UK-based contract research organisation (CRO) Premier Research Group has agreed to acquire the assets of Pivotal Research Centers, a US clinical research organisation with sites in the Phoenix and Salt Lake City metropolitan areas, for a total cash consideration of US$4.75 million.

The acquisition, through Premier’s US unit Premier Research Arizona, comprises US$3.0 million in cash, to be paid by the outside target closing date of 28 February 2009, and additional payments totalling US$1.75 million, which are contingent on Pivotal achieving certain revenue targets.

The research organisation is being sold by PHC, Inc, which trades as Pioneer Behavioral Health and is a leading provider of inpatient and outpatient behavioural health services in the US.

Pioneer’s president and chief executive officer, Bruce Shear, said Pivotal contributed less than 10% of the company’s revenue in 2008 and the disposal “reflects our plan to focus on our faster growing core business of delivering behavioural healthcare”. This segment achieved record revenues in the last quarter, he added.

Pivotal Research Centers was founded in 1993 and acquired by Pioneer in 2004. According to its owner, Pivotal has completed more than 600 research studies in over 45 medical conditions to date, operating out of two sites in the Phoenix metropolitan area (Sun City/Peoria and Mesa) and a site in the metropolitan areas of Detroit, Salt Lake City and Tulsa.

When Premier completed a buyout in June 2008, involving its management as well as Pegasus Bidco, an acquisition vehicle backed by private equity firm ECI Partners, and financier Indigo, chief executive officer Dr Simon Yaxley said the move would allow the CRO to “continue our thoughtful and measured ‘buy-and-build’ strategy”.

The UK company already has an extensive history in the US. Operating as CRC (Clinical Research Consultancy), it acquired Philadelphia-based CRO Premier Research in January 2004 and took on the latter’s name. Among a string of acquisitions, Premier later snapped up Atlanta-based CRO PharmData in July 2005, SCIREX Corporation, a full-service CRO with headquarters in Philadelphia, in July 2006, and Boston-based ARS Clinical in July 2007.