US-based contract research organisation (CRO) Covance has expanded its clinical pharmacology footprint in Europe by acquiring Swiss Pharma Contract (SPC), a clinical research company based in Basel, for an undisclosed sum.

SPC provides clinical research services to the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device industries, working with 10 of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies, Covance noted. The Swiss company has conducted more than 200 complex clinical trials since 2002, around a third of which have been first-in-human studies.

SPC’s Basel site also has “substantial expertise” in radiolabelled and proof-of-concept studies, a “wealth of experience” in speciality therapeutic areas and access to a large and active volunteer database, Covance added. The acquisition also brings the CRO a 50-bed clinical pharmacology facility that will boost Covance’s global capacity in this area to around 550 beds in the US and Europe.

The SPC staff includes nine physicians and other medical personnel experienced in complex clinical studies. All of the Swiss Pharma Contract employees will be offered positions at Covance.

“Our clients’ need for complex, high-science clinical pharmacology studies that can help them make decisions faster is growing,” commented Joe Herring, Covance’s chief executive officer. “This acquisition significantly increases Covance’s early clinical development footprint in Europe and gives our clients access to special patient populations for Phase I/IIa clinical studies.”

According to Jina Ventures, the New York-based private equity firm that advised SPC on the transaction, there was interest in the Swiss operation from 14 leading companies in Europe, Asia and the US. A number of global CROs put in bids but Covance “presented the most compelling opportunity for strategic long-term growth for SPC”, Jina Ventures said.