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Notes from Orlando: the state of the CRO industry
A panel of CEOs from three major CROs met to discuss the topic of how to achieve the balance between mitigating risk while preserving profit margins and the state and future of the CRO industry.

Peter Gray of ICON led off by saying that the future of the CRO industry looks bright despite a bleak previous year and a half. He said the market is solidifying, becoming more strategic and there are more significant opportunities. RFPs are on the rise and the volume of opportunities is on the rise, particularly in Phase I activities.

Jeffrey McMullen of PharmaNet took the mic and reiterated that the CRO market is looking “bullish.” PharmaNet, which recently became a private company, focuses on late stage trials, early stage trials and high end generics. Cancellations have decreased as the economy is improving, which is a good sign. An increase in biotech funding is being seen in an increase in late stage trials and should trickle down to earlier stages as well. He mentioned that he is seeing a new model of outsourcing, with sponsors seeking more strategic relationships with CROs.

Daniel Perlman, CEO of RPS spoke third and cited the success of his company despite the gloomy economy. He attributes the positive growth to the rise in embedded solutions. Perlman sees a positive future for the CRO industry, with pharma companies decreasing fixed cost spending and seeking more outsourcing and embedded solutions.

Moderator David Windley of Jefferies asked where the growth will come from geographically, in the CRO business. Mr. Perlman opined that major growth will be outside the US – Asia in particular, Latin America and Eastern Europe. Mr. McMullen chimed in saying there is an underutilization of the patient population in the U.S., given the great institutions and large number of underserved patients in this country.

Mr. Gray felt that the decline in trials in the US is due to the rush to include Asia and other parts of the world at the expense of the US. But Mr. Gray cautioned that regulators will be more wary of the quality of data coming from Asian and Latin American trials. However, the lifestyles of patient populations in emerging markets can have as much of an impact of trials as ethnicity on trial results, which makes for an interesting issued to consider. Mr. Gray argued that trial data coming out of Eastern Europe is arguably better than that in the US, due to an increased motivation for investigators to bring trials to their countries.

[ForeignExchange covers the Partnerships in Clinical Trials conference in detail. Check out our comprehensive coverage.]

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