Fast-growing international contract research organisation (CRO) QPS has consolidated its presence on home turf by completing the acquisition of Miami Research Associates (MRA).

MRA runs “one of the largest clinical research centres” in the US, according to its new owner.

The acquired company, which has headquarters in Miami, Florida, will now operate as QPS MRA, a wholly owned subsidiary of QPS Holdings. No financial details of the transaction were released.

Founded in 1996, MRA conducts early-stage and phase II-IV clinical trials across a broad range of therapeutic areas for global and mid-sized pharmaceutical and biotechnology sponsors, as well as leading CROs.

It does so from a state-of-the-art research facility and clinical pharmacology unit in South Miami and a satellite office in Broward County, Florida.

QPS MRA management

Dr Howard Schwartz, MRA’s co-founder and senior medical director, will continue in his current role following the acquisition, serving as president and general manager of QPS MRA while joining the QPS board of directors.

Dr Eric Sheldon, co-founder and medical research director of Miami Research Associates, will head up future MRA activities within the QPS organisation along with Dr Schwartz.

FIH trials

QPS said the acquisition would enable it to conduct first-in-human trials (FIH) in the US and to expand its current offering of patient populations for Phase I-IV studies.

The CRO now claims ides one of the world’s largest Phase I site offerings, with 480 Phase I beds on three continents: 58 in the Netherlands, 92 in India, 40 in Taiwan and 290 (240 in Missouri, 50 in Florida) in the US.

MRA’s Phase I unit will be integrated with QPS’ global early-stage clinical operations, while MRA’s outpatient clinics in Miami will continue to operate as independent research sites for Phase II - IV trials.

Strategic step

According to Schwartz, joining the QPS organization is “a strategic step for MRA, in line with the current trend towards CRO consolidation. With our rich portfolio of clinical research services, we are ideally positioned in the important US market to complement QPS’ continued expansion of overall global resources and capabilities”.

Specialised services

David Blume, co-founder and managing director of Edgemont Capital Partners – which served as exclusive advisor to Miami Research Associates in the transaction – pointed to an increasing trend for early-stage clinical studies to be conducted in patient populations rather than healthy volunteers.

“This is driving outsourced pharmaceutical services providers to expand their capabilities by adding these highly specialised services in order to address the needs of their biotech and pharmaceutical sponsor clients,” Blume said. “We believe that this trend will continue to accelerate through 2013.”