US-based contract research organisation (CRO) PRA International is stepping up its German operations by expanding the Berlin base for its Early Development Services (EDS) business in Central and Eastern Europe.

The Berlin facilities are being relocated to a larger, more central structure with triple the existing floor space as well as bigger conference and meeting room areas. PRA said the move would accommodate its “increasing need for headcount within Germany, along with new personnel now employed following last year’s acquisition of Pharmacon”.

PRA acquired Pharmacon, a CRO based in Berlin and specialising in Phase I studies conducted in a number of Central European countries, last October. The deal was part of a steady build-up of PRA’s Early Development Services capabilities that also included the acquisition of Dutch clinical development and bioanalytical laboratory specialist Pharma Bio-Research in July 2006.

One benefit of taking over Pharmacon was access to the German company’s Phase I virtual model, described as a unique means of conducting highly controlled Phase I trials in otherwise difficult-to-recruit patients. With the success of this virtual model, and the constant need for clinical operations staff within the CRO’s Product Registration group in Germany, the move to bigger Berlin offices “will further enhance PRA’s ability to deliver clinical service excellence”, the company said.

The new location will house early-phase services staff – where the headcount has grown since the Pharmacon acquisition – as well as support for PRA’s full range of clinical development services. It supplements the CRO’s long-established German presence in Mannheim, home to more than 150 staff who provide project management, comprehensive clinical monitoring, biometrics, pharmacovigilance and late-phase services.

“The demand for Phase I patient studies is growing exceptionally fast,” commented John Horkulak, PRA’s vice-president of EDS Central and Eastern Europe. “Our virtual Phase I model in Central Europe is increasingly recognised in the industry as the ideal answer to this need. The expanded offices in Berlin, from where we co-ordinate our trials in Central Europe, are designed to support this fast-growing business.”

PRA’s Central and Eastern European EDS business includes operational sites in Poland, Hungary and the Czech and Slovak Republics. In its home market, the CRO recently opened a new, expanded Clinical Pharmacology Center in Lenexa, Kansas.