Beyond the Body Shop: How CROs Can Stay Relevant in a Saturated Market


Applied Clinical Trials

For the past few decades, contract research organizations have successfully fulfilled a 'body-shop' role in clinical development...

For the past few decades, contract research organizations (CROs) have successfully fulfilled a ‘body-shop’ role in clinical development, supporting trials with manpower, deployment resources and a core competency of knowledge around how to execute studies. As trends like risk-based monitoring are adapted on a larger scale with the goal of reducing trial costs, trial execution will continue to become more efficient – resulting in a slash to CRO budgets and demand. With less budget and reduced need for traditional CRO value, the existing number of CROs will compete for the same amount of work. When the market hits this saturation point, CROs will need to prepare for a complete change in their role within the industry– a change that must be embraced by the existing business structure to avoid cannibalization.

Data and technology will undoubtedly change the trial landscape – trends that CROs must capitalize on in order to reinvent their differentiating factors and hone in on areas of expertise. Right now, the industry is waiting for a CRO to take this leap and revamp how they contribute to the trial process, but the risk of deviating from standard course is holding most back. CROs must embrace this change to revolutionize the existing business structure and seize the opportunity to increase market share by being a thought leader in this new technology-driven era of trials. The core values of CROs will remain the same – therapeutic area expertise, trial implementation, recruitment, etc. – but margins will change. By building a CROs expertise on top of new technologies and data tools, the trial process will become much more scalable and efficient with each player - EDC vendors, sponsors, etc. – doing what they do best.

Here are four core things that CROs need to do to stay relevant in a changing industry:

  • Drive change in the CRO business to increase market share

  • Embrace the role of data and advanced technology in trials

  • Capitalize on value-added service options to differentiate, including therapeutic areas, trial implementation, IT solution engineering and consulting services

  • Collaborate with sponsors to take over IT functionality, easing the burdens of sponsor cost cuts and outsourcing scenarios


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