Charles River Laboratories of the USA has boosted its capacity to carry out clinical pharmacology studies via the purchase of privately held Northwest Kinetics for $29.5 million.

Charles River already operates a Phase I trials unit in Edinburgh, Scotland, and the acquisition of Northwest Kinetics allows it to offer this type of service on both sides of the Atlantic.

The increased push into clinical services will bolster Charles River’s ability to help clients take their projects from early stage drug discovery and development right though to the clinic.

Northwest Kinetics is a 150-bed facility with expertise in branded-drug studies and is currently in the process of expanding to 250 beds. When the expansion is completed sometime in the fourth quarter of 2006, the combined capacity of the Phase I facility in Scotland and Northwest Kinetic will be more than 300 beds, said Charles River.

At the time the facility opened in February, Northwest Kinetics’ chief executive, Jane Taylor, said it would help the company meet the “increasing demand for flexible scheduling of large, innovative early phase studies.”

The unit offers onsite sample processing and storage, multiple clinical pharmacology stations in large clinical procedure bays, centralised nursing stations, specialised cardiac safety systems, designated areas for microdose and mass-balance studies with radiolabeled products, technology-ready data capabilities and enhanced control of environmental conditions, safety and security.

Advance into Phase I follows retreat from Phase II-IV

The push into clinical research services was spearheaded by Charles River’s $1.5 billion acquisition of Inveresk in 2004 – before then it was known mainly for its preclinical services, including a hugely profitable laboratory animal business, and biochemical and toxicology testing.

But Inveresk weighed heavily on Charles River’s margins, and earlier this year the company decided to hive off its Phase II-IV clinical operations to Kendle International in a deal valued at $215 million. That announcement was made on the same day Charles River announced a quarterly loss of more than $100 million, and the writing was almost certainly on the wall when it fired the head of its Global Clinical Services unit – Aslastair McEwan – in December 2004.