choosing a smaller CRO can boost
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3 reasons why choosing a smaller CRO can boost your clinical trial

by | Jun 5, 2024

If you’re looking for the right CRO for your clinical trial, you’re likely considering many factors, including expertise, prior success, budget… but what’s size got to do with it? More than you might think. In this blog post, we look at the benefits of partnering with a smaller CRO.

International clinical trials are helpful, and often necessary, for developing life-saving treatments. But there is extensive evidence of the challenges sponsors face, ranging from regulatory approvals to funding. Choosing the right sites, stakeholders and partners, particularly CROs, can help sponsors overcome these challenges.

In the past, there has been concern about the increasing monopoly of large CROs, partly thanks to the promise of providing everything a sponsor needs in one package. But a 2023 survey revealed that almost 80% of respondents say this ‘one-stop-shop’ approach is not cost effective.

Size, then, does matter – and bigger doesn’t mean better. Here are three reasons why choosing a smaller CRO as a partner for your clinical trial might be the best path to success.

You can work closely with senior specialists

One of the big complaints biotechs and pharma companies have about partnering with large CROs is that they end up working with more junior CRAs and project managers in their trials, especially in a full-service partnership. While this is advantageous to the CRO – junior employees are less costly – it means the sponsor misses out on the experience of more senior staff in day-to-day operations. When CRO staffing can be costing millions, this is a significant disadvantage for the sponsor company.

Therapeutic area can have an impact here too: sponsors report that the people they work with at smaller CROs have greater expertise in specific therapeutic areas. This can in turn impact timelines, and therefore cost. For example, when the clinical trial in question is for a rare disease, which is a growing focus for biotechs, study completion times can be longer, but expertise can reduce this. According to research into phase III trials, “While the size of clinical trial organization is not associated with more rapid completion times, the amount of organizational experience that an organization has in a particular therapeutic area does have a demonstrable impact.”

A leaner structure means greater efficiency and flexibility Smaller companies tend to operate with more agility, which can lead to greater flexibility, more innovation and lower staff turnover. This agility is largely because small companies are not weighed down by heavy infrastructure. This is true of companies across sectors, including CROs.

With a leaner structure, smaller CROs have lower staffing costs. This means they are often able to offer more flexible services and packages to meet tighter budgets. For academic-led studies, this is especially beneficial, as tighter budgets can mean they are unable to use CRO services.

This flexibility goes beyond finance: with less bureaucratic restriction within the company, small CROs can respond fast to required operational changes – a significant benefit given how quickly demands can change in a clinical trial. Small CROs are also likely to take a more tailored, personal approach to the clinical trial, adjusting their approaches to the trial rather than having to squeeze it into existing structures.

While being less restricting, the leaner structure also allows for closer oversight from senior management. A clinical trial can become faceless and transparent, lost in a huge backlog at a large, multinational CRO. At smaller companies, performance matters for every trial, and sponsors will often be in close contact with the CRO leadership team.

Your CRO will grow with you

The benefit of a small CRO’s expertise and experience go beyond the duration of a single trial, both through knowledge transfer and institutional knowledge.

Working closely with senior specialists in a flexible way can facilitate knowledge transfer, which means the CRO’s expertise and experience can filter into the biotech or pharma company, providing longer term benefits. This is particularly true of partnerships where the CRAs and project managers become an extension of the sponsor’s team, such as in functional service provider (FSP) or hybrid arrangements. The flexibility and adaptability of a smaller CRO also makes it possible for the partnership to grow with and adjust to changes that occur at the sponsor company. This includes adapting to growth and to larger, later phase clinical trials. This saves the sponsor time and money, as they don’t have to go through a vendor selection process for each new trial, and it conserves valuable institutional knowledge.

At Siron Clinical, we know that experience matters. That’s why our expert CRAs each have individual experience of more than 15 years in clinical research, which they apply to every trial they work on. Contact us to find out how you can benefit from the tailored, expert support of an experienced CRO.


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