Quotient Clinical is the latest CRO snapped up by private equity

U.K. CRO Quotient Clinical is now the property of private equity outfit Bridgepoint Development Capital, joining the crowd of pharma contractors signing up to be acquired in a fast-consolidating industry.

For an undisclosed sum, Bridgepoint gets a 200-employee CRO that makes its money off Big Pharma and mid-sized biotechs across the U.S. and Europe, including 17 of the world's 20 largest drugmakers, the company says. Quotient's operation amounts to two U.K. facilities, in Nottingham and Edinburgh, and Bridgepoint figures the market for the CRO's services hovers around $400 million a year.

For Bridgepoint, the deal buys it back into the CRO world after it unloaded service provider Aenova last year, and partner Alan Payne said in a statement that Quotient "serves a substantial and growing market, and there is significant opportunity to increase market penetration thanks to its combination of unique service offering, strong regulatory governance and a talented management team."

Quotient's buyout comes amid a wave of private equity interest in CROs, headlined by KKR and its multibillion-dollar deal to snatch and merge PRA, ReSearch Pharmaceutical Services and CRI Lifetree, rolling them into what it calls the world's fourth-largest pharma contractor. That deal follows Carlyle and Hellman & Friedman's $3.9 billion acquisition of PPD in 2011 and a $1.1 billion leveraged buyout that took inVentiv Health off the public market the same year.

And the trend is unlikely to subside anytime soon. The global CRO market is predicted to keep growing at mid-single digits each year, and big exits--like the one Quintiles' ($Q) private equity owners landed in its nearly $1 billion IPO--are likely to keep deep-pocketed firms interested in the sector.

- read the announcement