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"Globalization" the key word for today's pharma CEOs

Frank Vinluan on September 26, 2011 Source: MedCityNews.com

PPD's (NYSE:PPDI) new CEO Ray Hill doesn’t come from a clinical research organization, but his experience fits with where the CRO industry is going.

IMS Health provides data and research for pharmaceutical companies and others in the health space. As a provider of research and services to pharma companies, IMS’ work is not far off from what many CROs offer, said John Kreger, analyst with William Blair. More important, pharmaceutical companies are becoming more global and so too must the CROs who serve them. Kreger, who followed IMS when it was a public company, notes that the firm does work in more than 100 countries. Hill’s global knowledge and experience will help PPD as it seeks to build its business globally.

“He’s not directly from the CRO world, but he’s not that far from it,” Kreger said in an interview.

Hill’s announcement as the new PPD CEO has dampened expectations that the company would soon be acquired by private equity. PPD has reportedly been in talks with private equity firms, particularly The Carlyle Group, about a deal. A new CEO could be a condition of a sale, Kreger said. But at the same time, Kreger reads the announcement of Hill’s hire as a sign that a sales deal is not imminent. It’s unlikely the company would release two major company announcements close together, he reasoned.

PPD has not made Hill available for comment, save for a prepared statement in which he says he looks forward to working with PPD as the company responds to clients’ challenges “maximizing their R&D spend and successfully navigating an increasingly complex global environment.” The statement is suggestive of Hill’s priorities.

CROs are looking to boost their global capabilities as they position themselves to meet the research and drug commercialization objectives of pharmaceutical companies. Those global ambitions have led to a flurry of CRO M&A activity as smaller CROs look to add to their footprint and build scale. PPD is already a global CRO employing more than 11,000 in 44 countries. But the company sees particular opportunities in Asia. So too does Hill.

Hill’s IMS work has involved global analysis of the pharmaceutical opportunities, specifically the opportunities presented by emerging markets. In 2009, Hill and IMS colleague Mandy Chui penned a piece for Pharmaceutical Executive magazine describing drug commercialization opportunities in emerging markets, which they termed “pharmerging markets.” China stood out as the biggest pharma opportunity given the growth projections of the market. While Europe and the United States experience single-digit pharmaceutical sales growth, Hill and Chui characterized China as a “rising tiger.”

“China’s pharmaceutical market, which was the world’s eighth largest in 2006, is projected to climb to third place by 2013,” they wrote. “By 2020, China is set to be the world’s largest economy, with GDP growth steadily rising faster than other pharmerging countries like Brazil, India, and Russia.”

PPD’s designs on China are apparent. In 2009, the CRO acquired two China-based companies, drug discovery firm BioDuro and Excel PharmaStudies, a CRO. Of the 1,400 PPD employees in the Asia Pacific region, more than 1,000 work in China.

DealReporter recently reported that The Carlyle Group is “still doing the work” on a bid for PPD. DealReporter’s unnamed source added that an acquisition is “not a done deal by any means.” If a PPD sale happens, Carlyle may have in mind changes it wants to make to the CRO. If not, PPD has at its helm a CRO who understands big pharma’s global goals as well as the steps CROs need to take to achieve them.

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