Imperial CRS rebrands hikes its clinical trial support work

April 1, 2011
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What started out as a small printing job for a Kalamazoo pharmaceutical company years ago is now a worldwide business in supporting clinical research for Grand Rapids-based Imperial Clinical Research Services, a division of Imperial Graphics.

“Many years ago, we started specializing in accurate and high-quality business forms, and this (clinical research forms) started as a small niche opportunity for us,” Vice President and COO Steve Swanson said. “Imperial Graphics is a legacy aspect to our business. For the last 20 years, we focused very much on the pharmaceutical, bio technical and medical device markets.”

The company was founded in 1945 and printed time cards, said Brandon Bissell, graphics and marketing manager at the company where his father, Matt Bissell, is president and CEO. For many years, the private company was part of home care product company Bissell, and was spun off in 2000.

Today, Imperial has an array of products and services in printing, fulfillment, design and translation services. It makes more than 50,000 shipments to 81 nations annually.

Imperial Clinical Research Services provides project management tools that are used in clinical trials across the world, Bissell said. Imperial CRS recently unveiled a new website and rebranding, presenting a work-flow system that encompasses all of its research services into a single approach called i WoRx.

“We had relationships with some pharmaceutical clients, life sciences clients, who asked us to do some projects that were atypical,” Bissell said. “We worked with them to put together a relatively unique product. That evolved into becoming case report forms … a data collection tool for the clinical trial process.”

That first form for clinical trials gave rise to the development of custom short-run print products and other support services, such as translation, unique to that industry, Bissell said. “Soon enough, our niche eclipsed our commercial print side and really began to take off” around 20 years ago, he said. “We really saw it as a great growth area. We really tried to put our focus and a lot of our resources into developing better and innovative products for them.”

Digital and online applications are changing the shape of the business, he added. “There are also new needs that have evolved and different technologies that have come into play with our customers.”

“Approximately 30 percent of our sales are from products and solutions that didn’t exist five years ago,” Swanson added. “As we have continued to move into areas such as translation services for life sciences industry, patient recruitment, support and educational materials and eClinical support, it’s necessary to be able to connect the brand image with those changes.”

Imperial CRS changed its logo to a life science-friendly blue and green and a horizontal orientation to represent its “beginning to end” services, Bissell said. Services include:

  • Design for trial themes, graphics, educational materials, data collection, compliance, patient recruitment and retention;

  • Translation management, particularly for legal documents that meet the requirements of institutional review boards and ethics committees outside the U.S.;

  • Custom printing and fulfillment of clinical trial related materials worldwide;

  • eClinical Solutions to help study teams with documentation, storage and archived materials related to the tests and well as regulatory reference documents.

Global logistics has become important, as well, Bissell said.

“For the most part, we can get any product anywhere in the world in 48 hours,” he said. “That’s a huge thing to our customers.”

I WoRx is Imperial’s overarching term for the range of its clinical trial services, which are available to customers as a package or in individual, customized pieces, Bissell said.

“I WoRx is what we decided to name our value proposition,” he said. “It’s a structured, yet flexible platform that we operate on.”

Based at 3100 Walkent Drive NW, Imperial has about 150 employees, Bissell said.

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