The US firm has bought privately-held Northwest Kinetics of Tacoma, Washington for $29.5m (€23m), giving the company its first Phase I facility in the US. Northwest, which specialises in branded-drug studies, currently has a 150-bed facility which will be expanded to 250 beds by the end of the year - bringing Charles River's total Phase I capacity to 300 beds in combination with its existing Phase I facility in Scotland. In May this year, Charles River made a strategic decision to purge itself of its flagging Phase II-IV Clinical Services unit, which it sold to Kendle, to focus instead on its core drug discovery and development services, including its small Phase I business which it is now trying to build up. Early phase clinical trial services are a strong growth area in the US and globally as they continue to be one of the biggest bottlenecks in the development of new drugs and as a result the sector is experiencing a flurry of activity. Only a few weeks ago Parexel acquired California Clinical Trials Medical Group (CCT) and Behavioral and Medical Research (BMR) - a $65m US business that will inflate its early phase capacity to over 400 beds, making it one of the largest providers of Phase I services in the world. Parexel's larger rival Covance has also been beefing up its Phase I capacity this year, buying eight early-phase clinical development sites in the US from Radiant Research in May. Like Parexel, these acquisitions also gave Covance a significant expansion of clinical pharmacology bed capacity, bringing the firm's global Phase I/IIa clinical research capacity to more than 500 beds across eleven sites, and broadening its access to special patient populations for Phase Ib/IIa clinical studies. In addition there have also been a number of small start up CROs in the field this year.