Up until a year ago, Gurnee, Ill.-based contract research organization (CRO) Essential CRO conducted most of its work in the United States, with a few projects in Canada and Mexico. Today, as a result of a strategic partnership with India-based Ecron Acunova, the company is growing its global footprint into India and Eastern Europe and plans to expand even more in the future.
Essential CRO and Ecron Acunova began bidding together on global projects last year, and the companies are now working on several global projects together. Because Essential CRO is not an integrated CRO (the company does not offer its own data management and statistics services, for example), the company is used to partnering with other CROs for services. However, this is the first strategic alliance of its kind for the company because it enables them to expand into new areas of the world, not just services.
“It was our strategy to grow this business globally as well as adding services,” said Essential CRO executive vice president and chief financial officer Dennis Cavender. “We’d been doing studies for non-U.S. pharma and biotech companies in the U.S. but not studies located outside the U.S. This really opens up an avenue for us to be able to get outside of the U.S. The market is still strong inside North America and the U.S., but, outside the U.S., the market is growing even more robust.”
As a result of the partnership, Essential CRO will now be able to offer its clients access to services in 18 countries. Essential CRO’s headcount is 75, but the partnership with Ecron Acunova provides them access to a total of 350 global employees, Cavender said.
Ecron Acunova has offices in Bangalore, India; Frankfurt, Germany; and Princeton, N.J. Although the CRO already has an office in the United States, they, too, hope to see their global portfolio grow through a partnership with a U.S.-based company, Cavender said.
“[The alliance] enables each of us to scale our operations and our capability without a significant dollar investment of trying to do it on our own,” Cavender said.
The Essential-Ecron Acunova alliance is the result of two years of discussion between the two companies—talks that reinforced the similarities between the CROs’ competencies, capabilities and senior management style, Cavender explained.
“Everyone has some differences in how they do things and in their SOPs [standard operating procedures], but, by and large, we’re very compatible in terms of how we approach it, how we write our SOPs, the commitment to quality, and the commitment to delivering with excellence,” Cavender said. “You might say we dated and got to know each other a little bit more, and at the end of the day, it’s about being able to produce results together that produce some synergies.”
Essential’s alliance with Ecron Acunova is open-ended in terms of end date and exclusivity, which leaves the door open for either company to partner with other CROs in other countries and regions of the world. Essential, however, is committed to this partnership for the time being.
“[The partnership] doesn’t limit us from entering into other partnerships, but, practically speaking, we’d like to see this one grow and flourish, and we can only handle so much at a time. Even with a partnership, it takes a lot of work,” Cavender said.