Covance Inc. with headquarters in Princeton, New Jersey, is a contract research organization (CRO) providing drug development and animal testing services. According to its website, it is one of the largest companies of its kind in the world, with annual revenues of over $2 billion, and over 15,000 employees in more than 60 countries. It claims to provide the world's largest central laboratory network. It became a publicly traded company after being spun off by Corning Incorporated in 1996. In 2011 it was listed as one of the top 100 employers by the Diversity Employers Magazine.
Under the name Covance Research Products Inc., based in Denver, Pennsylvania, the company also deals in the import, breeding and sale of laboratory animals. It breeds dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, non-human primates, and pigs, and runs the largest non-human primate laboratory in Germany. The company became the subject of controversy following allegations in 2003–2005 by the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals that non-human primates were being abused in its laboratories in Germany and the United States. No violations of the law were found by the authorities in the first case, and a small fine was levied in the second. In response, the company drew up a new welfare code to guide its treatment of laboratory animals.
On November 3rd, 2014, Labcorp announced it would be purchasing Covance for $6.1 billion.
Covance's origins go back to 1968, when Environmental Sciences Corporation – which manufactured equipment related to laboratory animals – opened for business in the basement of a former grocery store in Seattle, Washington. In 1972 it purchased and took the name of Hazleton Laboratories, a contract laboratory that conducted toxicology testing. In 1977 Corning Glass Works purchased a stake in Hazleton. According to material on the Funding Universe website, by 1982 Hazleton had become the largest independent biological testing company and life sciences laboratory in the United States, as well as the largest manufacturer of laboratory equipment in the world. The company carried out toxicology tests on animals of drugs, cosmetics, pesticides, and industrial chemicals, and bred rhesus monkeys and beagles for its own labs, as well as for chemical and drug companies, hospitals, universities and government agencies. Funding Universe writes that it also offered chemical analysis of new compound products for various industries, tested chemicals for gene mutations, and carried out research with monoclonal antibodies.
In 1989 Corning Glass Works purchased G.H. Besselaar Associates, which conducted clinical trials to help drugs gain approval from the Food and Drug Administration, and Hazleton purchased Microtest Ltd., a molecular toxicology center in York, England. Corning Glass Works then changed its name to Corning, and created Corning Lab Services, which included Besselaar and Hazelton. In 1991 and 1992 Corning Lab Services acquired SciCor and Philadelphia Association of Clinical Trials; in 1993 Hazleton, Besselaar, and SciCor were combined, becoming Corning Pharmaceutical Services, then Corning Life Sciences. On January 9, 1995, Coring Pharmaceutical Services announced the acquisition of National Packaging Systems, Inc., an Allentown, PA based clinical trial packaging company; the company was renamed Corning National Packaging Inc. In April 1996 Corning spun off its lab testing and pharmaceutical services, creating two new companies, Quest Diagnostics and Covance, the latter with a head office in Princeton, New Jersey. Corning National Packaging Inc, with facilities in Allentown, PA, Horsham, England, and Basel, Switzerland was rebranded as Covance Pharmaceutical Packaging Services Inc.
By 1998 Covance had net revenues of $731.6 million and a net income of $48.6 million. By 2012 it had annual revenues of over $2 billion, and over 11,000 employees in more than 60 countries.
On February 14, 2001, Covance completed the sale of Covance Pharmaecutical Packaging Services Inc., later renamed Fisher Clinical Services, to Fisher Scientific International for a sum of $137.5 million. The net proceeds from the sale, approximately $110 million, were used to repay other Covance debt.
The company's primary focus is serving the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. As part of its clinical and non-clinical development services, it provides testing services to the environmental, food, and nutritional-supplement industries, and provides custom antibody products and services to the research community for neurological disorders. It also offers cell-type-specific marker antibodies for neuroscience; suites of products for both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease; and an online antibody store, including phospho-specific and secondary antibodies.
The company provides commercialization services to pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical-device companies. Reimbursement and health economics consulting services are offered through its “Market Access Services” division, and post-approval services are provided through the company’s periapproval services group. Covance's Nutrition division provides food and dietary supplements analysis services. In 2009 Covance and Kellogg announced that Covance will provide analytical chemistry, microbiology, and stability testing for Kellogg products, a deal valued at $42 million.
Covance continued its expansion with acquisitions of drug-development companies. In August 2005 it acquired GFI Clinical Services, an 80-bed clinical pharmacology business, from West Pharmaceutical Services, Inc. In May 2006 it acquired Signet Laboratories, Inc., a provider of monoclonal antibodies used in the research of cancer, infectious disease and neurodegenerative disease. In August 2008 it purchased early drug development facilities in Greenfield, Indiana, from Eli Lilly for $50 million; in a contract valued at $1.6 billion, Covance agreed to provide Eli Lilly with drug development services for 10 years. It also planned to provide services to other pharmaceutical and biotechnology clients at the Greenfield site.
