MDS Central Labs Deal Moves Forward

October 27, 2009

Applied Clinical Trials

Co-founder of investment firm set to acquire MDS Global Central Labs speaks out about his purchase.

Nick Thornton, co-founder of private investment firm Czura Thornton, which is set to close on the purchase of MDS Global Central Labs early next week, took some time to speak with Applied Clinical Trials before setting off to China to visit the almost acquired laboratories in Beijing and Singapore.

Thornton is no stranger to laboratories. He has been involved in the acquisition and collaboration of many medical laboratories in his native New Zealand, Australia, and also Europe, along with his business partner Tony Czura. “We are laboratory people and we are life sciences laboratory people,” said Thornton. “We had never invested in clinical trials, however.” And he is looking forward to working in that intersection of diagnostics and medical practice.

Thornton also serves as chairman of CRO Chiltern, which was acquired by Czura Thornton in July 2006. He said, while many may disagree with him, the purchase of MDS Global Central Labs (GCL) was because of what he perceives as a lack of a true service leader in this central lab space. “We thought this was an opportunity to come at this market to offer a good strong ‘product,’ if you like.”

And while the potential to grow existing CRO assets in Chiltern and the global central lab into an even larger global CRO, Thornton maintains this is not the goal. “Scale and size is a good thing,” said Thornton. But, “growth for growth’s sake is not what we’re about. We’re about building trusted client relationships.”

Instead, Chiltern meets the GCL unit on their shared mid-size ground. Thornton explained that the two will remain separate companies, however, he envisions that they will be able to take advantage of each other’s strengths and selectively use each other’s services. Those are on Chiltern’s side, a strong therapeutic experience; locations in India, Brazil and Argentina; and Phase I through IV experience. GCL offers the presence in China, strong infrastructure, and a complementary client base.

But Czura Thornton does have plans in mind for GCL. First off, a name change will come with the finalized purchase. Then a tightening up of the current business. Under the terms of the agreement, Czura Thornton is acquiring 600 employees at six sites in Europe, North America, and Asia, as well as its central lab protocol management system Apollo. “GCL has a very good platform to move from. It has largely a big pharma client base, which of course is very good, and we’ll look to round that out with biotech,” said Thornton.

Thornton is pleased with the locations in China, and sees potential growth in labs where Chiltern has presence-India and Latin America. “MDS had the foresight to be in there [China] early and now there is a stable, mature presence. We will make the most of it going forward.” In addition, the cardiac safety business will remain a fundamental core of the GCL, and Thornton sees more investment and strengthening of the existing biomarker services.

Other moves include taking those existing relationships to build a more efficient integration of client and service provider. “GCL has very strong core skill sets in laboratory and a very strong willingness to please clients,” said Thornton. So from here expects a cementing of the core process improvements, business efficiencies, and building client relationships based on consistency, reliability, and flexibility.

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