Covance CEO Says It Will Be “A Shame” If He Can’t Double or Triple Rosetta Lab Growth

7/29/09Follow @xconomy

The world’s largest company that provides contract research services to drugmakers is coming to Seattle, and its CEO has some ambitious plans to grow here (and maybe do a few Cascade hikes while he’s out here too).

That was the upshot from my follow-up conversation with Covance CEO Joe Herring, shortly after the Princeton, NJ-based company (NYSE: CVD) broke the news that it is acquiring the Gene Expression Laboratory at Merck’s former Rosetta Inpharmatics operation in Seattle.

“This is a new day for Rosetta. We plan to invest in it, and grow it,” says Herring.

For those who aren’t familiar with Covance, it’s a huge player in the field of contract research organizations (CROs) who perform all sorts of essential tasks drugmakers must do to develop new treatments—like animal testing, clinical trials, and biostatistical analysis. It is acquiring Merck’s former Rosetta operation in Seattle to make its first big move into gene expression analysis. This is an emerging field of science in which researchers seek ways to find out a genetic basis for why certain patients respond to drugs, and some don’t. As this field of science progresses, researchers hope to better predict which drugs will succeed in clinical trials, saving time and money on the majority of drug candidates that fail.

Covance isn’t disclosing today how much it paid Merck for this division of Rosetta, although that will come out later in regulatory filings, Herring says. But the company plans to retain about 75 to 80 Rosetta employees who worked in that division, and move into their modern space in South Lake Union. While Merck may have had an interest in using this facility to improve its own pipeline of experimental drugs, Covance plans to offer this service to Merck and many of its other clients, Herring says.

“If we can’t double or triple this in a few years, then shame on us,” Herring says.

Covance, as Herring pointed out, has the financial muscle to make this … Next Page »

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