Contract research organization

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A contract research organization (CRO) is an organization that provides support to the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device industries in the form of research services outsourced on a contract basis. A CRO may provide such services as biopharmaceutical development, biologic assay development, commercialization, preclinical research, clinical research, clinical trials management, and pharmacovigilance. CROs also support foundations, research institutions, and universities, in addition to governmental organizations (such as the NIH, EMA, etc.).[1]

Many CROs specifically provide clinical-study and clinical-trial support for drugs and/or medical devices.[2] CROs range from large, international full-service organizations to small, niche specialty groups.

CROs that specialize in clinical-trials services can offer their clients the expertise of moving a new drug or device from its conception to FDA/EMA marketing approval, without the drug sponsor having to maintain a staff for these services.[3]

Regulatory aspects[edit]

Specifically pertaining to CROs providing clinical-trials services, the International Conference on Harmonisation of technical requirements for registration of pharmaceuticals for human use (ICH-GCP) (E6 1.20) defines a Contract Research Organization (CRO) as: "A person or an organization (commercial, academic, or other) contracted by the sponsor to perform one or more of a sponsor's trial-related duties and functions."

  • (5.2.1) A sponsor may transfer any or all of the sponsor's trial-related duties and functions to a CRO, but the ultimate responsibility for the quality and integrity of the trial data always resides with the sponsor. The CRO should implement quality assurance and quality control.
  • (5.2.2) Any trial-related duty and function that is transferred to and assumed by a CRO should be specified in writing.
  • (5.2.3) Any trial-related duties and functions not specifically transferred to and assumed by a CRO are retained by the sponsor.
  • (5.2.4) All references to a sponsor in this guideline also apply to a CRO to the extent that a CRO has assumed the trial-related duties and functions of a sponsor.


Market size and growth[edit]

A significant portion of R&D budgets are spent on outsourcing services (domestic and/or international) offered by the CRO industry, approximately $25 billion in 2015. [4] As of 2015, this figure is expected to grow at 9% over the next ten to fifteen years.[4]

There are over 1,100 CROs in the world, despite continued trends toward consolidation (many CROs are being acquired in recent times or others go out of business).[5] It is a very fragmented industry with the top 10 controlling 56.1% of the market in 2008[6] and down to 55% in 2009.[7][8] One estimate had the size of the market set to reach $24 billion in 2010[9] and set to grow at a rate of 8.5% through 2015.[10]

The top CROs, according to,[11] are Quintiles, Parexel, Pharmaceutical Product Development (PPD), INC Research, Covance, Medpace, PRA Health Sciences, inVentiv Health, Meditrial Europe and Chiltern.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The CRO Market", Association of Clinical Research Organizations.
  2. ^ "The CRO Market", Association of Clinical Research Organizations.
  3. ^ "Bio-Definitions", Biotech Media.
  4. ^ a b "2015 Edition of the CRO Market Size Projections: 2012-2019". October 2015. Retrieved 2015-10-12. 
  5. ^ "CRO Industry Could See More Consolidation, Experts Say" 2013-06-20 Retrieved 2013-09-24
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^[dead link]
  8. ^ "Quintiles in $3bn investment deal". 2008-01-02. Retrieved 2010-08-03. 
  9. ^ "CRO market to reach $24bn by 2010". 2007-07-30. Retrieved 2010-08-03. 
  10. ^ "Reportlinker Adds The CRO Market Outlook: Emerging Markets, Leading Players and Future Trends. | Trends & Events > Trends from". 2009-09-21. Retrieved 2010-08-03. [dead link]
  11. ^ "Top CROs dominate competition in trial totals, review finds". 2014-08-18. Retrieved 2015-10-12.