Irish contract research organisation (CRO) ICON has extended to Japan its strategic agreement with Eli Lilly to look after the US company’s clinical data management outside the US.

The original agreement, announced in November 2008, covered Europe, Canada, Latin America, Australia and Asia. Lilly has farmed out the majority of its data management work in the US to another CRO, i3.

Last June, the pharmaceutical giant consolidated its strategic relationship with ICON by forming a partnership under which the CRO manages the site set-up and monitoring for Lilly-managed clinical studies in Europe.

Peter Gray, chief executive officer of ICON, said the existing data management partnership had “brought significant process efficiencies to Lilly in helping them progress their drug development pipeline. That Lilly has chosen ICON to manage this important business function in such a key region as Japan is a measure of our global data management expertise and our local capabilities in the region”.

According to Jeff Kasher, Lilly vice president and chief operating officer of Global Clinical Development, the extended relationship was an opportunity to “take another significant step in our ongoing agenda to increase flexibility, reduce fixed cost, and focus internal resources on core capabilities”.

In August 2009, Lilly came to an innovative research and development outsourcing arrangement with Covance, which involved the CRO acquiring and operating Lilly’s Greenfield Laboratories facility in Indiana, US.

The two companies also signed a 10-year service agreement worth US$1.6 billion, which built on an existing strategic collaboration whereby Covance conducted preclinical toxicology and early-stage clinical work for Lilly.

At the same time, Lilly announced the aforementioned deal with i3 and the transfer of its clinical trial monitoring work in the US and Puerto Rico to Quintiles Transnational.