BioWorld International Correspondent

PARIS - Cerep SA plans to acquire the Swiss clinical development services company Hesperion AG by purchasing 100 percent of its outstanding shares for CHF16.1 million (US$12.9 million).

Actelion Ltd., of Allschwil, Switzerland, owns 70 percent of Hesperion, while the other 30 percent of its equity is held by Hesperion management and staff.

The deal is due to be finalized in the coming weeks, having already been approved by the boards of Hesperion, Actelion and Cerep and by the management of Hesperion, following completion of due diligence procedures.

Hesperion was founded in 1996 and has its headquarters in Basel, as well as regional offices in the Netherlands and Israel. It performs both consulting and full or modular operational services ranging from clinical concept to regulatory submission. It uses a technology called H-System, which is a set of Internet-based tools linked to commercial data-management systems that are specifically designed for the monitoring, data management and evaluation of clinical development programs.

Hesperion, which employs 130 people and generated revenues of CHF17 million in 2003, would become a wholly owned subsidiary of Cerep, of Rueil-Malmaison, operating as an autonomous business unit under its own name. Cerep already provides a range of drug discovery and pharmacological profiling services to the biopharmaceutical industry, and CEO Thierry Jean said the acquisition of Hesperion would enable it to offer an "even wider range of services to our 290 clients." He stressed that Hesperion had achieved "sustained growth" and "shown its ability to be profitable," saying he expected Hesperion to "contribute positively to Cerep's bottom line" in 2004.

Cerep confirmed that all of Hesperion's service contracts would be honored and would not be affected by the takeover.

Actelion's CEO Jean-Paul Clozel said the firm would "continue to use Hesperion as our preferred CRO for our rapidly expanding range of clinical trials."