Consolidation in the investigative-site space continues. CRI Worldwide of Mount Laurel, N.J., has acquired Lifetree Clinical Research of Salt Lake City, Utah, in a cash deal. Both are large, multi-phase sites with early-phase units. With the purchase, CRI now boasts 120 beds.
The acquisition, said CRI senior executive Lawrence Brownstein, was spurred by the company’s desire to round out offerings across all phases. CRI, in business 11 years, had grown tired of having to turn away sponsors, he explained.
“Sponsors are designing more and more complex trials, and they want to work with sites they trust and know, but if you don’t offer a particular service, you can’t help them,” said Brownstein, a founding partner of CRI. “If you don’t have, say, a functional MRI, then they have to go elsewhere.”
Lifetree’s offerings seemed a perfect complement to CRI’s. “They are highly specialized, but in a way that makes them a highly synergistic match,” he said.
Lifetree, in operation for eight years, has functional MRI technology as well as PET scanning and MRS, an on-site operating room and a pharmacy capable of handling all scheduled drugs. Lifetree has 40 employees and focuses on pain-management studies, central nervous system and sleep medicine, and human-abuse liability in its 60-bed phase I/IIa facility.
CRI, on the other hand, does primarily neuroscience work, but recently has broadened to include pain, pediatrics and psychiatry. The site’s specialty is patient populations. It has 100 employees and two locations—in southern New Jersey and Philadelphia. CRI’s phase I unit, located in Philadelphia, has about 60 beds. CRI can handle all phases, but so far has not done much phase IV work, said Brownstein. That will soon change.
Lifetree, through the deal, will be able to grow as well. The cash from the acquisition will allow the site to expand its early-phase work, pain and human abuse expertise to include psychiatry, the company said in a release.
Both CRI and Lifetree conduct more than 50 trials per year, said Brownstein.
CRI’s chief executive Jeff Kinell will become CEO of the combined entity, said Brownstein, and CRI will keep all of Lifetree’s employees. For now, Lifetree will keeps its name, though that could change. “We are considering the best way to retain the identity and brand recognition of both groups,” said Brownstein.
Will CRI buy more sites? Probably, but not right away, said Brownstein. “We’re going to absorb this acquisition and recognize its synergies and benefits, and then continue to grow as the market warrants.”
The CRI acquisition is part of a larger consolidation trend taking place among sites these days. And that’s a positive trend, said Christine Pierre, chief executive of site network RxTrials. “Consolidation of research sites during this time of fewer study opportunities and more rigorous standards makes complete sense,” she said. “I actually think this process will produce the strongest site landscape that has yet to exist in our industry.”