Some specialty CROs seeing early phase research revival

By Zachary Brennan

- Last updated on GMT

Will more specialty early phase CROs see the sort of boom Profil has seen this year?
Will more specialty early phase CROs see the sort of boom Profil has seen this year?

Related tags Early phase Contract research organization

After almost two years of lagging early phase clinical research work, it seems some CROs are now seeing an uptick in specialized trials that require more scientific expertise.

San Diego-based CRO (contract research organization) Profil Institute, for example, has seen increased demand for its early phase diabetes trial work. The company recently expanded its California clinic by about 15 beds to 45 - all dedicated to developing diabetes and obesity drugs. 

This is just the beginning of an even larger capacity expansion expected by the end of the year, Dr. Marcus Hompesch president, CEO and a founder of Profil, told Outsourcing-Pharma.com.

We’re looking at a more substantial expansion to put us into a second site on the West coast or maybe a site on the East coast​,” Dr. Hompesch told us. “We’re also trying to understand if there are opportunities for synergies with existing units​.”

He added that the company’s clients range from large pharma companies to larger CROs that “aren’t really prepared to deliver on the needs​” of their clients, noting Icon​ and Quintiles​ as two CROs that have recently cut back early phase work.

A healthy fraction of Profil’s work “is proof of mechanism work​,” in addition to studies that “require tracer methodologies​,” he said. The company also has moved from an early phase niche CRO to one more actively involved in regulatory decisions and establishing scientific advisory boards for clients because of demand, Dr. Hompesch noted.

It seems that be compared to the rest of the industry, we had an extraordinary year​,” Dr. Hompesch added, noting that one of the drivers behind the growth was the company’s strong database of diabetes patient volunteers, as well as the appetite for large pharma companies looking to move into the obesity and diabetes treatment market.

David Blume, managing director of Edgemont Capital Partners, echoed Dr. Hompesch’s comments on the shifting industry​ to conduct more specialized early phase trials.

He noted the difficulty of recruiting top expertise in particular fields, as well as finding more healthy patients.

This is a very relevant market for better treatments and to keep health care economics in check​,” Dr. Hompesch added. “It’s not an easy market - there are no low hanging fruits for drug targets​.”

But Profil isn’t the only specialty CRO finding early research successes. One of its competitors -- Charles River Laboratories – said in its quarterly earnings last week that it’s also seen an uptick in its preclinical business​ and improved demand from biopharma and mid-size companies.

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