Covance's Nutritional Chemistry and Food Safety(NCFS) testing capabilities are extended with a new 10,000 sqft NCFS laboratory opened in Harrogate, England. The lab complements services delivered from Madison, WI; Battle Creek, MI; Greenfield, IN; and Singapore.
A division of the company, Covance Research Products, Inc. (CRP), based in Denver, Pennsylvania, offers antibody products and antibody-development services to the research community. CRP also deals in the import and sale of laboratory animals. According to its website, CRP breeds and sells dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, non-human primates, and pigs. It has also bred and trademarked new breeds of animals, including the "Mini-Mongrel" dog. The company also imports wild-caught primates. Covance's animal-testing programs and facilities are AAALAC-accredited, ISO 9001:2000-registered, OLAW-assured, and USDA-research registered. According to the company, CRP programs and facilities are overseen by attending staff veterinarians and AALAS-certified technicians.
In December 1989 a number of cynomolgus macaques (Macaca fascicularis) were imported from Mindanao Island in the Philippines with the Ebola virus to Covance's Hazleton Research Products' Primate Quarantine Unit in Reston, Virginia. The company was using monkeys there to test cosmetics and drugs, according to The Washington Post. The virus was confirmed in one monkey and suspected in others among a group of 100. In March 1996 two macaques that had been shipped to Hazleton in Alice, Texas, tested positive for the Ebola virus from a group of 100 obtained from the same supplier. The strains were not infectious to humans, and no human illnesses were reported.
In 2003 the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) sent a German investigative journalist, Friedrich Mülln, into the Covance facility in Münster, Germany's largest primate-testing center, where he filmed undercover for five months.
The footage was shown on German public television in December 2003. Nature reported that it showed animal keepers dancing with half-anaesthetized monkeys, making their heads move to the rhythm of the music. It also showed staff handling the monkeys roughly and shouting at them. The monkeys were seen living isolated in small wire cages with little or no natural light and no environmental enrichment, with high noise levels caused by staff shouting and playing the radio, and undergoing surgery with no post-operative care. In response, Covance maintained that clips showing different technicians working in different buildings had been edited together, resulting in a sequence of events that did not take place. The company also said there was group housing and pair housing for some monkeys, but the BUAV chose not to show that. Covance said they planned to upgrade the housing to comply with future European Union guidelines.
Jane Goodall, a primatologist, described the monkeys' living conditions as horrendous. Another primatologist, Stephen Brend, argued that using monkeys in such a stressed state was "bad science," and that trying to extrapolate useful data in such circumstances was an "untenable proposition." The environment minister for North Rhine-Westphalia asked the public prosecutor to investigate, and said that if the allegations were borne out, the company would lose its licence to keep primates. According to the European Biomedical Research Association, a lobby group, the authorities inspected Covance and insisted that the company install video cameras to monitor staff working with primates. Covance appealed through the courts, which ruled that video monitoring would infringe the rights of the staff. The public prosecutor's office viewed the film and questioned witnesses, and concluded that Covance "had not rendered themselves liable to prosecution" and that the state veterinary officer "had not failed in his supervisory duties."
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) found similar conditions in Covance's Vienna, Virginia, lab when it sent an undercover investigator to obtain a job there as a technician from April 2004 to March 2005. In June 2005 Covance filed a lawsuit in the United States against PETA and the investigator for fraud, breach of employee contract, and "conspiracy to harm the company's business by deceitfully infiltrating and videotaping the ... facility." The company filed a parallel lawsuit in England in an attempt to stop PETA showing the tape; the British judge called the footage "highly disturbing," and ruled that there was a legitimate public interest in the material being shown. Covance and PETA agreed to a settlement that resulted in no payment to Covance, and with PETA allowed to continue to publish the video. PETA accepted a five-year ban on attempts to infiltrate Covance facilities.
Covance announced in March 2006 that inspections by the Food & Drug Administration had "resulted in no findings to substantiate any claims made against the facility." Inspections by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) resulted in 16 citations in April 2006. The USDA declined to give details; according to Covance the violations ranged from "administrative issues to scope of veterinary authority." The company agreed to pay a settlement of $8,720.
In response to the controversy, Covance issued a statement undertaking to observe a number of principles, including treating the animals in its care with respect, abiding by all applicable laws and regulations, employing alternatives where appropriate, minimizing animal discomfort and stress, training employees, and encouraging them to report any misconduct.