Pharmaron, a US-based contract research organisation (CRO) with operations both at home and in China, has consolidated its presence in the latter market by acquiring preclinical specialist Bridge Laboratories China for an undisclosed sum.

The deal comes shortly after Bridge Laboratories’ US assets in Gaithersburg, Maryland (its home base) were sold off in a management buyout that saw the formation of a new company, Avanza Laboratories, just before Christmas.

Outsourcing of preclinical development has been particularly hard hit by the recession, as pharmaceutical companies focus on less risky late-stage candidates and smaller biotechnology outfits struggle to maintain funding. A year and a half ago, Bridge Laboratories was on an expansion track, securing agreement to build a second preclinical facility adjacent to its existing laboratory in the Chinese capital, Beijing.

As Pharmaron noted, Bridge Laboratories is the first CRO in China to offer preclinical toxicology services up to western-level Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) standards. It is also the only preclinical CRO laboratory in China to have its data accepted by both the US Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency as part of successful regulatory applications.

Bridge Laboratories China’s 84,000 sq ft facilities in Beijing include “one of the largest and most sophisticated” animal vivariums in China, both multi-species accredited by the non-profit Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International and compliant with US GLP, Pharmaron said.

Fully integrated

The acquisition makes Pharmaron the first CRO in China to provide fully integrated drug discovery and development services, from discovery chemistry through to investigatory new drug (IND) filings, it added.

“Pharmaron has built an exceptional team of scientists specialised in the areas of discovery and process chemistry, biology, DMPK [drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics], pharmacology and GMP [good manufacturing practice-standard] manufacturing,” commented the CRO’s chairman and chief executive officer, Dr. Boliang Lou.

“The acquisition of Bridge Laboratories China enhances our drug R&D service capabilities by adding world-class expertise in western standard GLP-compliant toxicology and safety pharmacology to our diverse service portfolio.”

The management buyout of Bridge Laboratories’ Maryland assets was announced by the newly formed Avanza Laboratories on 23 December 2009. “The Operations team of Avanza was formerly with Bridge Laboratories Gaithersburg, Maryland, and now controls the business,” it stated.

Carlos Orantes, formerly vice-president and general manager of the Maryland laboratory, took the helm as president and chief executive officer of Avanza, which said it would “continue to offer the high level of client-focused quality service and study execution”, with plans to expand its programme management and regulatory consulting capabilities.