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Contract Research Organizations: Has the Future Arrived?

Colin Burton on February 19, 2013

It’s not hard to find articles, blog posts, or market reports these days that state contract research organizations, and outsourcing in general, is the future for the pharmaceutical industry. What I haven’t seen, until today, is anyone claiming that future has arrived and become the present. An article released by Industrial Info Resources titled Big Pharma Keeps CMOs and CROs on Speed Dial, an Industrial Info News Alert1 seems to do just that. Their opening line of the article’s abstract states, “Outsourcing can no longer be regarded as the wave of the future. At least in the case of the Pharmaceutical-Biotech Industry …”, but I’m not sure we are there just yet.

The research services market is doubling about every 5 years and is projected to reach nearly $17bn by 2015.2 Scientist has seen a definitive increase in outsourcing across the pharmaceutical industry from small, virtual pharma companies all the way up to the large players like Pfizer ad AstraZeneca, as evidenced by our company’s own growth and engagement in this space. The number of contract research organizations is still growing, with 8,000+ CROs in the Scientist database at the time of writing this post. All of this points to real and continued growth in the CRO industry, but it remains clear that research outsourcing is still in its infancy.

Researchers need a resource to manage interactions with contract research organizations

One of the largest hurdles in outsourcing to a contract research organization is the fragmentation in the CRO market. Only recently have we seen resources, such as Scientist, become available to help researchers manage their interactions with these companies. Simply having 8,000 CROs available worldwide doesn’t mean researchers can effectively use them. We at Scientist like to think that this future is not far off, and are working hard to make sure that future is a reality soon.

The next major hurdle can be thought of as a need for a shift in the culture of research scientists. Outsourcing has often been thought of as a replacement for scientists doing the work at a pharma company, but more and more are realizing that outsourcing can be a tool to help them work more efficiently, and even save money in the process. Scientist has seen thousands of scientists over the years, but we feel that we are still in the ‘early adopter’ phase and have yet to see the surge to tens of thousands of researchers using the site we know is coming.

  1. Industrial Info Resources, Big Pharma Keeps CMOs and CROs on Speed Dial, an Industrial Info News Alert
  2. Outsourcing in Drug Discovery, Kalorama Information, June 2010