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Arsenal Acquisition Positions Certara to Reach Deeper into Biopharmaceutical R&D Market

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Arsenal Capital Partners, a New York-based private equity firm, has bought Certara, a provider of model-based drug development and data analytics software and consulting services, from Vector Capital for an undisclosed sum.

Private equity firm Vector Capital has backed Certara since current CEO John Hopkins founded it in 2007. Since the launch, Vector has supported the company's efforts to broaden its product offerings "organically and through acquisitions," expand its global presence, and optimize operations, Hopkins said in a statement. For example, it helped Certara identify and buy the three companies whose products make up its model-based drug development services, which it primarily offers to the biopharmaceutical R&D market.

However, Vector's domain experience is primarily in the technological arena while Arsenal has deeper roots in the pharmaceutical and life science markets, a better grasp of how these industries work, and partnerships with companies in the space that could benefit Certara, Hopkins told BioInform.

Arsenal also shares "the overall vision that we as a company have had about our products," understands "the kinds of technology relationships we have with our clients" and the value of investing in particular product capabilities, he said, all of which make the acquisition a good fit for company and its customers.

Moving forward, Certara says that the change in ownership will not affect current customers who will be able to continue using their products without interruption. Also, there won't be any changes in the company's overall business strategy or to its existing product roadmaps; in fact the company may be able to release new features sooner than planned, according to Hopkins.

Longer term, "our customers will see greater integration between and among our products as a result of the acquisition, so that the output/results of one can be used to feed into another, with less manual involvement, in the next step of the drug development process," he said. "They will also likely see us provide more services around the licensing of our software, to enable clients to get better value out of the software, quicker, and to augment their own staff’s efforts.”

Certara's products are licensed and used bylarge pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, and Eli Lilly, and in government agencies like the US Food and Drug Administration. Its software portfolio comprises products obtained from purchasing Tripos, a discovery informatics software developer; Pharsight, a developer of tools for clinical drug development; and Simcyp, which provides a platform for simulating drug response in virtual patient populations. In 2010, Certara tried to buy Symyx Technologies offering approximately $200 million for the company's intellectual property. Symyx dismissed the offer opting to merge with Accelrys instead.

Certara's most recent acquisition came earlier this year when it bought Brighton, Mich.-based Great Lakes Drug Development to beef up its consulting services unit. Hopkins said that the company and its new shareholder would be open to new mergers or buying additional IP should the opportunity and the right company present themselves.

"We will continue to support the model-based drug development focus that we've had in the past and translational informatics," he said. That’s what Arsenal expects "and they're going to enable us to do it better on a broader scale."

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