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Sygnature enters North America with NuChem acquisition

Two fast-growing drug chemistry research firms combine

by Rick Mullin
August 4, 2023


A drug discovery laboratory with researchers in it.
Credit: NuChem Sciences
NuChem's chemistry research lab in Saint-Laurent, Quebec

Sygnature Discovery, a UK-based pharmaceutical contract research organization (CRO), has acquired NuChem Sciences, a Canadian competitor with a staff of over 300 in Montreal and Quebec City. NuChem, which acquired OmegaChem, another Canadian CRO, in 2021, is Canada’s largest chemistry-oriented CRO.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The acquisition, Sygnature’s third in the last 16 months, adds a significant North American operation as the company moves to diversify and grow its drug discovery services business.

In an e-mailed response to queries from C&EN, Sygnature CEO Simon Hirst says the acquisition has several pluses, including the establishment of a trans-Atlantic service firm with access to the Canadian talent market, notably around Montreal. It also brings the company closer to existing and potential customers.

“It’s always been true that a large proportion of our clients are in North America,” Hirst says, “and it’s also been true that the North American market is poorly served by integrated CROs.”

NuChem’s services include medicinal, scale-up, process, and computational chemistry. Other services are drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics, in vitro biology and in vivo pharmacology, and protein chemistry. Sygnature offers a similar range of chemistry- and biology-based preclinical services.

Hirst adds that as a result of the deal, Sygnature will gain chemistry scale-up capabilities from NuChem, whereas the Canadian operation will benefit from Sygnature’s high-throughput screening, biophysics, and ADME (absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion) capabilities.

Sygnature was founded in 2004 and has been expanding ever since. In 2014 it employed 111 people. Several acquisitions followed, most recently Peak Proteins in 2022 and SB Drug Discovery—both based in the UK—this year. With the acquisition of NuChem, Sygnature says its headcount will top 1,000, including 900 drug discovery scientists.

A desire to be more active in the North American contract research market recently resulted in a similar deal. Last year, Symeres, a Dutch firm serving the drug industry, acquired Organix, a Massachusetts-based organic chemistry CRO with a focus on lipids.



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