Irish contract research organisation ICON has secured a clinical pharmacology platform in the US by acquiring Healthcare Discoveries, an early-phase specialist based in San Antonio, Texas, for up to US$22 million (€68.6 million).

ICON will pay an initial US$12 million in cash for Healthcare Discoveries, a subsidiary of drug development services organisation Catalyst Pharma Group. If certain performance milestones are achieved during 2008, “a further consideration, up to a maximum of US$10 million, may be payable”, the CRO explained.

The acquisition will complement ICON’s existing Phase I operations in Europe, said chief executive officer Peter Grey, adding: “As well as gaining an outstanding facility, we are bringing into ICON an experienced team that has an excellent market reputation”.

Healthcare Discoveries operates an 85-bed clinical pharmacology unit in San Antonio and has significant experience of delivering high-quality early-phase development programmes, ICON noted. The acquired business will become part of a “comprehensive early-phase development portfolio” within the ICON Development Solutions division, which includes an existing 80-bed clinical pharmacology unit based in Manchester, UK, the CRO said.

Dr Thomas Frey, president of the Development Solutions division, commented: “The investment in Healthcare Discoveries will enable us to meet the growing demand for highly scientific first-in-human and the full spectrum of clinical pharmacology studies that are a critical part of the drug development process. We look forward to integrating these additional capabilities into our broad drug development service portfolio.”

ICON's Development Solutions division recently boosted its early-phase trial and respiratory capabilities by forming a partnership with the UK-based Medicines Evaluation Unit (MEU).