CRO market to recover, using 'hybrid trials,' with revenue hitting $64B by 2024: report

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The contract research market has been squeezed hard by COVID-19, but it should still grow to $63.83 billion by 2024.

This is according to new analysis out by Frost & Sullivan, which also says part of this recovery will be based on new ways of doing trials, including hybrid clinical trials that are using safety-focused, direct-to-consumer logistical solutions, which “are taking center stage, ensuring research continuity.”

The Frost & Sullivan report, "Hybridization of Clinical Trial Designs Reviving Global CRO Market Post-pandemic; 2019-2024," also reveals that remote patient monitoring is “key trends driving the global contract research organization (CRO) market.”

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This comes amid some serious interruptions to older and new trials across the whole CRO market, with some hit over several quarters by lockdowns. Most are predicting to be back on track by the fourth quarter, but the financial hit will last for years.

The market’s recovery is expected to start from 2023, the report said, and, “although it will be staggered,” it will take revenue to the original growth trajectory by 2024–25.

Frost & Sullivan say the CRO market is now estimated to hit revenue of $63.83 billion by 2024 from $43.03 billion in 2019, at a compound annual growth rate of 8.2%.

“Due to the impact of the coronavirus, many large pharmaceutical companies have placed new trials on hold and numerous small, mid-size, and large enterprises have suspended ongoing ones, thereby demonstrating the magnitude of the disruption,” said Unmesh Lal, healthcare industry principal at Frost & Sullivan.

“Going forward, to minimize the adverse effect of the pandemic, organizations such as site management organizations (SMOs) and patient recruitment organizations (PROs), that operate traditionally, will have to explore collaboration opportunities with emerging virtual trial platform vendors, eRecruitment providers, and remote monitoring solutions providers to expand the capability to support distributed/hybrid CT models.”

The firm also sees pharma’s R&D spending to contract by around 2% to 3% in comparison to the its forecast as a result of COVID disruptions.

“This will affect outsourcing to CROs and further decrease revenue across both segments—drug discovery and preclinical,” Lal added. “Further, from a regional perspective, North America and Europe will be the most affected. However, rapid recovery is anticipated due to the proliferation of new clinical trial approaches/models, which make use of virtual trial tools and evolving regulatory policies.”

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