A slimmed down and repositioned Encorium Group is back on the acquisition trail, paying up to €3.2 million for Progenitor Holdings, a Swiss corporation with wholly owned subsidiaries pursuing emerging market clinical research from Mexico, Panama, Argentina, Chile, Switzerland, India and Hong Kong.

The acquisition will give Encorium access to fast-evolving locations for clinical trials as well as bolstering its expertise in vaccines, the US-based contract research organisation’s (CRO) main focus as it recovers from the financial difficulties that have plagued the company over the last couple of years.

The deal “provides a key advancement of our strategic goal of becoming the world’s leading vaccine clinical research organisation,” said Dr Kai Lindevall, chief executive officer of Encorium. “We believe our combined experience in the vaccine field is the most impressive amongst medium-sized CROs and that the potential of the combined organisations is substantial.”

Encorium is paying €1.7 million in cash and stock for Progenitor Holdings and its subsidiaries, which operate as Progenitor International Research, plus an earn-out component comprising cash and stock with a value of up to €1.5 million.

The two founders of Progenitor, Renée Moore (chief executive officer) and Klaus-Dieter Albrecht (president), are joining the executive team at Encorium. They will “play significant roles in the combined business and are expected to contribute significantly to the management of Encorium”, the latter noted.

Together the two companies have been involved in more than 70 vaccine and infectious disease studies involving over 50,000 recruited patients in recent years, Moore pointed out. “We believe both entities’ commitment and focus on excellence in vaccine trial delivery will result in a value-added solution for our customers desiring to run trials throughout Europe and the emerging markets,” she added.

Just over two years ago, Encorium as it was then constituted was poised to globalise its operations through a deal with investment vehicle Linkcon. That fell through, as subsequently did Encorium’s proposed acquisition of US CRO Prologue Research International.

With its finances in bad shape, Encorium sold substantially all of its US business assets to Italian CRO Pierrel in June 2009. However, last October the group terminated negotiations to offload its wholly owned European subsidiary, Encorium OY, and instead decided to move forward with a new strategic emphasis on vaccines and oncology.