Mary-Ann Richardson, managing director of ACRO, explained how the company is establishing partnerships with investigative sites in Africa and offering training services for people across the continent.
ACRO offers training from its HQ in South Africa but will also visit investigative sites in Africa to offer assistance based on the needs of a particular facility. This includes ACRO staff visiting Malawi every 45 days.
These efforts to boost research across Africa, which also include an ambition to increase the quantity of publications coming out of the continent, are in keeping with the ethos behind ACRO’s formation.
ACRO, which stands for African Clinical Research Organisation, was established two years ago as a partnership between public body LIFElab and private biotech Batswadi Pharmaceuticals.
The contract research organisation (CRO) was setup as a black economically empowered company. Part of ACRO’s purpose is to offer an alternative to multinational CROs for local biotechs seeking to conduct research.
This includes research into HIV, tuberculosis and malaria but also diabetes and other diseases. Richardson explained that by avoiding being a niche CRO the company’s client base extends beyond non-governmental organisations (NGO).
Consequently, ACRO has sought international clients and building this area of the business was part of its goals for 2009. Richardson explained that ACRO’s deal with New Jersey-based EDC Pharma will assist this process.
By offering clients training and services, including data management and regulatory services, ACRO has grown quickly. In its first year it secured 21 contracts and from March 2008 to November the same year its staff grew from five people to 25.
Richardson added that the economic downturn had created an opportunity for ACRO because as a smaller CRO it is well equipped to offer more flexible arrangements that are being sought by clients.
The third year
Richardson explained that in the coming 12 months ACRO is hoping to perform full service studies, adding that the company currently has proposals out for this work.
ACRO also aims to support at least one donor funded proposal. Richardson believes that as an Africa-based CRO capable of providing local expertise and training it can add value to procedures.
In addition, in the coming months ACRO is seeking to raise awareness of itself and of what Africa can offer as a location for clinical trials.