nTouch Research plans to acquire or open clinical research centers in as many as 10 more cities this year with an influx of third round venture cash, says chief executive officer Lee Palles.

The company, which is based in Raleigh and operates 15 clinical research centers nationally, has closed on all but $1 million of its $3.6 million third round led by Durham-based Intersouth Partners and Canaan Partners, Rowayton, Conn., Palles says.

Palles adds that no closing date has been set for the ongoing round.

Founded in 1997, nTouch is a site management organization. It helps doctors and physician groups recruit patients and principal investigators, manage contracts, budgets, and study set-ups for Phase II and III clinical trials of age-related chronic diseases.

It is hard on the heels of Radiant Research, the Kirkland, Wash. Industry leader and Protocare, Santa Monica, Calif., which is number two in the industry.

Palles says the $200 million annual market is large and growing but fragmented.

“We intend to be number one,” Palles tells Local Tech Wire.

Palles says 100-employee nTouch recently hired a vice president-level executive, although it has not released his name or position as yet. The company plans to hire other staff as needs dictate this year, Palles says. About 25 employees work in the company’s Raleigh office.

While Palles says the last six months have been a difficult climate for a lot of companies raising money, “our needs were not as great as some.”

The company expects its revenues to exceed $10 million this year. “We’re certainly a revenue-based company,” Palles says.

The company has 250 studies active now, Palles says, focused in areas such as rheumatoid arthritis, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and other age-related chronic diseases. The company signed a deal to handle clinical studies for Wake County Hospital.

Originally called Novum, nTouch moved to Raleigh from Pittsburgh in 1998. It changed its name following a $2 million investment from Intersouth.

The company has raised a total of $15 million to date.

In addition to Intersouth and Canaan, investors include the TriState Investment Group, Chapel Hill and Bioventures, Boston.

Palles says expansion plans include opening up to 10 more sites in the Southeast, Midwest and possibly the West Coast. He says the company may seek additional financing, although not necessarily through venture firms.

NTouch Web site: