US-based biopharmaceutical services company Quintiles has formed a clinical research partnership with the University of Pretoria in South Africa, adding a third arm to the company’s Prime Site programme for accelerating drug development.

Prime Sites are large institutions that collaborate with Quintiles to enhance their infrastructure for conducting clinical trials. The programme already includes Queen Mary’s College in London and, in the US, the Washington Hospital Center in Washington DC.

According to Quintiles, the University of Pretoria was chosen for its clinical research experience, its access to “substantial” patient populations and its clinical expertise across multiple therapeutic areas.

The company already has an established operation in South Africa that provides a range of services including clinical activities, regulatory support, partner sites, data management, biostatistics and laboratory services. In June, Quintiles firmed up its African presence by opening an office in Accra, Ghana.

Gillian Corken of Quintiles in Africa described the addition of Pretoria University to the Prime Site programme as “a key milestone for Quintiles and also for us in South Africa as it recognises the quality of our clinical research … By consolidating research in areas of high patient and investigator density we can dramatically improve efficiencies, particularly in feasibility and recruitment”.

Under the strategic alliance, “we will not only benefit from greater efficiencies in monitoring and contracting, but we will also be able to provide pools of patients for Quintiles’ entire pipeline of high-quality studies”, added Professor Robin Crewe of the University of Pretoria. “Moreover, we regard this as an outstanding opportunity for elevating the profile of our clinical research work to new audiences."

The Prime Site programme is already yielding “impressive results” in London and Washington, Quintiles noted. Across these two sites, seven new clinical studies have started in 2009 to date and a further six are scheduled for later in the year. Quintiles has been testing 28 different drugs this year under the programme “and shall look to continue to build on these successes at the University of Pretoria site”, it commented.

Key to the success of the initiative so far has been Quintiles’ “efforts to harmonise operational processes, drive efficiencies in start-up and build better relationships with site staff, which, in turn, supports patient recruitment”, it pointed out. The strategic vision is to set up numerous Prime Sites around the world, expanding to include emerging markets in Asia, Latin America and Central and Eastern Europe.