The penetration level of outsourcing to CROs varies across the functions and is highest in the laboratory testing, clinical trial, and post-approval stages compared to discovery and pre-clinical stages. The outsourcing percentage is proportional to the complexity and regulatory expertise required at each stage. Some of the typical reasons why the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical devices industries outsource to CROs include the following:
- Better return on R&D investments
- Lack of internal capabilities (esp. small biopharma companies)
- Increasing complexity in developing targeted therapeutic areas like immuno-oncology therapies
- Stringent regulatory requirements
- Time and cost-efficiency
Covid-19 Impact: Growing Attention on Virtual Clinical Trials
CROs are proactively converting site activity to decentralized/virtual trials, where possible, to maintain the integrity and regulatory compliance of ongoing studies.
“COVID-19 has necessitated the rapid uptake of a decentralized clinical trial approach to monitoring clinical trials. There was a brief period where, with the pandemic happening, most companies were faced with a huge stop in their clinical trial activities, which required rethinking, retooling, and re-strategizing how best to re-engage these sites with the clinical trials that they have currently ongoing.” – Former Division Leader, Industry-Leading CRO, United States
Shifting Market Trend Towards Full-service CROs/One-stop-shop Model
Due to the complexities intrinsic to drug development, biopharma companies look for a full-service CRO offering across the drug development lifecycle. Apart from the breadth of services (pre-clinical, clinical, and commercialization), the trend is toward CROs offering scalable services, specialized technologies, and having a global presence.
Increasing Complexity of Therapeutics and Clinical Trials
The CRO industry is witnessing the constantly rising complexity of clinical trials and targeted therapeutic areas (like oncology, CNS, cardiovascular, diabetes), making them more expensive and difficult to develop in-house. Moreover, evolving regulatory environment and burdensome penalties for non-compliance add to the duration, cost, and complexity of drug development, making it more lucrative to outsource.
Competitive Landscape Analysis: CRO Services Market
The CRO industry has undergone intense consolidation over the last decade, shifting from a highly fragmented market to a fairly consolidated landscape currently. This trend is mainly driven by the demand of big pharma to partner with fewer full-service CROs. Some of the key players operating in CRO services market are IQVIA, Labcorp, Syneos Health, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Parexel, ICON, Charles River, WUXI Apptec, Pharmacon Beijing, SGS, among others.
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