Quintiles CEO: CRO Industry at a ‘Tipping Point’ in Progressing Drug Development

By Zachary Brennan

- Last updated on GMT

Quintiles CEO: CRO Industry at a ‘Tipping Point’ in Drug Development
Clinical trial sponsors are now asking CROs to do more as an industry and as the top contracting companies build teams of scientists and physicians as varied as some hospital chains, sponsors’ reliance on outsourcing may have yet to peak.

We’re at a tipping point with development productivity​,” Quintiles CEO Tom Pike said Tuesday at the Baird Healthcare Conference, in a presentation disrupted by the sound of a jackhammer in the background. 

By tipping point it seems Pike is indicating that the upswing of pharma and biopharma outsourcing, which has been increasing consistently for the past year or so, seems to be reaching a point at which it will not be decreasing in the near future.

The jackhammer in the background may also end up being a metaphor for the way CROs (contract research organizations) are disrupting the drug development process, especially as sponsors increasingly rely on them to innovate and offer global trials at cut-rate prices.

Pike highlighted his company’s global offering as the only CRO with 2500 employees in India, multiple teams in China and employees in South Africa, as well as eight times as many doctors on staff as the next largest CRO.

But in terms of more recent and specific updates, he provided scant details on the progress of a five-year deal signed with Merck Serono​ in May.

Unlike Pike, CEO of Parexel, Joseph von Rickenbach, revealed quite a few more details on the nature of the CRO industry at the same conference on Tuesday.

Von Rickenbach cited the growing opportunities in small and emerging pharma and biotech companies, which have seen their “funding bounce back to record levels last year​,” and “we believe we’re winning our fair share​.”

Only about 45% of outsourcing deals have been actualized, von Rickenbach added, noting that the early adopters were more US-centric than European- or Asian-centric.

Despite Parexel’s success in recent years in bookings, the company has had to hire nearly 5,000 new employees over the last two years, which von Rickenbach said “was a challenge​,” especially as short-term workers are more expensive. However, he said the company expects to steady its workforce “by the end of the calendar year​.”

He also said Parexel is on the lookout for new acquisitions. 

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