Drug firm expects to grow, but stay more hidden, after merger

Posted: March 15, 2013

Though it employs nearly 600 people, Newtown-based BioClinica Inc. plays a largely anonymous role in the pharmaceutical industry. On Thursday, it will become bigger yet more hidden when it goes into private hands as part of a merger with CoreLab Partners Inc.

BioClinica handles medical imaging and data collection for clinical trials by drug and device manufacturers.

That behind-the-scenes role is likely to grow because BioClinica and its competitors hope to benefit from the recent troubles major drug companies have had with expiring patents and their quest for new revenue around the globe.

"There is an amazing pursuit for new drugs to replace the drugs coming off patent," said BioClinica's Mark Weinstein, who will remain president of the combined company. CoreLab has two offices in Asia, and the combined company will seek to expand the number of trials it can manage around the globe using its databases.

"Now, companies are doing China studies for China drugs and India studies for India drugs," Weinstein said.

In the past, he said, proper documentation of clinical-trials data was "FDA-oriented because the U.S. is one of the few countries without cost controls, so drug companies could do well in the U.S. But that is changing. Other countries are creating their own FDA or modeling the agency after the FDA or something like the European Medicines Agency."

In separate transactions, JLL Partners Inc., a New York private equity firm, is buying BioClinica and CoreLab, which is headquartered in Princeton. JLL will merge the companies.

JLL is paying about $123 million for BioClinica and its stock is scheduled to cease trading Thursday. Ampersand Capital Partners, the majority owner of CoreLab, will have a stake in the combined company.

BioClinica has about 580 employees, with an office in Audubon, Montgomery County, and a few employees in Europe in addition to the Newtown location.

CoreLab also does medical imaging assessments and has cardiac safety services. CoreLab's employees will bring the new BioClinica's total to about 900, with no planned layoffs, Weinstein said. The leased buildings in Newtown and Princeton are 19 miles apart and the combined company will keep both for now.

"Given the employee bases, neither facility can absorb the other and it will mean less disruption," Weinstein said. "But we have told employees that we might put groups together rather than have them go back and forth between Newtown and Princeton."

Contact David Sell at dsell@ phillynews.com or 215-854-4506. Read his blog at www.philly.com/phillypharma and on Twitter @phillypharma.

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