Dr. Steve Cutler, CEO, Icon Plc
Dr. Steve Cutler, CEOWith the ever-increasing research and development operations for the pharmaceutical industries, the cost and time of bringing a drug to market have been increasing significantly. However, as clinical trials require a host of complex activities, including protocol design, clinical development, commercialisation and so on, pharmaceutical companies need a partner that can help bring new drugs or devices to the market faster, more efficiently, and at a lower cost. To this end, pharmaceutical companies are increasingly outsourcing critical functions to the contract research organisations (CROs) that play a crucial role in all aspects of the drug or device development process, from initial discovery to launch of drugs and treatment.

This is where Dublin-based ICON plc (NASDAQ: ICLR) comes to the picture with a full range of consulting, development and commercialization services that enable pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical device, and government and public health organisations to accelerate the development of drugs and devices. The company develops integrated technologies to significantly enhance the efficiency and productivity of its clients’ drug and device development programs, providing true transparency across all areas of a study.

Design, Delivery, Engagement, and Commercialisation

Icon’s information hub, ICONIK analyses the operational, clinical, and real-world data collected during clinical development that enhances the design and delivery of projects and strengthens engagement with investigators and patients. The platform has four modules—Design, Delivery, Engagement, and Commercialisation—that provides end-to-end support to clients in their clinical trial journey. The first module ICONIK Design accesses clinical and real-world data to enhance protocol design, profile/match patients to trials, and develop models to assess the impact on timing and cost. The second module of the ICON’s information hub, ICONIK delivery Collects real-time data during the trial process enabling better decision making and the successful implementation of clinical trial strategies that significantly improve efficiency in clinical trials.

Moreover, the third module, ICONIK Engagement, uses data and evidence-based research to develop solutions that effectively engage investigators and patients to improve patient recruitment and retention. And finally, ICONIK Commercialisation leverages real-world data analysis from multiple sources to enable deeper insights into the safety and value of new treatments. This enables commercialisation strategies and provides effective engagement plans for payers, prescribers, and regulators.

The Firecrest solution

Icon also delivers a patient engagement platform to connect patients with the right trail at the right location.

Icon Plc : Raising The Bar In Clinical Excellence

It features an easy to navigate, user-friendly website enabling patients to explore new and ongoing studies available, opt-in and connect with their nearest clinical research site.

We went very close to making a significant acquisition about four years ago when I first came into the job. And over that period of time, we’ve been, looking at the market, looking at our competitors

Additionally, One Search an intuitive, integrated workflow and interrogation tool from ICON, enables access to multiple data sources and provides the visualisation and tools necessary for optimum site identification based on ICON and industry data of capability, experience and performance. More importantly, ICON’s Firecrest solution provides clients with tools for seamless online training, help them to efficiently tackle the challenges of site engagement with the onset of Covid 19.

In the middle of a pandemic, everyone just assumed companies running clinical trials on vaccines had more than enough to occupy them. The pharma companies might be grabbing the headlines as they raced to deliver a vaccine against a killer virus, but it was the clinical trials companies that did much of the heavy lifting. So when ICON announced it was taking over US-based PRA Health Services in a $12 billion cash and stock deal, it was a moment to sit up and take notice. But as ICON’s CEO, Steve Cutler sees it, Covid merely confirmed a decision the company had already reached. “We went very close to making a significant acquisition about four years ago when I first came into the job. And over that period of time, we’ve been, looking at the market, looking at our competitors,” he says. That research identified PRA as a possible target, a strong competitor but, in Cutler’s words, a good cultural fit.

ICON still has around 1,000 people working on the ongoing Pfizer / BioNTech trial. That trial and derogations of that trial continue on and will continue on for a couple of years really. There’s still work to go in that area.

Established in 1990 with five people, ICON now employs almost 38000 people across 151 locations in 46 countries. The company has achieved such tremendous growth through many strategic acquisitions, which have broadened its service portfolio and added scale to existing services. This helped the company be recognised as one of the world’s leading contract research organisations through many high-profile industry awards.
In the future, ICON plans to add more services and solutions in its already robust offering to help its clients conduct timely and cost-effective clinical trials.

Acquisition and the Way Ahead

ICON recently announced the acquisition of PRA Health Sciences, Inc, in a cash and stock transaction valued at approximately $12 billion, with the per share merger consideration consisting of $80 in cash and 0.4125 shares of ICON stock. The consideration represents an approximately 30 percent premium to PRA’s closing price of February 23rd, 2021. Dr Cutler mentions, “The combined company will create a new paradigm for accelerating clinical research and bringing new medicines and devices to market. Both ICON and PRA have track records of robust growth and performance and we are ready to build on this unrivalled position of strength, utilising the outstanding talent in both organisations.”

  • Both ICON and PRA have track records of robust growth and performance and we are ready to build on this unrivalled position of strength, utilising the outstanding talent in both organisations

Colin Shannon, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, PRA Health Sciences, says, “I joined PRA 13 years ago to help build a company that would make a difference in the world and transform the way we developed new medicines. The way we do it now takes far too long and costs far too much. Critically ill patients can’t wait for cures. Underserved populations can’t wait for access. Every day counts. COVID-19 created a platform for change that we cannot ignore.”

Under the terms of the transaction, PRA shareholders will receive per share $80 in cash and 0.4125 shares of ICON stock. Upon completion of the transaction, PRA shareholders will own approximately 34 per cent of the shares of the combined company and ICON shareholders will own approximately 66 per cent. The combined company will be headquartered in Dublin, Ireland. Dr. Steve Cutler, Chief Executive Officer of ICON plc, will serve as Chief Executive Officer of the combined company and Brendan Brennan, Chief Financial Officer of ICON plc, will serve as Chief Financial Officer. Ciaran Murray will serve as the Chairman of the Board of Directors. Current PRA Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Colin Shannon will join the board post the closing of the transaction along with one additional board member from PRA.
- Jeremy Williams
    September 06, 2021