Growing demand for clinical research across a range of areas like infectious disease and gastroenterology is opening investment opportunities for the Chicago-based PE firm BPOC, said partner Troy Phillips.
BPOC is launching Atlas Clinical Research, a therapeutically driven site network that will be led by Mark Scullion, an experienced pharmaceutical executive.
As part of the investment, Atlas is forming a strategic partnership with Rochester Clinical Research, a New York-based site that has conducted more than 1,000 clinical trials involving 55,000 study volunteers.
PE Hub caught up with Phillips for an exclusive interview ahead of the launch Wednesday to learn what’s driving the investment appetite in the sector.
“Clinical trials are becoming more complex and expensive, causing contract research organizations (CROs) and pharmaceutical sponsors to favor higher quality sites that have a track record of successfully enrolling patients in studies,” Phillips said. “Pharmaceutical companies would prefer to contract for studies with fewer entities who can deliver quality and speed across numerous locations while still delivering on enrollment targets.”
The goal for Atlas is to have numerous sites across the US to expand access to clinical trials and increase the diversity of eligible populations, Phillips said.
Rochester Clinical Research was founded by Patricia Larrabee in 1994 and operates out of a 25,000 square foot facility serving trial volunteers in Rochester, NY, and the surrounding five counties.
The company, which conducts trials across a variety of study topics including cardiovascular, gastroenterology, vaccines, mental health, pain and women’s healthcare, offers a long history of direct pharmaceutical sponsor relationships.
RCR will also bring its experience as an early adopter of innovative technology systems to efficiently deliver clinical trials, “which we will leverage as we build the site network,” explained Phillips.
Cantor Fitzgerald, working with RCR to find a financial partner, contacted BPOC last fall, Phillips said. Through numerous meetings with the Larrabee family and Mark Scullion, Phillips said it was clear they had a shared view on how to accelerate the growth of RCR as the initial platform for the Atlas Clinical Research site network.
“RCR is a founder owned and managed company where BPOC will be in the first institutional capital, bringing executive talent, growth and acquisition capital, and additional operational resources to accelerate the growth of the platform both organically and inorganically,” he said.
Larrabee is joining the board of Atlas in an advisory role.
BPOC, which seeks to form partnerships with founder-led companies, has had similar partnerships in the past. In early 2022, the firm formed Bond Orthodontic Partners, a platform led by Azar Zaidi. In the first year, Phillips said Bond showed some success and formed 13 practice partnerships, with numerous others in the pipeline.
In terms of scaling Atlas, BPOC will pursue add-on acquisitions of clinical research sites with a focus on therapeutic areas such as cardiovascular, central nervous system, gastrointestinal and infectious diseases. “We currently have two add-on acquisitions under letters of intent and a robust pipeline of other opportunities that we continue to pursue,” added Phillips.
With the growing demand of clinical research, finding exit opportunities should not be an issue for BPOC, Phillips said. “We believe that both larger financial sponsors and strategic acquirers will be interested in Atlas Clinical Research. Very few clinical research site networks of scale exist that can serve as a platform for larger sponsors given the fragmentation of the industry.”