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£163million sale of Concept Life Sciences Group to Spectris is 'good news for clients'

By Paul Brackley

A Concept Life Sciences Group lab
A Concept Life Sciences Group lab

Concept COO John Handley says acquisition will herald further growth for Bar Hill company

Dr John Handley, chief operating officer at Concept Life Sciences
Dr John Handley, chief operating officer at Concept Life Sciences

The £163million sale of Concept Life Sciences Group just four years after it was formed will be good news for clients, the chief operating officer has told the Cambridge Independent.

The company, which has a base in Bar Hill, was acquired in January by Spectris, an instrumentation and controls business headquartered in Egham, Surrey.

Concept offers drug discovery, development and analytical services to life sciences companies and environmental consultancy. It now has 11 sites and employs 700 people, including 500 scientists, and serves pharma, biotech, food, environmental, agrochemical, biocide, chemical and consumer sectors.

It will become a new high-growth area for Spectris, working as a separate operating company within its materials analysis segment, where it has strong synergies with Spectris company Malvern Panalytical.

Concept’s chief operating officer John Handley told the Cambridge Independent: “We are all really pleased. It’s a good fit both culturally and vision-wise.

“Spectris has a really good team and welcomed us in quickly. There is a good fit between our two senior teams.

“The message to staff is that it’s business as usual. Spectris has made it quite clear that they want to carry on the business as we’ve been doing but with help and guidance from them and, obviously, investment.”

And that’s not surprising. Concept achieved significant growth in 2015-17, driven both organically and through mergers and acquisitions. It reports revenues for last year of about $60million.

It acquired immunotherapy business Aquila Biomedical, expanding its reach in integrated drug discovery and development services. It also opened new laboratories at Alderley Park science hub in Cheshire last August.

John said: “As the company has come together, there has been a good choice of complementary acquisitions by the chairman Michael Fort to bring growth.

“It was an ambitious plan and it’s clearly worked. You’ve got to take your hat off to staff because of their effort to come on board with the goals of Michael and the team.

“We’ve got ambitious growth plans for this year including development of sites – the Cambridge site in particular – and we’re looking forward to bringing more staff on.”

John said the number employed at the site in The Links, Bar Hill, will grow as services are added.

“It offers some really good analytical techniques. We want to broaden the scope and bring in some new client services and expand the offering,” he said.

Synergies with Spectris’ molecular testing and analysis expertise will provide Concept’s customers with access to a broader range of services.

“We will not only be able to use some of their kit but also talk to some of their development scientists to help us improve our methodologies in services for our clients. And vice versa, they can talk to some of our clients who may be interested in using some of their instruments,” said John.

Concept has worked with firms from small biotechs to the top 10 pharma companies.

“Some of the smaller biotechs don’t have the facilities and we can take on the whole package. For others, we may just facilitate a small part of it,” John explained.

Concept’s executive chairman Michael Fort, who will continue to run the business, said: “Concept was positioning for a sale in late 2018/early 2019, and we are therefore delighted that our success has been recognised by Spectris, leading to an earlier than planned acquisition.

“The global footprint of Spectris along with their expertise in complementary activities and experienced management team offers the infrastructure to support Concept’s ambitions for international growth.”

Spectris chief executive John O’Higgins added: “Concept is a high-quality services business, which further strengthens our portfolio and enhances our ability to provide customers within the pharmaceutical, life sciences and advanced materials sectors with a combined product and service proposition.”

Spectris reported 2016 revenues of £1,346million with operating profit of £201million and low debt.

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