A Clinical or Contract Research Organization (CRO) is a commercial, academic, or some other organization contracted by life science or pharmaceutical companies, or sponsors, to perform one or more clinical trial-related duties and functions. In the Encyclopedia of Toxicology (2014), C.B. Spainhour wrote that CROs of various sizes have existed since the 1930s. They are present worldwide and offer a variety of services in support of clinical research.
The role of CROs in clinical research
In their Social Studies of Science journal article (Vol. 35, Nov. 4, August 2005), Philip Mirowski and Robert Van Horn noted the observation in the 1980s of the turning point in science, “mainly concerning the extent and nature of globalization and commercialization of scientific research, and its impact upon the university.”¹ Concurrently, though, there is also the observed rise of CROs warranting “wider attention as a modern paradigm of privatized science in the biopharmaceutical sector. An April 2021 Forbes Technology Council article notes CROs’ being valuable resources for pharmaceutical companies or sponsors as CROs as experts when it comes to niche areas and wider technologies. Nick Lucas writes, “they are quick to adopt the latest technologies, enabling them to provide unique insights and advice, spotting novel and distinctive ways of using these advanced tools and adapting them to each sponsor’s needs to ensure optimal clinical trial performance.
In this article, let’s talk about the general benefits of CROs in relation to clinical research as well as the specific benefits for clients or sponsors outsourcing them.
For a discussion on why you may want to consider outsourcing in clinical trials support, see our related article here.
For a general overview and strategies on outsourcing CROs for clinical support, click here.
General benefits of CROs in clinical research
Faster TAT and delivery. As we saw in the recent race against time to develop COVID-19 vaccines, speed is essential in clinical research, including the conduct of clinical trials towards seeing successful results. There is a need to speed up the research and development processes so the needed products can then be distributed and delivered in the race against time to save human lives.
Reach, diversity, decentralization. As mentioned in a previous article, there is the goal of increasing diversity and access to research through reaching more people and more geographical locations. With the help of CROs, we have already seen shifts towards the decentralization of research and more holistic approaches. Those shifts have become encouraging with regard to the aspiration of the research in general, specifically that of advancing human health. Through outsourcing CROs to aid in clinical research, “the goal of being able to advance cures to the market as quickly and as safely as possible becomes all the more attainable.”
Benefits of outsourcing clinical trial support services
1. Savings: material and human resources, cost, time
The needed logistics, operations, and human resources of research companies seeking to develop drugs are costly. As mentioned also in a previous article, it is impractical to procure expensive equipment with unknown further utilization rates. Likewise, as there has also been, in recent years, a lot of merging of health systems to create larger ones or big healthcare organizations acquiring smaller private practices to better navigate regulatory environments, it would also be impractical to procure expensive equipment if a research company would later on just merge or acquire a company or practice that already has one. A practical alternative for this is to just tap into the resources and needed niche expertise of CROs, thus saving on cost as well as time.
Getting approvals from regulatory authorities, for example, eats up a lot of time, especially for research companies needing to conduct research in a new location. Partnering with a local CRO would be more practical as CROs are more familiar with regulatory requirements, especially in the areas where they operate.
2. Access: skills, expertise, big data
As said earlier, CROs have niche expertise. They focus on different core specializations as well as different levels of experience with those outside their declared or proven core specializations and expertise. The key is to strategically partner with a CRO with the specific skill set you require. Depending on location, you may be able to get a CRO that could be the one-stop shop you’re looking for or might need to outsource different outsource companies or organizations for different research stages. CROs with a wealth of experience are worth looking into as they may have access to and familiarity with using data from multiple sources. Having access to all those available skills, expertise, and even big data could more likely lead to trustworthy results but at cheaper costs.
3. Process improvement for faster roll-outs
Outsourcing CROs for clinical research and development, including trials for drugs, equipment, or devices, reduces the time needed to eventually roll out into the market. Well, you could just rely on your own tried and tested, even streamlined processes. However, going over them with equipment and technologies that may have already become outdated may lead to unreliable results and low-quality outputs. In contrast, when you’re able to strategically partner with the right CRO, then your research could easily be supplemented with more improved, more updated, and more efficient processes.
The quicker you get from the R&D stage to rollout, the cheaper it is budget-wise, plus the faster you’ll realize your vision of being able to contribute to the advancement of life sciences through improved clinical research processes for a holistic approach to human health.
If you need assistance in selecting the right CRO for your clinical research needs, we at StratAccess could help you with it.
¹ Mirowski, P., & Van Horn, R. (2005). The Contract Research Organization and the Commercialization of Scientific Research. Social Studies of Science, 35(4), 503–548. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25046658