Drug Discovery CRO: The Move to Strategic Partner?

Discovering and developing new drugs is a high risk, high cost and only occasionally high reward enterprise. Industry data suggests that for every 10,000 new molecular entities prepared only 1 will make it to market and the process from concept to market often takes in excess of 10 years. Moreover, very few marketed drugs ever recoup the significant R&D investment required to bring them to patients, which today can exceed $800 million.

These issues, coupled to a general decline in R&D productivity (as measured by the number of NDAs granted per year) and the loss of exclusivity on high revenue marketed products explain the distress currently felt within the pharmaceutical industry. The consequences are all too apparent - mega-mergers, consolidation and significant reductions in R&D headcount.

Despite this, global R&D budgets remain largely unaffected and the proportion of global R&D expenditure dedicated to outsourcing has continued to increase over the past few years, particularly in the exploratory phase of drug discovery, which however remains relatively low when compared to pre-clinical and clinical outsourcing. This latter point highlights a growing trend of pharmaceutical and biotech organisations to use external research solutions earlier in the drug discovery process. The relationship between the sponsor and the external provider is also evolving as the focus moves from tactical to strategic collaborations.