Premier Research to create 260 jobs in Durham

Premier Research, a Philadelphia-based company that runs clinical drug trials for drug makers, announced Tuesday that it plans to add 260 jobs in Durham over the next 5 years.

The company will invest $4.1 million, expanding its leased Durham office, where it now employs 62 people.

Premier was awarded a state incentives package worth up to $2.58 million if it meets hiring and investment milestones. The state incentives are contingent on Durham County offering the company a local incentives package.

Contract research organizations such as Premier both help drug companies test experimental medicines and analyze the results for effectiveness and safety in advance of seeking regulatory approval to sell the drugs to the public. The Triangle is an epicenter of the CRO industry, with three large publicly-traded companies based here – Quintiles, PRA Health Sciences and INC Research – as well as numerous privately held firms.

Premier specializes in developing drugs for unmet needs and rare diseases, and conducts about 100 clinical trials at any given time. The trials can range from several dozen patients to several thousand patients, said Sean Russell, the company’s chief commercial officer. Most of the drug testing is done at hospitals, where Premier selects and trains the providers, managing the trial and collecting and analyzing data, Russell said.

Premier plans to establish its North American operations center in Durham to support its offices and customers throughout the continent. The new jobs will include project managers, clinical monitors and data management specialists. The average annual wage will be $73,296, above the Durham County average of $66,599.

The company selected the Triangle for its operations hub over locations in Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and Austin, Tex., said CEO Ludo Reynders. The region is home to dozens of life sciences companies and leading universities and offers ample opportunities to find talent, he said.

“We decided to concentrate everything in one operations hub,” Reynders said. “We plan to hire new people – we’re not in the business of moving people.”

Premier, founded in 1989, employs more than 900 people globally, mostly in the United States and Europe.

Premier’s total incentives package could be valued up to $3 million. The company was awarded a state Job Development Investment Grant worth up to $2.58 million. The additional incentives would come from local sources.

Premier first opened an office in the Triangle in 2010. Reynders said the Durham hub will continue supporting clinical trials as it does now, except on a larger scale. On Tuesday, he offered a brief tour of the company’s office, noting that there’s little to see except employees seated in cubicles remotely managing hospital contracts, analyzing drug testing data, and monitoring patient safety.

Premier focuses on testing drugs in the fields of analgesia, psychiatry, neurological disorders, attention deficit disorders and hyperactivity disorders.

“We tend to concentrate on things like behavioral studies and addiction,” Reynders said.

Russell, Premier’s chief commercial officer, said Premier is expanding to meet demand from the rapidly growing biotechnology sector of the pharmaceutical industry. He said this sector comprises smaller companies that develop treatments for unusual and complex diseases.

John Murawski: 919-829-8932, @johnmurawski