

All of the new clinical trials being implemented by Datatrak use the new eClinical platform exclusively, the company pointed out. The intention is that the few remaining trials employing the EDC-only product suite will be concluded by late 2009 or early 2010.

The German office “was the early pioneer in this industry during the 1990s”, noted Dr Jeffrey Green, president and chief executive officer of Datatrak. “However, the advancing innovative nature of our platform is directed towards as much self-reliance as possible for our customers and users, and this fact combined with the economic disadvantages of the currency exchange rates necessitated this sound business decision.”

In the long run the consolidation will “increase our corporate competitiveness, which will translate into additional advantages for our clients through the use of the Datatrak eClinical platform”, Green commented.

Last year Datatrak’s operating losses more than tripled to US$11.0 million on revenues that plunged 40.3% against 2006 to US$10.6 million. In the first quarter of 2008, revenues slid 41.0% to US$2.09 million and the company recorded an operating loss of US$2.22 million compared with a US$1.84 million loss for the year-before quarter.

In the fourth quarter of 2007, Datatrak took severance charges totalling $192,000 in association with the lay-off of 21 employees. There were 28 redundancies earlier in the year. More recently, the beleaguered company appointed a new board chairman and interim president as well as scrapping the position of chief operating officer.

Datatrak also faces the threat of delisting from the Nasdaq stock exchange. It has received a letter from Nasdaq noting that, for 30 consecutive business days prior to 10 June 2008, the bid price of Datatrak common shares closed below the minimum US$1.00 per share requirement for continued inclusion under the exchange's Minimum Bid Price Rule.

The company now has 180 calendar days, or until 8 December 2008, to comply with the Minimum Bid Price Rule.