PRA International has bought its first company in India - contract research organisation (CRO) Sterling Synergy Systems - joining the growing list of top CROs who have set up operations in this fertile market.
The deal, expected to close in the second quarter, opens India up as a new global location for PRA, providing the company with clinical operations in Mumbai and a data management centre in Pune.
The new data management centre adds to PRA's existing data management facilities in Kansas, US; British Columbia, Canada; and Swansea, Wales and will allow PRA to provide an around-the-clock data management service for the first time.
"We are seeing an increasing demand from our clients for a round the clock service and we are one of the few CROs to offer this," PRA spokesperson, John Lewis, told Outsourcing-Pharma.com.
Sterling also brings PRA a preferred provider arrangement with the Indian Cooperative Oncology Network.
"50 per cent of our work is in oncology and we wanted to make an acquisition that was complimentary to our core business," said Lewis.
PRA is no stranger to Sterling, having worked with the company in the past on various projects that have required an Indian presence.
"We normally partner with an organisation like this first before deciding to take the step of making an acquisition and setting up operations in a new location," said Lewis.
"A typical pattern for PRA is to make a small acquisition in a new area then build organically from there. This is what we plan to do in India, although we will still be looking to make further acquisitions if the right company came along," he said.
The acquired Indian facilities currently have 20 employees and PRA is now on a recruitment drive to meet expected growth.
"We plan to ramp up our Indian operations fairly quickly, beginning with the clinical operations business, followed closely behind by data management," said Lewis.
CROs operating in India are proving popular choices, as the standards of these countries are now falling in line with that of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are offering even further cost savings, primarily through cheap labour and facilities.
With the average cost per patient of running a US-based clinical trial being $5404 (€4244) for Phase I, $6538 for Phase II and $7635 for Phase III, pharma companies are flocking towards India in a bid to cut direct clinical trial costs.
"Clinical trials can be conducted in India for up to a third less than the cost in the US or Europe," said Lewis.
India can also speed up the time of trials through quicker patient recruitment times due to a large treatment naieve patient population and a mass of physicians and patients eager to participate in drug trials.
And as companies in the pharma industry continue to plant new seeds in this once-barren market place, India's clinical activity will continue to grow.