LONDON--GolinHarris is to acquire Virgo Health, the largest independent healthcare firm in the UK.

60-person London firm Virgo Health was founded in 2003 by joint chief executives Angie Wiles and Sarah Matthew, who will continue in their current roles and report to GolinHarris CEO Fred Cook.

The duo will also work closely with Matt Neale and Jon Hughes, co-presidents of GolinHarris International. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. 

As part of the agreement, Wiles and Matthew will build the Virgo brand in North America and beyond and will play a senior leadership role in GolinHarris. The firms will also form a new global, digitally=focused specialty health practice called Go Digital Health.

Go aims to bring together Virgo's healthcare heritage with GolinHarris’ digital expertise – fortified with the recent acquisition of interactive agency Fuse. Other GolinHarris acquisitions in the past 12 months include Germany's Nicole Weber Communications and S2Publicom in Brazil, which it bought jointly with sister firm Weber Shandwick.

After a challenging 2008, Virgo bounced back in 2009, and improved its fee income by 15 percent in 2010. In 2011, it grew by 17 percent and and recorded earnings of £5.5m. 

Since its launch, Wiles and Matthew have built Virgo into one of the leading firms in the hypercompetitive UK healthcare public relations market, recognized as PR’s Week Best New Consultancy in 2004, Communiqué Consultancy of the Year in 2006 and again in 2009 and 2010, and European Healthcare Consultancy of the Year by the Holmes Report in 2007.

The firm's offering spans three core business units –medical healthcare PR; medical education; and consumer health and OTC PR. These are complemented by strategic consultancy unit Virgo Vantage.

Virgo's client roster includes AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Janssen, Novartis, Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb.

“The success enjoyed by Virgo over the last nine years has exceeded all of our expectations but it has long been our aspiration to take Virgo to a whole other level and create a genuine legacy brand,” said Matthew in a statement.

“We have found a truly like-minded partner in GolinHarris with complementary expertise, shared values and a strong culture. As businesses and people we are a perfect match, and, in joining forces with GolinHarris, we are able to optimize our ambitions in terms of extending our geographical reach and impact.”

“Healthcare continues to be one of the most vibrant sectors in the communications/marketing field and has a tremendous need for sector expertise,” added Harris Diamond, CEO of Interpublic's Constituency Management Group, which includes GolinHarris. “The skill set and quality of Virgo’s team will be a tremendous asset for our clients.”