Advarra buys Boutique IRB as PEG-Backed, Consolidators Push Ahead in COVID-19 World

Advarra buys Boutique IRB as PEG-Backed, Consolidators Push Ahead in COVID-19 World

Central institutional review board (IRB) consolidator Advarra has acquired another firm—this time a boutique IRB firm called IRBco. This purchase represents the ongoing march of private equity-backed central firms (the other major one being WCG) to further consolidate and rationalize the market for integrated and seamless offerings bundling clinical research services (including IRB), technology and quality and compliance services. The driver: bundled suites of services and products that make the work of clinical research faster and more efficient.

Who is Advarra?

The company works as a premier provider of institutional review board (IRB), institutional biosafety committee (IBC), research technology solutions, and quality and compliance consulting services. Their emphasis: offer the market an easy-to-use suite of products and services that streamline processes, create efficiencies, and support research compliance without confusion. A core operating assumptions: that the research community seeks to procure integrated, seamless solutions that help them advance healthcare in more meaningful ways. Advarra positions to the market that it maintains the greatest institutional research of any independent IRB, serving well over 3,200 research institutions, hospital systems, and academic medical centers. Their offerings include first and foremost IRB, IBC, consulting, and research technology products such as OnCore CTMS.


Advarra positions its offerings to “set the standard in quality, easy document accessibility, and review turnaround time.” They recently made investments to enhance their digital, cloud-based submission and review platform known as the Advarra Center for IRB Intelligence (CIRBI®)Platform. They position the company as a leader in the protection of human research participants with therapeutic review services including Central Oncology Review (COR) and Central Neurology Review (CNR). They have purchased other technologies (Forte Research for research center electronic data capture, clinical trial management and regulatory trial master file management) and a number of consultancies with specialized expertise and talent.

Who is IRBco?

IRBco is a fully accredited private institutional review board (IRB) offering central and single site IRB services for pharmaceutical companies, biotechnology companies, medical device companies, CROs, clinical research units, universities and individual researchers since 1981. Based in Southern California, they employ about 25 to 35 professionals.

Advarra Comment

Gadi Saarony, CEO of Advarra, reported, “Advarra builds on its commitment to advance human health and better enable clinical trials with this acquisition.” He continued IRBco studies will be fully integrated with Advarra in a matter of weeks, and we look forward to the additional talent and board of expertise this will bring to our organization. We will maintain our focus on developing altogether better capabilities that serve clients and protect research participants.”

Note on COVID-19 & Clinical Trial Vendor Consolidation

TrialSite News has observed a considerable slow down in many clinical research programs since the outbreak of the SARS-CoVI-2 pandemic. Many multinational pharmaceutical companies announced temporary holds on studies, for example as they shifted resources to address the investigation into vaccines, therapies, tests and other activities. The biggest firms with considerable sums of capital will sustain with few problems but small to mid-sized companies could face some business or financial challenges. Hence, clinical trials sector vendor consolidation pressure may intensify.  Advarra, private equity-backed, fits into a category of firm that arises out of the IRB world. Its chief competitor, WCG (also private equity-backed) are neck-in-neck in a competitive race. WCG has acquired many firms and is backed by private equity firms, such as Leonard Green & Partners. TrialSite News discussed this trend in another article covering a Advarra acquisition.

A Flurry of Partnership Activity

Advarra recently announced a flurry of partnership activity including the inking of an alliance with Science37 (to expedite virtual trial-enabled research); participation in a COVID-19 clinical research database coalition; the introduction COVID-19 support services and the announcement of new CEO Gadi Saarony


Advarra was acquired by private equity group San Francisco-based Genstar Capital in 2019. Previously an asset of Chicago-based Linden Capital Partners, it was formed via the merging of three major IRB’s including Chesapeake IRB and Schulman IRB, Quorum Review IRB as well as Kinetiq to the organization in 2019.

Genstar executes leveraged buyout transactions in middle market companies based in North America. Founded in 1988, the firm has approximately $17 billion in assets under management. In addition to healthcare, they center attention in the financial services sector as well as software and industrial technology.

Call to Action: Interestingly, TrialSite News has been approached by several research sites (of the large academic medical center variety) to offer our perspective on the topic of central IRB and consolidation of associated vendors.  Feel free to reach out.


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