Real Chemistry has acquired medical marketing agency Avant Healthcare to bolster its medical communications offering, the company announced Tuesday morning. Financial terms were not disclosed.

The acquisition, completed February 1, joins Avant’s full-service offerings — spanning data, digital and creative — with the HCP communications expertise of Real Chemistry, whose medical group will swell to some 450 employees across medcomms, med ed, medical affairs and scientific visualization. 

Shankar Narayanan, CEO of Real Chemistry, said the deal not only strengthens his company’s medical capabilities but spurs their unification under one roof in a standalone organization. 

“Before this, our medical capabilities were spread across different parts of the business,” Narayanan explained. “Given that we’ve reached a certain level of critical scale, this allows us to elevate medical to be on par with communications, advertising, analytics and targeting.”

A big focus of that involves medcomms, which Narayanan said is becoming more essential for clients, especially as “the science gets more complicated and sophisticated.” Bolstering the business is part of the agency’s long-term strategic plan.

“The bar on educating and communicating with physicians and providers continues to get higher,” Narayanan said. “We identified medical communications as a strategic growth pillar for us, and it aligns closely to our mission, which is to bring AI and ideas together to improve healthcare experiences for all.”

Bringing Avant into the fold also enables the 2023 MM+M Agency 100 honoree to “modernize” the medcomms function, he added, by integrating data, analytics and AI into the mix.

“There’s a lot of room to understand HCP audiences better using some of our data and analytics,” Narayanan noted. “[We can] tailor the way the communications are crafted and delivered, and the way we can engage with [HCPs] to make it much more personalized.”

Narayanan said he hopes this new organizational focus and collaboration on medcomms will spur “a whole new level of energy, innovation and capabilities that our clients can harness,” as well as drive “enthusiasm from the teams, which is pretty infectious.”

Deborah Wood, founder and chairwoman of Avant Healthcare, added in a press release that “we were looking for a unicorn partner and found one in Real Chemistry, which is the perfect fit for Avant’s clients and employees.”

Wood will provide counsel to both firms through the transition. The rest of Avant’s leadership team will remain with the agency, with Trina Stonner, Avant’s chief customer officer and president, to co-lead the medical group along with Real Chemistry’s Suzanne Jacobs, managing director of medcomms for Real Chemistry 21Grams unit. Narayanan said no layoffs are currently planned.

According to MM+M’s 2023 Agency 100 report, Real Chemistry’s revenue rose 18% in 2022 to $514 million, from $436 million the year prior. But at the end of 2023, the agency eliminated 3% of its 2,000-strong workforce, citing “market headwinds.”

The agency’s latest acquisition follows a string of M&A deals designed to expand its data and AI offerings. In 2023 Real Chemistry, which is backed by private-equity firm New Mountain Capital, bought ad-tech firm TI Health. AI-focused shop ConversationHealth was scooped up in 2022, a year after Swoop and joined the Real Chemistry portfolio. 21Grams, Starpower and Symplur came on-board in 2020.

Narayanan added the agency has been “constantly evaluating acquisitions” going into 2024 and will be keeping an eye on medical, data and AI opportunities.

Global expansion will also be a focus for the agency, building on moves it made last November to open a second office in the U.K.

“We have a healthy pipeline of conversations going at anytime, and we’re constantly evaluating multiple opportunities from an acquisition standpoint,” the CEO said.