Innovative CROs Support a More Integrated R&D Model

For the past decade, the pharma industry has been working to overcome what many called a “crisis” in R&D productivity. Today, signs indicate that the tide may be turning: Sponsors are realizing efficiencies, accelerating product development, and improving their patient focus. These gains are, in large part, stemming from a more integrated approach to R&D that incorporates new skills, practices, technologies, and info. Interestingly, many of the innovations are actually familiar to the commercial side of the business—in fact, they dovetail with marketing’s objectives and expertise.

In order to better partner with sponsors undergoing this transformation, progressive contract research organizations (CROs) are moving toward more integrated business models themselves and offering broader, end-to-end services. They’re generating innovation organically as well as partnering with leaders outside of the pharma sector to apply their experience, technologies, and information in new ways. (No provider can be expected to innovate across the breadth of services and technologies that can be brought to bear on improving clinical development.)

The CROs on the leading edge of this transformation are helping sponsors:

Bridge the gap between clinical and commercial functions, throughout the product lifecycle. By infusing insights from the marketplace in the form of real-world data into the development process, companies can better align their development efforts with unmet patient needs and accelerate time to market with the right evidence package. In the post-marketing realm, collecting more data on real patients in a real-world setting is becoming the new mandate.

Employ direct-to-patient strategies that treat patients as partners. Digital platforms and applications are key to this movement—they’re helping to improve enrollment efficiency, to strengthen patient communication/engagement, and to make participation more convenient for patients. Indeed, mHealth technologies are introducing an era of “the digital patient.”

Brand clinical trials in ways that extend to commercialization. In patient-centric R&D models—especially ones focused on rare conditions—sponsors can build communities of advocacy among patients so that their affinity for the company/products are established earlier in the product lifecycle.

As sponsors rethink the traditional approach to R&D, they should look for CRO partners on a similar path. CROs capable of accommodating a more efficient approach to R&D will be fluent in generating, using, and communicating real-world evidence. They will also be broadening their scope of expertise and investing in technological advances—often from other business sectors. They will be “pragmatic innovators” who embrace innovation in every aspect. By baking innovation into their business model (rather than treating it as a point-in-time solution), they can readily push concepts for improving efficiency and effectiveness into broad-scale use.

  • Jim Carroll

    Jim Carroll is Vice President, Real World Evidence at ICON plc. Jim has over 25 years of industry experience including leadership roles in the application of Real World Evidence (RWE). At ICON plc, he is leading the development of an integrated RWE Center of Excellence to support more informed decision-making.


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