Contact Research Organisations (CROs) have undergone many changes over the past few years, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and technological advances. There are even more changes for CROs in the future. One of the biggest changes will be how CROs respond to unforeseen emergencies, such as the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. As well as the ongoing advancement of technology and new medical treatments. 

The future of CROs includes: 

Technology Instead of Labour 

Technology will continue to reshape clinical trials, with CROs beginning to focus their attention towards machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI). These new technologies will undoubtedly mean that CROs will become less dependent on manual labour. 

This means that the difference and the competitive edge between various CROs will no longer be the type of professionals that work there but more skewed towards the type of technology CROs have access to, especially the type of technology that can organise and analyse clinical and medical data. Biosimulation allows for virtual trials to be run on a computer before they are carried out in person. CROs and clinical trials will become more efficient thanks to this technology. 

An Increase in CRO Services 

The CRO industry will continue to be in high demand despite the challenges faced. Research and Development (R&D) services in particular will continue to be outsourced in high numbers. A growing pharmaceutical industry means that there is a growing demand for CROs. 

Investments in vaccines, antibody therapies and autoimmune products have created a increase in demand for these outsourced services which are reflected in the CRO industry’s revenue growth numbers. The growth rate of CROs in 2022 is higher than that of previous years. 

Remote Site Access 

There will continue to be an increase in remote site access that began during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a continued focus on clinical trial start up, remote monitoring, participant consent and data collection. 

CROs need to have remote access solutions available both as a backup plan and as a primary strategy. This ensures that clinical trials can still go ahead even if traditional physical sites can’t be accessed due to events outside of their control. 

CROs and Innovation 

Smaller CROs need to adapt to resist being overtaken and left behind by their competitors. They need to learn to specialise in various niche services, such as biostatistics or offer outsourcing services to vendors of a similar size to their clients (right-sizing). Right-sizing can be a smart move for select CROs. 

Innovation has historically been the focus of larger pharmaceutical companies but has become more common amongst smaller companies and startups. This enables CROs to rethink their client engagement models and strategies. 

The next few years will see more CROs embrace the idea of innovation. 

Flexibility 

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced CROs to become more flexible, such as utilising new technologies which make research and clinical trials adapable to various situations outside a CRO’s control. These new strategies include decentralised clinical trials (DCTs), advanced data analytics and artifical intellgence (AI). 

Being flexible is the only way CROs can survive in an unpredictable environment. 

Future Challenges 

Some of the future challenges that may be faced by CROs include: 

  • Constantly evolving participant engagement models 
  • Competitors
  • Pressure on smaller CROs to either subcontract or to adjust to attract their ideal target market (niche down) 
  • The ongoing issue of upholding patient confidentiality with more data being moved and recorded online than ever before 
  • The constantly changing research and health industry 
  • Adapting to new technologies and methods 

The CRO industry is constantly evolving and successfully navigating all these changes is dependent on the way a CRO adapts their practices and strategies so they can be more flexible and work in a more efficient manner.

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