The global market for contract research organisations (CROs) is expected to grow at an annual rate of 14%-16% over the next few years, reaching around $24 billion by 2010.

The CRO market was worth an estimated $14 billion in 2006, according to a new report by Business Insights. That compares with estimated global revenues of $6.4 billion in 2000, $8.3 billion in 2002 and $10.8 billion in 2004. According to Business Insights’ projections, the market should reach $18.2 billion in 2008 and $23.7 billion in 2010.

The rapid growth in global CRO revenues over the last decade reflects increasing pressure to reduce R&D costs and time to market in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors, Business Insights says, noting that clinical trials conducted by CROs are completed up to 30% more quickly than those handled by pharmaceutical companies in-house.

The leading CROs operate on a global scale as one-stop shops for services ranging from preclinical trials through to marketing, the report points out. Among them, Quintiles is the decisive leader with a 14% market share worldwide, followed by Covance and PPD with 10% apiece.

Sector 'highly fragmented'

The five largest CROs have consolidated their presence and now hold a combined market share of 45%, Business Insights says. Nonetheless, the CRO sector remains highly fragmented, with more than 1,100 companies operating across the globe.

The report also predicts that electronic data capture (EDC) technologies will show double-digit growth over the next five years. “The upward trend is due, in part, to the increasing number of trials conducted outside the US and Western Europe, leading to growing acceptance and use of EDC technology for clinical trials around the globe,” it comments.

According to the Business Insight analysts, the EDC market grew from $123 million in 2001 to $169 million in 2003, $248 million in 2005 and $300 million in 2006. This year worldwide revenues for EDC technologies are expected to reach $363 million.