Bethesda, Md.-based contract research organization (CRO) United BioSource Corporation (UBC) acquired computerized cognitive testing services company Cognitive Drug Research (CDR) for an undisclosed sum. With the addition of CDR’s cognitive testing services, UBC plans to create an integrated solution to reliably assess cognitive function—a service that UBC said is needed in the clinical trial industry.
“The measurement of cognition is, in our opinion, becoming an increasingly important part of scientific research,” said UBC president and chief financial officer Mark Clein. “In the areas of Alzheimer’s and ADHD and, frankly, even as a safety consideration for drugs in general, it’s becoming an increasingly important endpoint … CDR represented a really unique asset for us because it allowed us to expand the services that we provide in the [central nervous system] drug development area, which is a major focus of UBC.”
The CDR system has been used in more than 1,000 clinical trials, and, according to UBC, CDR offers unmatched capabilities in the area of cognitive testing.
“CDR is the leader in the measurement of cognition. They’ve been around the longest; they’ve done the most trials,” Clein said. “When you’re evaluating a test for cognition, you have an individual take a test and that individual gets a score. Well, what does that score mean? It means something relative to a database that has enough information and enough experience in it to basically say this person’s in a normal range versus not being in a normal range. CDR, by virtue of being around for so long—really almost starting the industry—has the most extensive database available.”
CDR was founded in 1986 by Keith Wesnes, who will be joining UBC’s scientific team, along with almost 40 of CDR’s 70 employees. UBC has approximately 1,300 employees worldwide.
CDR had a presence in Chicago, the UK and Australia, but UBC will offer its cognitive testing services mainly out of its offices in the Philadelphia area and in the UK—in UBC’s three London-area offices, as well as in Goring-on-Thames, where CDR was founded. The Chicago location will be rolled into UBC’s existing Chicago office.
Earlier this year, UBC abruptly ended a partnership with cognitive testing provider CogState seven months after agreeing to an alliance. The partnership was originally lauded as a way for UBC to offer clients computerized cognitive testing as part of the clinical research process. Neither company provided much detail as to why the partnership ended, and UBC retained a 15% ownership stake in that company when the partnership dissolved.
The decision to acquire the CDR system rather than partner with another cognitive-testing company or build UBC’s own technology was based on CDR’s experience and reputation in the industry, Clein said.
“Like any technology in the area of pharmaceutical research, there’s a great value to having a technology that’s already accepted. In drug development, the regulatory bodies that evaluate these trials—like the FDA—they’re more comfortable with things that have been used in the past successfully. CDR has been out there the longest.
“We plan to offer this as an integrated service, which we think the marketplace will welcome. We expect these services are going to expand significantly because we think the measurement of cognition is going to become increasingly important in clinical trials. It’s the principal endpoint for certain disorders, like Alzheimer’s or ADHD, but we think it’s possible that cognition could become an endpoint that gets measured more broadly across a range of disorders or even possibly as a safety endpoint in clinical trials. We think that there’s potential significant expansion of the service,” Clein said.