Winds of Change in the CRO Space

26 Jun

By Michael Quigley, Research Analyst, LSN

mike-2The CRO space is currently going through a restructuring that is driving CROs in one of two directions if they wish to remain competitive. The shift involves a group of global “giant” CROs holding exclusive, high profile partnerships, which have been eating away at the market share for mid-tier CROs, who rely on smaller deal structures to generate profits (since they cannot compete with the resources of their larger counterparts).

These mid-tier firms are also being pressured by smaller, more specialized boutique CROs who focus their efforts on particular diseases / technologies, and are capable of tailoring more client-specific arrangements. The growth of these niche organizations is being driven by the increase in companies developing specialized medicines that are capable of proving efficacy in clinical trials more clearly. As a result of the growth in these two extremes of the space, what is emerging is a group of CROs that are effectively stuck in the middle, and losing market share. (1)

Enter Private Equity

CROs are becoming increasingly attractive to PE firms as everyone from emerging biotechs to big pharma continue to push for strong pipelines of drug candidates, creating a steady demand for clinical testing. One opportunity that several PE firms are taking advantage of is making acquisitions of multiple medium-sized CROs in order to merge their resources, thus making them competitive with the “giants” in the space. Several of these deals have already taken place this past year, and some PE firms are positioning themselves for more. Other PEs are preforming massive buyouts of the “giant” CROs in order to provide them with the resources required to further expand. (2)

Implications for Emerging Life Science Companies

The increasingly competitive nature in the CRO space is an optimal situation for emerging companies interested in their services; both the large and the niche CROs of the world compete for the business of emerging companies. However, they offer different benefits. The larger group offers competitive pricing, as well as the proper expertise and resources required to perform clinical testing of a product in multiple markets around the globe. Alternatively, the niche group competes by offering a higher level of customer service and interaction, as well as a vast knowledge of the technology, and the specific regulatory hurdles that come with it.

One attribute shared by both groups, however, which will be paramount to their success, is their ability to find and contact emerging companies to set up contracts before their competition. These two groups competing for the business of emerging biotech and medtech companies will ultimately benefit the emerging companies as well as their investors, as the CROs will have to offer cheaper prices or better service to remain competitive.

1. Ha, Kimberly. “Mid-tier CROs Face Pressures Staying Independent as Consolidation Wave Intensifies, Bankers Say.Financial Times. Financial Times, 28 May 2013. Web. 26 June 2013.

(2) Garde, Damian. “Top-heavy Market Makes times Tough for Mid-size CROs.FierceCRO. FierceCRO, 3 June 2013. Web. 26 June 2013.

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