Phoenix Clinical Research






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Contract research organisations (CROs)

by Peter Hogg

ProClinical Life Sciences


have become essential to the pharma, biotech, and medtech industries by supporting clients’ efforts to test, refine, and market the latest pharmaceuticals and medical devices. Our list of the world’s top CROs profiles the industry’s leaders and emerging companies.

The global CRO market value reached $27 billion in 2014 and is expected to exceed $32 billion by 2017, as patent expiration, proliferation of generic medications, and technological innovations like mHealth and big data influence product development all leading to greater outsourcing of work to CROs.

At the same time, the CRO marketplace is becoming increasingly competitive: mergers and partnerships enhance larger companies’ full-service capabilities and international reach, while others are focusing on niche sectors or functional service provider (FSP) contracts that allow clients to outsource individual services instead of entire studies or projects. The growing market is also creating a wealth of new clinical research jobs for candidates and clinical recruitment agencies in major hubs throughout Europe, the USA, and emerging markets in Asia Pacific countries.

With expansions, consolidations, and innovations continuing throughout the CRO industry, 2016 is sure to be another year of change and excitement for large and small CROs alike, as well as boosting employment through increased demand for Clinical Trial Assistants and Clinical Research Assistants (CRA) in the pharmaceutical sectors and beyond. The top ten CROs to watch in 2016 include both industry leaders by market share and revenue, and up-and-comers who are steadily increasing their presence through strategic partnerships and service offerings.

10. INC Research
INC Research earned the bulk of its $915 million in 2015 revenue through late-stage clinical trials, and, the same year, was given the Best CRO award by Scrip Intelligence and ranked Top CRO to Work With in the CenterWatch Global Investigative Site Relationship Survey. The company held a $150 million initial public offering in 2014, and saw a massive surge in sales that drove the company’s 14.2% increase over 2014 revenues, and solidified its status as a CRO to watch in 2016. The company plans to enhance its research and development operations in the coming year, and expects to cross the $1 billion revenue threshold by the year’s end.

9. Chiltern
Chiltern’s global operations focus on three specialised sectors: Biopharma, Oncology, and Source, which offers functional service provider support including identifying staff and resources to meet clients’ individual demands. Chiltern acquired Ockham, a cancer-focussed CRO, in 2014, and Theorem, a CRO with international reach and a strong clinical analytics programme. The company is a four-time winner of the CRO Leadership award by Life Science Leader magazine, and was identified as a top 10 clinical data management solution provider in 2015. The mid-sized organisation has grown to over 4000 employees across 47 countries with annual revenues approaching $1 billion.

8. Charles River Laboratories
This CRO’s acquisition spree has included Celsis International, the developer of rapid bacterial detection systems, preclinical cancer CRO Oncotest, and most recently WIL research, a provider of safety assessment services to pharmaceutical and agricultural companies. Charles River’s acquisitions expand its capacity in a variety of sectors and industries, diversify its customer base, and increase its reach within the global marketplace. The company drew over $1.3billion in revenues in 2014, experienced substantial growth in 2015, and reports over 8700 employees in 17 countries.

7. PPD
Pharmaceutical Product Development (PPD) recently split from its 2014 biotech acquisition, X-Chem, spurring market rumours that the privately-held PPD is up for sale or initial public offering (IPO). Sales rumours aside, PPD is keeping busy, having recently signed a deal with biotech company Moderna to provide clinical trial support and coordination, and securing two US government contracts in late 2015 to support battlefield medicine innovations and evaluate influenxa vaccines. The company is also expanding its Preclarus data analytics software to further enhance clinical trial processes. PPD reported revenues of over $1.35 billion for 2014, and continued growth in 2015.

6. PRA Health Sciences
PRA’s drive toward international markets has grown since the company went public in 2014, with a specific focus on Singapore and other regional sectors. However, PRA is also completing a US-based project that is expected to add over 250 clinical trial assistant and clinical research jobs in the next few years, and has partnered with a UK-based marketing firm to increase recruitment of patients for its research across the globe. The company is also working to enhance vaccine research, and is pursuing additional capacity in biotech and bioanalytics. PRA experienced 8% growth in 2015, leading to over $1.4billion in revenues.

5. Icon
This top-tier CRO posted revenues of $1.57 billion in 2015 – an impressive 4.8% increase over 2014 – and has completed a series of acquisitions in recent years, including MediMedia Pharma Solutions and Aptiv Solutions. Icon has partnered with Genomics England on the UKs 100,000 Genomes Project, and IBM Watson for oncology research support. These collaborations are expected to further expand service offerings and clinical research jobs in the genomic science and oncology sectors, and contribute to the company’s projected revenue increase of between 6-10% for 2016.

4. inVentiv Health
This CRO boasted $2 billion in revenues in 2015, and projects continued strong sales in 2016. The company offers diverse support ranging from clinical development to market services, and achieved a major win when the UK National Health Service implemented Mytrus, inVentiv’s electronic informed consent software for clinical trials. The company’s plans for 2016 include expanding its early-phase clinical research capabilities with a new 44-bed clinic in Miami, Florida, spurring new opportunities for clinical research jobs in a major US market.

3. Parexel
In 2016, industry giant Parexel is projecting $2.1 billion in revenues as it pursues cost-controlling measures and expansion into lower-cost emerging markets, while simultaneously forging partnerships with GlaxoSmithKline to explore genomic-based drug development, and Optum (United Healthcare) to enhance clinical research processes with big data. Parexel is also pursuing an acquisition of Health Advances, a health science consulting firm focused on biopharma, medical device, and diagnostics clients, which should further expand its capabilities in both full-service and functional-service contracts and increase demand for clinical research jobs within the company.

2. Covance
Purchased by LabCorp in early 2015, Covance boasted annual revenues greater than $2.5 billion before its acquisition, and increased LabCorp’s 2015 revenues by a hefty $2.2 billion after 8 short months of ownership. The company’s momentum continues as it expands to a second pharmaceutical manufacturing site for trial drugs, increases its research and development capacity, and pursues a partnership signed last year with Epic Sciences, a cancer diagnostics company. Expansions are likely to increase the availability of pharmaceutical clinical research assistant and trial assistant jobs, and contribute to revenue increases of 2-5% in 2016.

1. Quintiles
Quintiles, the world’s largest CRO, was recently named one of Forbes’ Most Admired Companies for both 2015 and 2016 based on the company’s quality of services, global competitiveness, long-term investment, and social responsibility. The industry giant has experienced immense growth since acquiring Novella Clinical, a medical device and diagnostics CRO, in 2013, and Encore, an electronic health records company, in 2014, which boosted its capabilities in each sector. Quintiles also leads CROs in the number of clinical trials pursued and as a purveyor of Good Clinical Practice (GCP). Quintiles posted revenues of $4.3 billion in 2015, and expects trends to continue, as it projects a 6-8.5% revenue increase through 2016.

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