A twelve-month training will lead to clinical research associate positions.

Pharmaceutical Product Development (PPD), one of the largest contract research organizations to the pharmaceutical industry, has launched an apprenticeship program targeted specifically at military veterans and military service members with medical backgrounds who are transitioning to the civilian workforce. Veterans will be able to train for 12 months to become a clinical research associate (CRA).

The program, the first of its kind in the industry, began in March in North Carolina, Texas and California, following approvals from NCWorks, which is the North Carolina approving agency for the Department of Labor, and from the Office of Apprenticeship in the other two states.

The training takes place through PPD’s CRA academy and on-the-job learning. It will provide exposure to three clinical roles, enabling apprentices to integrate gradually into the contract research industry. PPD is in charge of the coordination, administrative processes and all programming aspects, including recruitment and marketing.

This is believed to be a personal initiative by COO William Sharbaugh, himself a veteran, who is keen to provide viable career opportunities to those leaving the U.S. military. Sharbaugh said that the program “recognizes the skills of veterans and transitioning service members with medical backgrounds who, through their service, have developed the requisite skills of leadership and who are motivated to join us in helping deliver life-changing medicines.”

Earlier in March, PPD revealed that Training magazine had named it in the ‘Top 125’ list of businesses that excel in employee learning and development for the sixth consecutive year. The list honors companies that demonstrate measurable results from effective employee learning and development.

“PPD did a stellar job of proving its training effectiveness with concrete results that helped achieve corporate strategic goals,” said Lorri Freifeld, editor-in-chief of Training. “It demonstrated an organization-wide commitment to and passion for employee training and development that resulted in high levels of employee engagement and performance.”

The company has also just appeared for the second consecutive year in the Process Excellence Network Awards, which recognize best practices in business processes, featuring companies that improve quality and efficiency by using process methodologies and managing strategic goals and change. It was placed in the Best Business Process Improvement Program Over Two Years category for its rollout of Lean Six Sigma, and in the Best Business Transformation Project for its virtual investigator meeting program.

Also in March, PPD renewed its long-standing contract with the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases’ Division of AIDS. This has run since 1990 and will now continue to 2024. It covers support for a broad scope of research related to HIV or HIV co-infections, including monitoring therapeutic trials, prevention trials and vaccine work.

Finally, as part of Rare Disease Day on 28 February, PPD established its own Rare Disease & Pediatric Center of Excellence. It will be led by Dr. Karen Kaucic and will focus a dedicated team on the design and execution of clinical trials that address the specific strategic, operational, medical and scientific challenges in both fields. During the past five years, PPD has conducted over 220 studies in rare diseases and over 400 clinical trials in pediatric medicines.

According to Reuters, PPD’s private equity owners, Carlyle Group and Hellman & Friedman, are currently in advanced talks to sell some of their stakes to investors including Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC and Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. A figure valuing PPD at about $9 billion has been mooted.

The two currently own 60% and 40% respectively and will retain more than half of the company, it is suggested. Negotiations are expected to continue throughout April. A possible deal for PPD has been in the air for over a year, with a $8 billion offer medical testing giant LabCorp, Covance’s owner, being mentioned in February.

It has also been reported that an offer from Pamplona Capital Management was considered but rejected earlier this month because the valuation was deemed too low. Since Carlyle and Hellman & Friedman paid $3.9 billion to take PPD private in 2011, EBITDA has doubled to $340 million.