CogState has signed a second research contract with two drug giants, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Merck for its cognitive testing technology. Bothe the Merck and GSK trial are due to start this year, although no further details were supplied. CogState's technology provides computerised tests of cognition (brain function) to quantify the effect of drugs or other interventions on human subjects participating in clinical trials. The firm now works with Pfizer, Merck, the US Centres for Disease Control, ALZA Corporation, Organon USA and GSK and is currently in the process of expanding its existing activities in the US clinical trial markets. US-owned, but Bulgarian-based firm AbCRO has announced plans to infiltrate its operations into neighbouring regions in the coming months. This month, the firm will open a new office in Warsaw, Poland, adding to the four offices that the growing firm already has in Eastern Europe, in Bucharest, Romania; Zagreb, Croatia; and Belgrade, Serbia. By December the CRO plans to have also expanded into Russia, with a new office in Moscow, it was announced at the recent Drug Information Association (DIA) meeting in Atlanta, US. Expansion plans in this region will not rest here, however, with the firm indicating its ambitious goal to grow the company - which currently employs 125 staff - four-fold over the next three to five years. On a similar note, US-based Criterium announced at the show that it has opened up offices in two new exotic locations, Yavne, Israel and St. Petersburg in Russia, and also has its eyes fixed on opening up shop in two other emerging locations, South America and the Asia Pacific (primarily New Zealand). Meanwhile, Dutch CRO Clinquest has bought a stake in fellow Dutch firm Enceladus Pharmaceuticals. In doing so it has entered a risk-sharing arrangement with the firm for the development of Phase II inflammatory drug Nanocort. Although it is unusual for a CRO to enter such an arrangement, some CROs are now starting to position themselves in strategic partnerships, or even in risk-sharing partnerships with pharma firms, rather than as simple service providers, delegates heard in a presentation given by John Rountree, managing partner at UK R&D support firm Novasecta, at last week's Pharma-Bio Outsourcing conference in London. In other related news, chairman and CEO of Octagon Research Solutions in the US, Jim Walker, has announced that the European Commission and the centralised European Agency for the Evaluation of Medicinal Products (EMEA) has granted SME (Small and Medium Sized Enterprise) Status to his firm. "SME status enables us to offer significant value as the regulatory agent for small organizations without a European Certificate of establishment or company infrastructure [who are] wishing to submit a marketing authorisation application in the European Union," said Mark Turner, managing director of Octagon Europe. "As an existing SME, we can pass on reduced or deferred fees associated with marketing authorisation applications, scientific advice and inspections, eliminating the need for small companies not established in Europe to postpone product clinical and regulatory development or submission activities until they develop a European infrastructure in their own right."