Do small firms really need a big pipeline to get top CROs’ focus?

By Lee Woodward, Clinical Research Manager, Illingworth Research

28th March 2012

A recent article published by Outsourcing-Pharma.com described the challenges that small-to-medium sized pharma face when outsourcing clinical trials. In recent years, large pharmaceutical companies have formed strategic partnerships with large CROs to cater for their large pipeline. But who caters for the small to medium-sized pharma and biotech companies?

This article described Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, a medium-sized pharmaceutical company with four compounds in phase III development, who outsources clinical development to one large CRO. Partner Graeme Currie, Head of Clinical Project Management and Operations at Regeneron, explained that Regeneron has spoken very directly with its one CRO partner about the potential to be overlooked in favour of other strategic clients. So is it really possible for similar companies to Regeneron to compete with the pharma giants?

From our perspective, Illingworth Research has approached vendors for clinical development services and on occasions been overlooked by some of the large CMO and central laboratory service providers. This is similar to the case of small to medium sized pharma and biotech companies, who are very often overlooked by large CROs, in favour of much larger pharmaceutical companies with their large pipeline of potential new compounds.

But smaller pharma and biotech companies do have an alternative option; partner with a number of niche service providers who are able to provide tailored, flexible and cost-effective clinical development services.

Illingworth Research and its sister company ResearchNurses.co, both family owned and run businesses, provide clinical development services to a number of smaller, emerging and virtual biotech and pharma companies as well as some of the larger, more high profile companies. Although small and medium sized CROs may not have the global footprint that large CROs have, they often provide a very high quality, personal service at a lower cost. Many of our clients praise our tailored and focused approach when delivering a wide range of services.

Another challenge faced by some small companies is that they often outsource to one provider, as the workload can increase substantially when work is outsourced to a number of smaller providers. Illingworth Research and ResearchNurses.co ensure that if a small pharma or biotech company need to outsource to a number of small to medium sized CROs, it is not an issue. In fact, contracting with such CROs can generally be a much quicker and streamlined process, for example at Illingworth Research, there is one point of contact for budgetary and contracting needs.

The reality is that small pharmaceutical companies often approach large CROs for work on smaller trials and programmes of studies and they often do not get the attention they need, as the large CROs generally focus their resources on their large strategic pharmaceutical clients. However, by engaging with small to medium, niche CROs, those pharmaceutical companies can ensure that they will receive the undivided attention they deserve.