PhillyInc: Philly Inc: Why Octagon matters to Accenture

Posted: August 14, 2012

IPOs by Facebook and Manchester United notwithstanding, there are other ways to tap deep pockets. Companies can get acquired.

Octagon Research Solutions Inc., a Wayne software company that helps pharmaceutical companies with submitting clinical data to regulators, agreed to be acquired by Accenture P.L.C. earlier this month. Terms of the transaction, which is expected to close by the end of September, were not disclosed.

At $25.5 billion in net revenues for 2011, Accenture is by far the bigger company. But Octagon has grown quickly in recent years and currently has a global workforce of 380 people, most of whom work in the Philadelphia area. It also has offices in Mountain View, Calif.; London; and Bangalore, India.

David Boath, the North American managing director for Accenture's Life Sciences industry group, said that Accenture had worked with Octagon for the last five years with several clients. "We think they have the best software to speed up the process of getting clinical data" to the Food and Drug Administration, he said.

Accenture, a consulting firm, got into the clinical data outsourcing business in 2003 when it was hired by Wyeth. In Octagon, the publicly traded company gains "a software suite we did not have before," Boath said.

Being part of a larger organization with a stronger balance sheet should enable Octagon to handle more large pharmaceutical clients, Boath said.

Octagon was started by James C. Walker and his twin brother, Neal, in 1999. James Walker, the company's chairman and chief executive, will remain in charge of Octagon after the transaction closes, Boath said.

Money Mission

In March, Gov. Corbett led a "business development mission" to France and Germany with a bunch of Pennsylvania businesses looking to boost their exports.

On Tuesday, Corbett begins another mission aimed at raising the profile of the Keystone State companies. His destination? Silicon Valley.

I'm a bit worried about the language barrier the governor may encounter in California. From the press materials, it seems Corbett will be talking up the manufacturing prowess of Pennsylvania companies to audiences who run idea mills and money mines.

Hopefully, the Californians won't consider the Slinky the last great idea to have emerged from Pennsylvania.

This mission is very much a Pittsburgh production with Carnegie Mellon University, the Pittsburgh Technology Council and 15 businesspeople joining Corbett, hoping to reboot the Steel City's image with the movers and shakers in the world's ninth-largest economy.

But Philadelphia should not feel left out. Should the culture gap prove to be too great to bridge, the governor could always score points with Google and Facebook by trotting out some wallet-sized paper emblazoned with that most famous Philadelphian, Benjamin Franklin.

After all, that seems to have worked to convince energy giant Royal Dutch Shell to build an ethane cracker in Western Pennsylvania.


Contact Mike Armstrong

at 215-854-2980 or marmstrong@phillynews.com, or @PhillyInc on Twitter. Read his blog, "PhillyInc," at www.phillyinc.biz.

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