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An Amherst-based pharmaceutical research firm has moved into larger offices and received a $45,000 training grant to hire additional employees as it tackles new projects in the growing global drug development market.

Cognigen, previously named Pharmaceutical Outcomes Research, has an immediate need for at least 20 new employees to serve its growing client base of drug companies. The local firm has contracts with Bristol-Myers Squibb, Pharmacia and several Japanese drug companies which it could not disclose because of confidentiality agreements.

The company has 35 total job openings, but is having trouble finding qualified applicants.

"It's an interesting mix of people we need. It's computer programmers, scientists, administrative assistants and quality assurance coordinators," said Cognigen President Thaddeus H. Grasela. "We're willing to train people, but we're having trouble finding people with the rudimentary skills that we can build on."

The company has been awarded a $45,000 training grant from the Empire State Development Corp.

Cognigen, which has 65 employees, relocated this month from its cramped 9,000-square-foot office on Lawrence Bell Drive to 25,000-square-feet of leased space in a building owned by Ingram Micro at 395 Youngs Road.

The 8-year-old company developed software which analyzes data from clinical drug trials. Cognigen, privately owned by Grasela, Cynthia Walawander and Jill Fiedler-Kelly, generates revenue by helping drug companies get new drugs through clinical testing.

The average development cycle for a new drug is 12 to 15 years at a cost of about $500 million, according to Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. Only one in five drugs which reach clinical testing in humans is ultimately approved for sale. The pharmaceutical industry is also going global through a coalition of industry and government leaders in the U.S., Europe and Asia. The International Conference on Harmonization is gradually establishing uniform regulatory standards for drug testing across international borders.

Cognigen helps analyze data from clinical trials in different countries, factoring in differences in nutrition and medical customs between countries.

"We're helping the drug companies design experiments so the results can be pooled in a global database," said Grasela, a former University at Buffalo researcher.

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