50-Year Old Phase I Site and Contract Services Firm Still Running Strong in Lincoln Nebraska

Sep 3, 2019 | Celerion, Phase I Facility, Site

50-Year Old Phase I Site and Contract Services Firm Still Running Strong in Lincoln Nebraska

Lincoln Nebraska-based Celerion probably conducts more Phase I studies, at about 100 (with 1,500 annual participants), than anywhere worldwide. Originally called Harris Labs, it conducted its first clinical trial in 1969. A novel concept at the time founded by Lew Harris, after their first trial they expanded rapidly—setting up a 172-bed testing center in Lincoln and opening up research centers in other cities. The pharmacology specialist has conducted more than 6,000 clinical trials worldwide. Seeing 1,500 per year, they pay out participants about $10 million—averaging $6,666 per patient, which is higher than the industry average.

The Lincoln Journal-Star recently celebrated the notable 50 year accomplishment. Of course, ownership may have changed hands but the operation still goes strong—right in Lincoln (out of 1,000 employees, about 400 are there).

Ownership & Finances

In 1996, they were acquired by MDS Inc. and renamed MDS Harris, followed by MDS Pharma Services. Then in 2010, Celerion bought MDS Pharma Services’ early stage business. The buy-out deal was funded by Bain Capital and SV Life Sciences who became majority owners. In 2014, they went through a successful recapitalization with MTS Capital Health Partners. In November 2017, MTS exited Celerion to Court Square Capital Partners. It is reported that the management team maintains majority ownership.


They have expanded from the 172-bed Phase I testing facility to sites in Belfast, UK (78 beds) and Phoenix, AZ (300 beds).  Belfast is a MHRA-accredited clinic and member of the UK’s Translational Research Partnership in Respiratory. Its Phoenix site, with 300 beds (65 intensive care), is one of the largest early phase clinical bed centers in America. Over the last 5 years, Celerion Phoenix has completed over 300 studies. The Phoenix site is a leader in cardiovascular safety services and has a proven record in conducting ophthalmic studies.

Call to Action: Celerion has a long and successful track record of focus on early-stage, Phase I clinical research with a focus on pharmacology. If this is a current or future need, they could be considered as part of an outsourcing strategy.


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