CROs in drug development: "We use our expertise to speed up the process

Consultancy firms have become an increasingly important part of drug development. “It’s a trend and a business model that works, and we see no indication that it will change,” says Helena Lüning of the industry organisation ASCRO.

The first consulting firms in life science were established as early as the 1940s and 50s, but the industry can still be seen as relatively young and has undergone rapid development over the past 20 years.

There are many different types of consulting firms, ranging from large global full-service CROs (Contract Research Organisations) to more specialised companies.

“As an industry organisation, we now comprise over 20 companies and have been established in Sweden since 2011. Our ambition is to serve as a unified voice for all life science consulting firms and drive issues of interest to our industry,” says Helena Lüning, Chair of ASCRO.

The task of bringing a product to market requires broad expertise, which is rarely entirely available in small start-up companies. The large pharmaceutical companies may have the necessary expertise “in house”, but they have instead dismantled the infrastructure and often lack the capacity to roll out a clinical study quickly.

In both cases, consulting firms with specialised expertise are able to step in and offer their services.

According to Helena Lüning, globally, over 70% of all clinical trials are currently conducted by a CRO.

According to ASCRO’s latest survey from 2021, 57 CRO companies with around 1,700 employees were operating in Sweden. This includes “life science service providers” in a broad sense – ranging from traditional CROs to companies providing specialised services in laboratory analysis and software services.

“Today, a clinical trial usually involves three parties: the healthcare system with its patients and infrastructure, the pharmaceutical company with its product under development, and the consulting firms. Through this partnership, we can use our expertise and new technologies to speed up the process and ultimately get new drugs to the patient faster,” says Helena Lüning, who works at one of the world’s largest CRO companies, Icon, where she is Head of Start-up in the Nordic and Baltic countries.

On 7 September, she will talk about the CRO industry at The Future of Swedish & Danish Life Science at Medicon Village in Lund together with Hedda Magnusson from Link Medical, who also sits on ASCRO’s board. You can read more about the event here.

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