Top 10 Clinical Research Organisations in the Pharma and Biotech Industry


Pharma IQ presents the top 10 ranking of Contract Research Organizations as voted by the Pharma IQ network.

Many of the world’s population are in desperate need of better medical care. This need is a large driving force behind drug discovery’s mission to uncover new medicines.

The drug discovery process is complex and stubborn. The clinical stage, in particular, is resource intensive, demanding and high risk. A fine balance is required to execute this stage correctly.

Clinical Research Organisations (CROs) support drug manufacturers on their road to discover and approve drugs of the future by absorbing some of the clinical stage’s the burdens.  Data research, project management, tests, trials that are run post approval, pre-clinical and clinical are just some of the activities covered.

This relationship, which is built on trust and skill, can award manufacturers with heightened expertise as well as cost and time efficiencies.  These benefits come at the cost of duties such as intensive communication management, confidentiality concerns and regulatory considerations.

The trend towards outsourcing to CROs isn’t expected to fizzle out anytime soon, especially as the spread of clinical trials across the world is growing. The global market is forecasted for strong growth, after reaching US$36.2bn in 2017 it is projected to climb by another US$20bn over the next five years.

What to look for in a CRO

Pharmaceutical and biologics firms need to select reliable partners who will add value to their medical research. This is a complex decision process involving the evaluation of many variables.

We invited the Pharma IQ community to vote for the leading CROs in the pharmaceutical and biologics industry according to their own experiences.

Our research base is made up of participants from mainly big pharma or biotechs, SME pharma and consultants. Other entities included in this research include government bodies, medical device manufacturers and public hospitals.

Relationship status 

CRO relationship

Functions outsourced

What criteria makes an excellent CRO?

The rising public pressure on medicine prices and spend by pharmaceutical firms, drives the appeal of outsourcing as a way to cool costs.

However, as pharma continues to wrestle with stagnant innovation levels, despite the funding boost to R&D pipelines, cheaper running costs are no longer the primary motive for outsourcing. In fact this was considered as the last priority for our response base.

One respondent noted that on top of having a combination of all the listed attributes, they desired the ‘right’ culture and expertise within the actual group of people proposed for the study.

Availability in certain regions, emerging markets for example, and being update to date with recent regulatory changes were highlighted as key factors by some participants.

Just over 55% of our base agreed that quality is the most important differentiator when selecting a CRO.

Regarding the importance of quality, in association with the Trial Master File (TMF) and Inspection Readiness event, Ivan Walrath, Head of Audit and Inspection Quality at Pfizer noted how important it is CROs recognize the significance of this file. The TMF is what regulators will consult to evaluate the quality of the science behind the product at hand.

He added: “What I’ve seen when these partnerships have worked well is a good level of communication and integration between the people from the CRO and the sponsor working together to execute a trial.

“When you have a well-functioning team, even across those organizational boundaries, everybody gets behind what needs to happen from a quality standpoint, from a compliance standpoint and other important aspects like hitting timelines.”

Our 2018 study found that Clinical trial supply has seen a reduction in wastage rates thanks to smarter integration and alignment with enrollment rates.

This improvement was achieved through Interactive Voice Response Systems (IVRS) and Interactive Response Technology (IRT), these tools were one of the top spend priorities.


The majority of the base noted that contract reviews would happen only when an issue came up or on an annual basis.

A few participants clarified that reviews are ongoing as part of their oversight to ensure compliance with contracted services but “not for the purpose of switching CROs, that would only be done in extreme circumstances of failure to perform.”

CRO Review

Ending a Partnership with a CRO

Similar to 2017’s results, lack of quality was the aspect voted most likely to end a partnership with a CRO, attracting 65% of the votes.  A high level of mistakes was the next option with 12% of the vote.  One participant proceeded to clarify a legitimate reason being:

“Significant failure to meet obligations of contract, missing multiple milestones without reasonable cause or appropriate risk mitigation.”

Read more: Predictive analytics labelled as high impact tech to disrupt drug discovery

So Who Made the Cut: Pharma IQ Top 10 CROs as Voted by You!

Pharma IQ Top 10 CROs

1.       IQVIA

2.       Parexel

3.       Syneos Health

4.       Covance

5.       Icon

6.       PRA Health Sciences

7.       PPD

8.       Chiltern

9.       Fisher Clinical Services

10.   Medpace

Read more: Top challenges with late stage e-TMFs

Firms that attracted recognition from the network as rising stars include:

Rising stars:

·         Charles river laboratories

·         Pivotal

·         PSI

·         PharmOlam

Further comments:

“After 25 years in the business, always with small biotechs, I have learned that niche CROs provide the best service for our needs (Argint and CONET). I tend to avoid large CROs when at all possible.”

READ MORE:Top 10 Clinical Research Organisations in the Pharma and Biotech Industry

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