US-based contract research organisation (CRO) Parexel International Corporation has strengthened its ties to Synchron Research Services, the Indian CRO it started collaborating with in 2004.

Parexel has paid around US$5.0 million (€3.16 million) to expand its minority stake in Synchron’s clinical pharmacology business in Ahmedabad from 19.5% to 31.0% on a fully diluted basis. At the same time, Parexel has sold a bioanalytical laboratory in Poitiers, France to the Synchron subsidiary Synexel Research International for around US$6.7 million. Staff at the Poitiers laboratory will join Synchron’s bioanalytical business unit.

In a further demonstration of its commitment to early-phase clinical development, Parexel announced it had completed the expansion of three Clinical Pharmacology Research Units in Baltimore, London and Berlin.

Noting that biopharmaceutical companies were conducting more Phase I and proof-of-concept studies “with increasing complexity”, Dr Herman Scholtz, head of international clinical pharmacology, said Parexel was “a top provider of expertise-based Phase I services”, offering more than 550 beds in total at its sites in the US, the UK, Germany and South Africa – “among the largest capacities worldwide”.

With the latest additions to capacity, the CRO now fields 90 beds in Baltimore, 64 in London and 160 across two Clinical Pharmacology Research Units in Berlin. Parexel also runs units in San Diego and Los Angeles, US and in Bloemfontein and George, South Africa, as well as providing early clinical development programmes through its joint venture arrangement with Synchron in India.

That began with an exclusive strategic collaboration in 2004. In 2006, Parexel deepened the relationship by acquiring a majority stake in Synchron’s clinical trial operations in Bangalore and a minority interest in the Indian CRO’s clinical pharmacology business in Ahmedabad. Last year Parexel opened an office in Hyderabad, India, offering a wide range of clinical research and data management services.

Synchron gets global
For its part, Synchron said the acquisition of Parexel’s bioanalytical and biomarker facility south of Paris was a significant event for the CRO industry in India. The Poitiers site, which is certified by the French medicines agency, Afssaps, for Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) Class A, will join Synchron’s international network of laboratories, operating under the name of Synexel Research International SAS.

The French facility specialises in the development of highly sensitive methods for analysing new chemical entities (NCEs) and marketed compounds, including generics. As Synchron noted, the acquisition gives it more than 350 ready-to-use test methods in various animal and human biological matrices. Synexel itself has developed over 100 proprietary bioanalytical methods for NCEs to support preclinical as well as Phase I and IIa studies, Synchron pointed out.

Biomarker capabilities at Poitiers include singleplex and multiplex immunoassay platforms for early clinical, pre-clinical and clinical studies. “This world-class facility is managed by highly skilled industry specialists, who can also provide consultancy in the area of biomarkers for discovery programmes,” Synchron commented.

The company’s expanding global presence provides cost-effectiveness benefits to a clientele that is 90% based in Europe and the US, with the option to choose locations according to need, it added. In future, Synchron said, it would be looking for more opportunities to broach new areas of contract research in Europe that offered synergies with the CRO’s Indian operations.

The company has also established a foothold in the wider Asian market with a facility in Bangkok – “the first CRO in Thailand”, according to Synchron. This 30-bed unit, Bio-Innova Synchron Research, was set up in March 2007 as a joint venture with local investor Bio-Innova. “We are looking for more operations in other countries soon to increase our footprint in Asia,” commented Synchron’s founder and managing director Dr Shivprakash.