The current economic downturn may be cutting into the revenues and profits of leading contract research organisations (CROs) but a new report sees a period of healthy growth ahead.

According to the report on The Top 10 Contract Research Organizations published by Business Insights, the global CRO market was worth US$18 million in 2008, 14% more than in the previous year. The market is projected to keep expanding at 14% per annum over the next five years, reaching US$35 billion by 2013.

Among the factors expected to underpin this growth are cost-containment and regulatory pressures within the pharmaceutical industry, which are driving outsourcing of research and development worldwide.

The CRO industry is also benefiting from tougher clinical obstacles to drug approval, due to the increasing availability of generics, and from the growing complexity of clinical research as the trend builds towards Health Economics Outcomes Research, Business Insights says.

The report identifies Quintiles Transnational as leading the global CRO market, with sales of US$2.7 billion and a market share of 16.9% in 2007. Second in line is Covance, which generated revenues of US$1.5 billion in 2007 and took a global market share of 9.7%.