Columbia Labs inches forward in its first quarter as a CRO

Columbia Laboratories CEO Frank Condella

After numerous setbacks and transitional moves, Columbia Laboratories ($CBRX) has settled into its new identity as a CRO, closing its first full quarter of CRO revenue and plotting a brighter future.

Columbia's revenue grew 10% to $7.8 million in the fourth quarter, as $3 million in newfound service revenue propped up a 29% decline in royalties tied to Crinone, a fertility gel marketed by Actavis ($ACT) in the U.S. and Merck Serono overseas.

And, thanks to Merck Serono's unpredictability, the company said it can hardly count on a steady stream of Crinone revenue, which is where its focus on contract services comes in. In September, Columbia bought U.K. CRO Molecular Profiles for $25 million, and CEO Frank Condella said that deal will light the way for his company's future.

"This world-class provider of pharmaceutical development, clinical trial manufacturing, and advanced analytical and consulting services was a key contributor to our double-digit revenue growth, and the combined entity is benefiting from multiple synergies," Frank said in a statement. "We entered 2014 with a strong balance sheet and the right elements in place to deliver long-term revenue growth."

Columbia's shift came after a 2012 FDA rejection for its progesterone gel designed to lower the risk of pre-term births. The company laid off 42% of its staff in the ensuing months, holding onto contracts with Actavis and Merck Serono as its only sources of income.

- read the results