How to Choose a Contract Research Organization

Choose a CRO

This blog post will guide you in finding the proper Contract Research Organization (CRO) for your research requirements using five primary criteria. Finding the right fit for your project can seem daunting with a seemingly endless list of variables such as expertise, service quality, cost, and collaboration ease. But don't worry; we're here to guide you through this maze.


CROs: A Vital Player in Today's Pharma Landscape

Pharma companies are increasingly called upon to do more with less. The race against time and resource constraints are relentless. But here's the silver lining: outsourcing. Partnering with the right CRO can help you stretch your resources further while giving you access to specialized expertise often out of reach for many biotech start-ups.

But hold on, finding the perfect CRO isn't just about pointing your finger at a name on the list. It's like hiring a new employee – you want someone who will bring value, not headaches. When choosing the best CRO for your research needs, let's dive into the five crucial elements.


Digging into CRO's Capabilities

First, ask yourself: "Can the CRO do what I need?" Sounds pretty straightforward. But it's a step many companies skip. It's essential to confirm that the CRO can meet your project's technical demands and that their methods are rock-solid. Don't settle for vague assurances like, "We did something similar once, and it was fine." Key capabilities include: 

Technical Expertise

Technical expertise is a key part of a CRO's capabilities. They should have the technical know-how to carry out the tasks required in your project. Whether it's clinical trials, data management, or bioanalysis, you want to make sure they have the chops to get the job done, and done well.

Specialized Services

Take note of what specialized services a CRO offers. If you're in the pharmaceutical industry and need a CRO to conduct specific assays, they should have the necessary equipment, the right personnel, and the knowledge to carry out those tasks. Just because a CRO offers a laundry list of services doesn't mean they excel in all of them. You want to find a CRO that specializes in what you need.

Resource Availability

Resource availability is another aspect of capabilities. Does the CRO have enough personnel to handle your project? Do they have the necessary equipment or software? If your project requires specialized resources, ensure the CRO has access to these. You don't want your project to be put on the backburner because the CRO can't handle the load.

Validated Methods

Now, having the right technical expertise, specialized services, and resources is great, but it doesn't end there. You need to make sure their methods are validated. This means that their processes have been tested and proven to work. It's like a stamp of approval that tells you, "We know what we're doing, and we do it well."

Consistent Capabilities Across Sites

Consistency is king. If a CRO operates in multiple locations, check if their capabilities are consistent across all sites. This consistency indicates that the CRO has established best practices and ensures you'll receive the same level of service, no matter where your project is conducted.


Scrutinizing the CRO's Quality Assurance

First things first, does the CRO have a QA system in place? This isn't just a "nice-to-have," it's a non-negotiable. Having a solid QA system signals the CRO's commitment to maintaining high standards of quality and compliance.

Once you've confirmed the existence of a QA system, dig deeper. Check if it complies with regulatory guidelines. For instance, if you're in the pharma industry, the CRO's QA system should comply with Good Clinical Practice (GCP), Good Laboratory Practice (GLP), or Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) guidelines, depending on the type of work you're outsourcing.

Here's your checklist:

  • Do they have a robust quality assurance (QA) system? 
  • Is it linked to compliance regulations? 
  • Have you checked their quality certificates and processes?

The QA process should be as transparent as possible. The CRO should be open to discussing their QA system, sharing relevant documentation, and allowing audits. A CRO without a proven QA system is a red flag. Consider thinking twice before proceeding with them.


How's the CRO's Communication and Relationship Maintenance?

We did look at the costs associated with potential poor communication and it's a vital criteria to assess, as communication and relationship maintenance are intertwined and equally critical. 

The CRO should foster transparency across all its operations, from procurement to business development to research, ensuring everyone is on the same page and minimizing the chance of duplicate efforts or miscommunications.

And while it's natural for teams to change over time, any staff or technician changes impacting your study might be a sign to reassess your partnership. Consistency is crucial in a successful CRO-client relationship.


Getting Down to the Nitty-Gritty: Costs

Consider this: have you calculated how much your company saves per hour using a fee-for-service organization? The answer might surprise you. But remember, as the saying goes, "You get what you pay for."

When you're comparing quotes from different CROs, it can be tempting to gravitate towards the one with the smallest bottom line. But don't get tripped up. The lowest initial proposal might not end up being the cheapest. You need to understand the true cost, which goes beyond just the service fee.

Communication takes time and effort. If a CRO is unresponsive or slow to communicate, it could delay your project and cost you more in the long run. Choose a CRO that prioritizes clear, prompt communication to keep your project on track and within budget.

Also, consider whether flexible payments based on milestones could be beneficial. Suppose you're conducting a long-term, costly study, but early data could be better. You'll want to know if you can opt-out halfway without bearing the total cost. Remember, the devil is in the details.


Assessing the CRO's Experience

Experience and quality are two sides of the same coin. An experienced team only sometimes guarantees quality, so insist on seeing the proposed project team's credentials. They should have a solid track record in your therapeutic area and a history of running successful studies like yours.

Feel free to ask for client references. If a CRO balks at this, consider it a warning sign. A reputable CRO should happily share references from satisfied customers.


Wrapping Up

With a clearer understanding of the key factors – capabilities, quality assurance, communication, cost and experience – you're now equipped to navigate this complex landscape with confidence.

Remember, choosing a CRO is like adding a new member to your team. You wouldn't rush into hiring a new team member without due diligence, would you? The same applies when choosing a CRO. Do your homework, ask the tough questions, and don't settle until you find a CRO that ticks all the right boxes.

Consider their capabilities. Can they deliver what you need? Make sure their Quality Assurance (QA) process is robust and their methods validated. Dig into their track record. Have they been around the block and come back successful? Understand the true cost, beyond just the service fee. And never overlook the importance of communication and relationship maintenance.

Finding the right CRO isn't a sprint, it's a marathon. So pace yourself. Your due diligence will pay off when you find a CRO that not only meets your project's needs but also seamlessly integrates with your team, adding value every step of the way.


LIDE delivers innovations in oncology translational research and immuno-oncology. Contact Global Vice President, Josh Caggiula today to learn more about our first-class research capabilities.

Published by Lide Biotech Staff