US-based contract research organisation (CRO) PPD has continued overhauling its business model in an effort to arrest declining earnings, this time selling off its biomarker services unit to Caprion Proteomics.

Headquartered in Montreal, Canada, Caprion says it is the leading provider of proteomics-based services to the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. The company has acquired the shares and assets of PPD Biomarker Discovery Sciences, the US CRO’s proteomics-based biomarker services division with facilities in Menlo Park, California. No financial terms were disclosed.

The deal, which was not mentioned among the raft of strategic initiatives announced by PPD last November in a bid to unlock the value of its businesses, comes as other contract research organisations deepen their involvement in a biomarker market galvanised by the shift towards personalised medicine and the need to optimise efficiency in early-stage drug development.

Covance, for example, already holds a minority stake in Caprion and acts as the exclusive CRO distributor for Caprion’s proteomic biomarker services.

It recently signed a biomarker alliance and services agreement with testing laboratory Rules-Based Medicine. Covance has also set up a Biomarker Center of Excellence in Greenfield, US and in July 2009 signed an agreement with Merck & Co for the supply of genomic analysis services that included acquiring Merck’s Gene Expression Laboratory in Seattle, US.

Quintiles has also been active on this front. In December 2008 the US-based biopharmaceutical services company boosted its capabilities in the fast-growing market for targeted cancer therapies by acquiring oncology biomarker specialist Targeted Molecular Diagnostics.

Last summer ICON, the international CRO based in Ireland, beefed up its bioanalytical and immunoassay capabilities by acquiring biomarker specialist Veeda Laboratories Ltd.

According to Caprion, acquiring PPD Biomarker Discovery Sciences reinforces its leadership of the proteomics biomarker services market while broadening its client portfolio and revenue base.

The Canadian company will fulfil existing contractual obligations under its deal with PPD from both its own facilities in Montreal and a new unit in Menlo Park, which will operate under the name of Caprion Proteomics, US, LLC.

The multiple strategic initiatives announced by PPD last November included the spin-off of its compound partnering business, which is now expected to be completed by mid-2010.