Last month, BBK Worldwide, a technology-savvy patient recruitment firm, opened a new office in Los Angeles to complement headquarters in Boston and satellite locations in London, Prague and Osaka. Biotechnology companies of all sizes, in Los Angeles and San Diego, were the draw for the new location.

But for Bonnie Brescia, a founding principal of the company, Los Angeles also has strategic value. For her and for employees who are traveling widely, it's a regional base close to other locations in California and to Asia.

"We're all spending a lot more time moving around the world," says Brescia. "We've got a lot more activity in Asia."

Strategic Teams

For customers who need BBK's boutique help with patient recruitment, she says, the firm tries to have both domain experts available for special trips, and local personnel who can drop by with more regularity. "When you're part of the strategic planning group, that proximity is appreciated by everybody," she says.

Brescia concedes that plenty of competitors in patient recruitment claim to be able to find patients for trials with ease. But her firm has focused on scientifically and clinically sophisticated pitches to patients—as well as proprietary technology to tie patient recruitment techniques to each other and to systems from other vendors.

"Patient recruitment is a special discipline and people come to appreciate it's different than contract research organizations can provide," says Brescia. "The tools we've developed for the last 10-12 years are significantly different and offer more benefits and value. But almost everybody in patient recruitment says they have something." Using any firm's offering on a real project, she says, may be the best way to test whether performance measures up to marketing promises.

Looking Forward

In some cases, one relatively recent trend is that BBK is helping on multiple projects around a single therapeutic area that has tested a sponsor's internal ability to find research subjects.

She says many clients are trying to assess the recruitment implications of social networking websites like Twitter and Facebook. The latest version of BBK's technology platform has improved communications tools.

On balance, she says, the mood among her clients has turned from apprehensive about the economy to enthusiastic about their own prospects. "People are reenergized now in general," Brescia says. "There are still worries about job loss, but it seems to be more on the sales side than the research side at this moment."

_Here's an earlier article on BBK.