Rho, a contract research organization based in Chapel Hill, has been awarded a 7-year contract valued at $157.1 million from the National Institutes of Health – the largest federal contract in the company’s 31-year history.
The new contract announced this week consolidates what were previously six different awards – five of which were previously held by Rho.
NIH broke the new seven-year contract into two pieces: $16.5 million per year plus “supplemental funds” of $6.8 million the first year and $5.8 million in each of the following years, said Karen Kesler, assistant vice president of operations at Rho.
Despite the additional work involved, the new contract is about 10 percent less than the sum of Rho’s five previous contracts. The company plans to make up for that by “gaining efficiencies via standardization and innovation,” according to Kesler.
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Contract research organizations such as Rho, a privately-held company with 375 employees, help test experimental drugs and analyze the results. Nearly half of Rho’s revenue comes from federal government contracts.
Rho’s latest federal contract calls for it to be the statistical and clinical coordinator on 89 different studies for NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Some are clinical trials of experimental drugs and others are “observational” studies, such as one that aims to predict which patients are likely to reject an organ transplant, Kesler said.
“In general, we’re doing all the work for these clinical studies except dealing with patients,” Kesler said. That includes designing the studies, writing the protocols, collecting and analyzing the data and providing any training that is needed.
Although Rho has been working on many of these projects, the new contract represents “a new direction for us,” Kesler said. “We’re taking this opportunity to sort of stop and say, how can we make this more efficient? How can we bring in more innovation and more technology?”