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INC Research expands into Middle East with MEK acquisition

By Zachary Brennan , 10-Mar-2014

In a sign of further consolidation, CRO INC Research has acquired CRO MEK Consulting and will absorb its more than 40 employees based in the Middle East and north Africa.

Jamie Macdonald, CEO of INC, told Outsourcing-Pharma.com that INC is seeing more customer demand in the region and INC is looking to “ramp up” MEK as the region has a lot of patients with rare diseases that could help companies obtain fast-track designations from the US FDA and other regulators.

The Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions are good for the rare diseases and we’ve worked with [MEK] on and off for about four or five years,” he said.

The acquisition builds on INC Research's longstanding relationship with MEK Consulting, which spans more than a decade. Founded in 1999 by Myriam El-Khazen and Selim Dagher, MEK Consulting has strategically grown to become one of the most experienced and respected CROs in the region.

The more than 40 employees span across five countries and have experience on more than 120 studies. MEK Consulting is a clinical monitoring-focused CRO that offers an established infrastructure and complementary therapeutic expertise in oncology, general medicine and rare diseases. Myriam El-Khazen and Selim Dagher will assume the roles of General Manager and Executive Director, Commercial Operations, respectively, with overall responsibility for managing INC Research's presence in the region. 

The timing is opportunistic to some degree – we wanted to fill this footprint about a year ago, across the MENA region, and we interviewed several organizations and MEK was one of the higher-quality ones. The staff will be fully integrated into INC …as fully paid full-time staff,” Macdonald added.

Both companies also have mutual customer bases – “they are a CRO we’ve outsourced some of our work to in Egypt, Lebanon in the past, among others,” Macdonald said.

Political Climate 

Macdonald also called the geopolitical strife in the region “a concern,” though he noted that INC ran studies all through the Arab Spring, “and as long as people are sensible about going to the site, the staff and patients are still going – we’re careful about their transportation.” 

He also told us that he spoke with his staff in Ukraine on Friday, noting that it should be business as usual “but their safety is of the utmost importance. In talking to Selim Dagher, he worked with us in 2007 and 2008 when Israel invaded Lebanon, and they didn’t miss a single CRA visit.

The tension we look to avoid but it’s something people have grown up with there,” Macdonald said. “That’s what we get paid for – to manage these situations and try to keep inside the monitoring windows. We haven’t had any major problems yet and as it settles geopolitically, we’ll be able to benefit form that.”

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