INC Research, the privately held US-based contract research organisation that last year picked up the Phase II-IV operations of troubled CRO MDS Pharma Services, is being acquired by a private equity firm and a Canadian pension fund.

Avista Capital Partners and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan – the latter through its private investor department, Teachers’ Private Capital –  have agreed to take over INC Research from an investor group led by Crosspoint Venture Partners and Adams Street Partners.

No financial terms were disclosed, although the deal was reported by Bloomberg to be worth around US$600 million.

The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2010. The existing management team at INC Research, led by chief executive officer James Ogle, will remain in place.

“Under Mr Ogle’s leadership, we are confident INC Research will continue to capitalise on favourable trends in the clinical development outsourcing market and utilise its global reach to enhance its market share,” said Neil Petroff, executive vice-president and chief investment officer of Teachers’ Private Capital.

According to David Burgstahler, partner and president of Avista Capital Partners, INC has “an excellent reputation amongst its premier customer base for quality service and therapeutic expertise, and is well positioned to continue to expand its global footprint and capabilities as a leading contract research organisation”. 

In recent years private equity has been taking an increasing interest in the contract research sector. In February 2009, for example, US-based CRO resolved its financial difficulties by agreeing to a merger with affiliates of private equity firm JLL Partners.

INC Research paid US$50 million for the Phase II-IV operations of MDS Pharma Services in June 2009, giving it access to nearly 800 clinical research staff conducting large, multi-site clinical trials in more than 25 countries worldwide.