CRO sector saw workload, revenues and jobs grow over last decade

By Gareth Macdonald

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Pharmacology

The contract research sector has grown markedly over the last decade, with more drugs being examined in more trials by more researchers according to a new Association of Clinical Research Organisations (ACRO) survey.

The survey examined the 11,508 trials carried out by ACRO members last year and found that, on average, each firm was involved in the development of more than 750 drugs. This compares with the average of 9,000 studies and 400 medications worked on by members in 2008.

It also revealed that ACRO member companies contributed to the development of 33 or the 38 new pharmaceuticals approved in the US and Europe in 2010 and all 20 of the best selling drug products.

Oncology emerged as a core focus of ACRO member activity in 2010 with 961, or 19 per cent, of the 4,964 compounds examined in 2010 being novel cancer treatments. In 2008 18 per cent of the trials conducted by members were for candidate cancer drugs.

Company financial performance over the last decade also improved with, according to the survey, total revenue generated by ACRO members increasing 156 per cent, equivalent to an annual growth rate of 11 per cent a year.

Job growth

ACRO also revealed that, as of 2010, some 72,470 people are employed by member companies, an increase of 122 per cent over the number working in clinical research in 2001 when the US-based industry organisation was founded.

Organisation executive director Doug Peddicord took this as a sign the contract research sector was thriving despite the economic downturn.

He said: “At a time when many people are asking ‘where are the jobs?’ we have a clear answer with the tremendous growth that CROs have experienced over the past 10 years.

Our members continue to expand the range and scope of their services, from drug discovery through post-approval studies, developing deep expertise in complex areas like vaccines, biosimilars, comparative effectiveness research, and regenerative medicine​.”

This positivity was echoed by Covance CEO and ACRO chairman Joe Herring who said: “The capability of ACRO members to provide the full spectrum of drug development services required to bring new medicines to market has led to tremendous growth in the industry over the past 10 years.​”

The biopharmaceutical industry has recognized our efficiency, quality and commitment to research ethics, and ACRO members now constitute a large – and growing – share of the global drug development infrastructure​.”

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