Encorium buys Progenitor for vacc biz and global reach

By Gareth Macdonald

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Contract research organization

Encorium has bought Progenitor International Research, furthering efforts to fix its financial woes by focusing on vaccines, oncology and growth in emerging markets.

The deal, worth a potential €3.2m ($4.1m), includes Switzerland-based Progenitor’s units in South America, India and Hong Kong where it has experience of vaccine trials according to Encorium CEO Kai Lindevall

He told Outsourcing-pharma that: “Progenitor was involved in one of the largest vaccine trials in South America, with 24000 patients recruited​,” adding that the firm has also “conducted over 20 vaccine trials in emerging markets​.”

Lindevall went on to say that: “Medium-sized companies need niche capabilities to grow and thrive​,” explaining that vaccines market is attractive because it is the fastest growing segment in the pharmaceutical industry.

This contention fits with a recent​ BioCrossroads report, which suggested that contract research organisations (CRO) would become more specialised as a result of growing pressure from the drug industry.

Therapeutic focus

Progenitor’s capabilities, and geographic reach, are an ideal match for Finland-headquartered Encorium, which refocused on vaccines and oncology after being hit hard by cancellations and falling demand in recent​ times.

The first evidence of the problems that prompted the move emerged in late​ 2008 when Encorium backed away from its planned acquisition of oncology-focused CRO Prologue Research International.

The difficulties continued last summer​ when, after another tough 12-months culminating in the collapse of its merger deal with Linkcon, Encorium sold its US operations to Italian CRO Pierrel.

The firm also briefly​ considered selling up altogether and selling its Finnish unit Encorium Oy, however this plan was dropped as a result of new contract wins related to the development of a H1N1 influenza vaccine​.

Global growth

More recently Encorium’s recovery efforts have centred on growing geographically to access in-demand emerging trial destinations.

In May​, for example, Encorium was contracted to conduct two Phase III trials on behalf of an unnamed Asian technology firm, describing the deal as a major part of its expansion plans in the region.

And, according to Lindevall, acquiring Progenitor strengthens Encorium’s position in markets he said are “important, both from the perspective of efficient patient recruitment in clinical trials in general and vaccine trials in particular [as well as] from a cost perspective.”

So, while Encorium’s difficulties may not yet be over, as evidenced by its most recent​ quarterly report and ongoing​ battle to maintain its place on the Nasdaq, the latest deal shows the firm is sticking to its recovery plan.

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