AstraZeneca sought out the assistance of Cognizant to assist the firm with its drive for greater efficiencies in clinical data management. Over the five year duration of the deal, Cognizant will provide a range of data management services for AstraZeneca's global clinical development programs from a centralised location. Specific tasks include data management planning, clinical study set-up for electronic data capture (EDC), medical coding, adverse event reconciliation, clinical data management, and training for the clinical sites and investigators. Francisco D'Souza, president and CEO of Cognizant said: "We will help AstraZeneca centralize and streamline its clinical data management operations through improved process standardisation, consistency of delivery, economies of scale and cost savings". The two firms have been working together since 2004 when AstraZeneca enlisted Cognizant to carry out IT and business process services on its behalf for its discovery, clinical, manufacturing and commercial operations across North America, Europe and the Asia Pacific. "Our existing, long-standing relationship with Cognizant supports our view that they are the best partner to deliver clinical data management services for us", said Anders Ekblom, vice president of Clinical Development, AstraZeneca. "Delivering efficiencies through reshaping our business is one of our key strategic priorities". Meanwhile, in December last year Merck & Co also inked a "multi-million dollar" deal with Cognizant, at a time when the US-based IT services firm is pursuing a greater presence in the life sciences sector. The firms had already been working together for the past two years to streamline and consolidate Merck's IT operations and according to Rich Branton, vice president of Global Technology Solutions at Merck, this was also a large factor in the decision to award the new contract to Cognizant. Under the arrangement, Cognizant said it will see its role with Merck extended to that of a "key technology partner providing a full suite of services encompassing applications outsourcing, IT infrastructure management and business process outsourcing services". Cognizant has demonstrated a particular affinity for the life sciences market of late - in October it dished out $135m on its first acquisition and this was to buy a fellow US firm with a specialty in this field. The purchase of MarketrX, due to close this quarter, was executed primarily so that it could extend its "existing portfolio to the life sciences space", Cognizant said at the time. MarketrX provides analytics, market research, and software services and counts the 20 largest pharmaceutical companies and four of the five top biotechnology firms as its clients. Both companies operate largely around offshore delivery models in low-cost destinations, particularly India, where Cognizant has seven delivery centres, so as to remain cost-competitive in the North American and European markets.