UK company Synexus Clinical Research has agreed to buy South African-based Clinical Research Centres for up to £1.8 million ($3.4m), continuing its strategy of buying business that help it tap into the growing clinical trials and patient recruitment markets in emerging economies.

The move follows acquisitions by Synexus in Poland and Hungary, the opening of an office in Bulgaria and an alliance with partner IRL in India

An initial sum of £0.81 million, of which a little over a third will come from the issue of new Synexus shares, will be payable on completion of the deal. A further sum of up to £0.98 million is dependent on an audit and full-year performance for the year ending March 31, 2008, according to Synexus.

CRC is a site management organisation that provides clinical trial services, particularly the recruitment and subsequent management of patients onto later stage clinical trials for the pharmaceutical industry.

And in addition to its core later stage clinical trials business, CRC owns a 49% interest in AddClin Research (Pty) Ltd, a joint venture with Adcock Ingram, the South African multinational pharmaceutical business. Addclin carries out bioequivalence and pharmacokinetic studies for South African and international generics companies.

Synexus CEO Michael Fort said: 'We are delighted with the acquisition of CRC which not only extends our therapeutic range but also gives us a footprint in the Southern Hemisphere where we will be able to conduct contra-seasonal studies to those in the Northern Hemisphere into conditions such as hay fever and asthma, thereby extending our offering in these areas.”

'The interest in the joint venture in Phase I studies with Adcock Ingram is also exciting as this is not only a link with a large multinational healthcare company but is also a low risk entry into the early stage market,” he added.

The acquisition of CRC is expected to be earnings accretive for

Synexus for the year to end-March 2007.

Synexus uses a clinical model based on the concept of a hub site, which combines specialist recruitment and clinical trial management services with dedicated clinical centres that crucially do not rely on external investigators for studies, having their own full-time clinical staff.