Chiltern buys Theorem to compete with CRO heavyweights

Two mid-size CROs are slated to merge and contend with the industry's titans, as Chiltern is buying Theorem Clinical Research in a move to strengthen its global presence.

Chiltern, headquartered in the U.K., is paying an undisclosed sum for Pennsylvania's Theorem, bringing in the CRO's roughly 1,500 workers in the Americas, Europe and Asia. Both companies make their money running clinical trials for pharma and biotech sponsors, and Chiltern figures absorbing Theorem's global network of sites and researchers will create a combined entity with complementary strengths.

Through a series of expansions and acquisitions, Chiltern operates via three segments: Chiltern Oncology, focusing on cancer trials; Chiltern Biopharmaceutics, housing the company's traditional drug development arm; and Chiltern Source, which offers transactional research through a functional service provider model. Theorem, by contrast, has paid particular attention to data analytics and eClinical technology, partnering up with Medidata ($MDSO), BioTelemetry and Charles River Laboratories ($CRL) over the years to widen its footprint in the CRO business.

Together, the pair will form a global network of R&D services, Chiltern said, employing upward of 3,700 people in more than 45 countries.

"This is a direct response to client demand for a clinical research partner that can provide scientific and operating strengths globally, in a responsive and flexible way," Chiltern CEO Jim Esinhart said in a statement.

The move comes amid years of consolidation in the CRO world, where mid-size service providers are often snapped up by larger players or acquired by private equity firms and eventually merged with former rivals. KKR set a blueprint for the latter model back in 2013, acquiring PRA Health Sciences ($PRAH), then worth about $1.3 billion, and then merging it with ReSearch Pharmaceutical Services and CRI Lifetree, later going public with a conglomerate that now commands a $2.5 billion market cap.

- read the statement