The restructuring of the pharmaceutical industry has not just caused CROs to scramble to win large strategic-partnership contracts from big pharma—it has also caused the parts of the industry that serve CROs to scramble for deals with the CROs that have won those big contracts.
To that end, United BioSource Corp. is doing some restructuring. As of today, the specialty services provider is cordoning off two of its service areas and renaming them Bracket. Bracket will include the divisions formerly known as UBC Clinical Technologies and UBC Specialty Clinical Services groups.
The goal is to become more attractive to CROs that now find themselves in need of outsourcing services such as IVR/IWR, ePro, virtual investigator meetings, site verification services, rater and CRA training, data quality and surveillance and endpoint administration services—and possibly as part of one platform.
“We’ve increasingly seen that as companies like Pfizer establish strategic partnerships with CROs like Parexel and ICON, the CROs will have to go out and complete the ecosystem of vendors to complete those trials,” said UBC vice president Adam Butler, who said the establishment of Bracket has been underway since last year.
Michael Martorelli, director at investment banking firm Fairmount Partners and consultant to the CRO industry, said we can expect to see more such moves as the industry shifts and changes at a rapid clip.
“It’s all moving so dynamically and so fast,” said Martorelli. “The big CROs need to do more infrastructure-boosting than they used to to keep on top of these biggest-of-the-big projects. We’re seeing it go both ways—CROs working to manage (up) the partnerships they’re forming with pharma, and managing (down) their relationships with specialty providers.”
About 450 of Bethesda, Md.-based UBC’s 2,100 employees will be part of Bracket, a name UBC liked because it doesn’t mean much of anything. Yet. “It’s an empty vessel,” said Butler. “We wanted to come up with something that didn’t have any meaning in the space, and fill it up with meaning.”
Butler said Bracket will have a global focus, with 150 of its 450 employees outside the U.S., and more hiring expected. Among its non-U.S. offices are Japan, the U.K., Switzerland and the Czech Republic. “We expect to see rapid growth in head count and projects overseas, particularly in Asia Pacific,” said Butler, adding that Bracket has four offices in the U.S. UBC overall has 27 offices worldwide.
“A lot of what we’re doing here is a reflection of how R&D is already changing,” said Butler. “They want to be more efficient, targeted, accurate—they can’t afford to run clinical trials where they don’t get a strong outcome. They need to understand what’s happening early on, and that has meant a lot of investment in technology. We have been evolving our business to do that.”
The rest of UBC will keep its name and stay focused on its primary function of testing drugs and devices for safety and effectiveness once they are approved by federal regulators, said Butler.
UBC was formed in 2003, and in 2010 was bought by Medco Health Solutions, the largest pharmacy benefits manager in the U.S. Since its inception, said Butler, UBC has expanded via acquisitions and organic growth, and that is expected to continue, with more acquisitions likely to be announced before year end.