France has witnessed a spate of activity in the contract research sector this week, with the completion of a merger between Iris Pharma and Clirophtha, two founding partners in the ophthalmology-focused Iris Group, and a strategic alliance between Bordeaux-based contract research organisation (CRO) ITEC Services and US CRO Clinsys Clinical Research.

Both Iris Pharma and Clirophtha are located in La Gaude, near Nice in south-eastern France, and they share a founder and president, Dr Pierre-Paul Elena. Dr Elena set up Iris Pharma in 1989 as a CRO dedicated to preclinical research in the ophthalmology sector. Along with preclinical studies, Iris Pharma conducts basic research in ophthalmology and operates an analytical testing laboratory.

Clirophtha was established by Dr Elena in 1994 and is billed as “the first worldwide contract research organisation dedicated to ophthalmology and specialising in carrying out Phase I, Phase II, Phase III and Phase IV clinical trials throughout Western and Eastern Europe, North Africa, India, South Arabia and North America”. Both companies are also part of the Iris Group, formed in 2003. The group’s third arm is Apple-Tree, a CRO with the same focus on ophthalmology.

The consolidation of Iris Pharma and Clirophtha creates a “one-stop solution for clients’ ophthalmology drug and device development”, the companies said. The new entity retains the Iris Pharma name and the tight focus on ophthalmology clinical trials.

“The cumulative expertise and experience from both Iris Pharma and Clirophtha guarantees that the new Iris Pharma company has excellent know-how and knowledge of each step of drug development, from preformulation and in vivo research to Phase IV and medico-marketing surveys, as well as a global overview of the whole process,” commented Thierry Caillaud, business development director for the preclinical department at Iris Pharma.

ITEC-Clinsys alliance
The strategic alliance between ITEC Services and Clinsys Clinical Research is aimed at broadening the respective partners’ global clinical research offering. Specifically, it will enable Clinsys to expand its clinical operations and consulting services in Europe and North Africa, while ITEC will be able to tap into Clinsys’ infrastructure and resource network in the US, India and Western Europe.

Founded in 1984, ITEC was among the first French CROs and has supplemented its Bordeaux headquarters with operations in Casablanca, Morocco. It provides pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies with a broad range of clinical research services in support of Phase I – IV drug development, with particular expertise in therapeutic areas such as oncology, the central nervous system, respiratory conditions, endocrinology, urology, gynaecology, paediatrics and ophthalmology.

Clinsys is part of the Jubilant Organosys group and runs operations in Raleigh, North Carolina, Philadelphia, Pennylvania, Dusseldorf, Germany, and Noida and Bangalore, India from a US base in Bedminster, New Jersey. The CRO’s activities also span Phase I – IV development, serving pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device companies. Its specialities include oncology, cardiovascular disease, the central nervous system, dermatology, the respiratory system and allergy/immunology.

David Williams, chief executive officer of Clinsys, said the tie-up with ITEC “augments our ongoing efforts to strengthen operations throughout Europe”. The French company had a proven track record of working with European sponsors and regulatory authorities, as well as “an excellent reputation for focus on client needs that mirrors Clinsys’ brand of client service”.

Combining ITEC’s geographical territories with Clinsys’ global operations was “a natural fit”, Williams added, noting that over the last five years ITEC had been steadily building up its late-stage business, complementing Clinsys’ earlier-stage focus.