InVentiv signs up to get IntelliCell's regenerative drug into the clinic

CRO inVentiv Health is teaming up with IntelliCell BioSciences to get the biotech's regenerative medicine candidate through the IND stage, pitching in to develop a novel treatment for osteoarthritis of the knee.

Under the deal, inVentiv is on tap to help IntelliCell study the use of blood vessel-derived adult autologous vascular cells to regrow tissue and treat serious cases of osteoarthritis that might otherwise require surgery. The biotech's technology has already been used in more than 60 knee-repair procedures, and IntelliCell said the inVentiv-assisted study will be the first to test it as a treatment for disease.

The two plan to launch a first-in-human study by year's end, with American Sports Medicine Institute founder James Andrews serving as lead investigator, and, if the results are positive, IntelliCell and inVentiv plan to expand the program to include other diseases and conditions.

"InVentiv Clinical has extensive therapeutic experience in general pain and osteoarthritis programs and a focus on partnering with innovative bioscience companies," President Raymond Hill said in a statement. "We are looking forward to our work with Dr. Andrews and contributing to advances in the treatment of osteoarthritis in knees."

The deal falls in line with inVentiv's focus on partnering up with midsize biotechs, as the CRO touts itself as big enough to support single-product drugmakers pursuing any indication and nimble enough to offer each a bespoke service offering. Since getting bought by a private equity group for $1.1 billion in 2011, the Massachusetts CRO has grown to employ 12,000 people in 40 countries, going beyond clinical research and offering services like legal consulting, policy work and market access.

Meanwhile, the top-heavy CRO space has only further consolidated over the past few years, in part because the largest players have come to see the value of working with emerging drug developers. Quintiles ($Q) shelled out for Novella Clinical last year in an effort to expand its services designed for small drugmakers, and KKR's mega-CRO includes CRI Lifetree, which makes its money assisting emerging companies.

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