US-based contract research organisation (CRO) PRA International has opened a new, expanded Clinical Pharmacology Center in Lenexa, Kansas.

The facility, which occupies the entire first floor of PRA’s existing Ridge Drive building near Kansas City (where, for example, the CRO runs its regulatory affairs business), replaces a smaller Clinical Phamacology Center operated by PRA in another part of Lenexa. It doubles the capacity at that site to 80 beds.

The company said its Early Development Services unit had installed state-of-the-art clinical technologies at the new site as well as various amenities to enhance the comfort of volunteers for Phase I clinical trials.

According to a report in The Kansas City Star, PRA hired 18 additional staff to fill out the expanded centre, which involved US$2 million (€1.32 million) of investment to convert the existing office space. The CRO plans to take on another 13 staff for the centre this year, as well as up to 37 employees to work in other areas of its Kansas operations, the Star added.

PRA has been steadily building up its Phase I capabilities, a strategy that included the acquisition of Dutch clinical development and bioanalytical laboratory specialist Pharma Bio-Research in July 2006 and of Pharmacon, a CRO based in Berlin, Germany and specialising in Phase I studies conducted in a number of Central European countries, last October.

Part of the rationale for the restructuring programme launched by a struggling PRA in February 2007 was to capitalise on progress in its Early Development and Scientific & Medical Affairs businesses while turning around the much larger Product Registration arm.

While 2007 was expected to be a “rebuilding year” for PRA, in July the company agreed to be acquired by affiliates of Genstar Capital, a private equity firm that already owned 12.8% of the CRO’s shares. Genstar originally acquired PRA in consortium with the latter’s management from The Carlyle Group in July 2001. It subsequently reduced its holding but retained close links with PRA when the CRO went public in November 2004.

Genstar’s US$797 million acquisition of PRA International was completed last December.