Consolidation in the contract research sector continues apace, with Pharmaceutical Product Development (PPD) the latest to step up with a deal to buy patient recruitment specialist Acurian.

Pennsylvania-based Acurian specialises in patient recruitment, enrolment and retention, and the two companies said the portfolio of services would sit well alongside PPD's expertise in clinical development and laboratory services.

Acurian will operate as a unit of PPD but will retain its own name and branding, while the existing management team - led by chief executive Rick Malcolm - will stay in situ. The financial terms of the acquisition have not been disclosed.

"The biopharmaceutical industry continues to face increasing challenges with the time and cost of drug development," said David Simmons, PPD's chief executive.

"Acurian's best-in-class approach to patient recruitment will be an excellent complement to PPD's clinical development expertise," he added.

Acurian has been in business for 15 years and uses predictive software analytics to customize the most efficient and cost-effective approach to recruiting patients into trials, a process which is often held up as the primary reason for trial delays which can hike costs and delay clinical programmes.

"Acurian will enable PPD to provide clients industry-leading services that accelerate patient enrolment and support their strategies for data-driven feasibility, site selection and enrolment delivery," said Simmons.

The company lists a number of milestones in its history, including the creation of the first clinical trial registration website, the first centralised technology platform for pre-screening potential trial participants, and the first and largest database of people who have opted-in to receive information on clinical trials, currently covering more than 70 million subjects.

The deal comes in the wake of a series of other mergers and acquisitions in the CRO sector in recent months, including Quintiles agreement to take over Novella Clinical and private equity firm KKR's purchases of PRA and ReSearch Pharmaceutical Services.