A fragmented market for clinical research investigative sites in the US could offer rich pickings for ascendant site management organisations (SMOs) based in Europe, a new report suggests. 

According to CenterWatch, the US-based information provider of clinical trials information, a new breed of SMO has been “quietly growing in Europe, expanding into emerging regions including Latin America, India and China during the late 2000s with ambitious plans to enter the US market in 2011”.

This may repeat the pattern of the mid- to late-1990s, when there was an “intense” period of consolidation in the US investigative site market, CenterWatch notes. At that time, venture-backed companies “were on a buying spree to build large networks of physician investigators and standardise the management and conduct of industry-funded clinical trials”. 

Since 2004, however, nearly all SMOs in the US have either pulled out of clinical research or diversified into other business areas, CenterWatch adds. The result has been a more fragmented market for investigative sites, comprising “several thousand small research centres and two dozen medium-sized regional networks of practicing physicians participating in clinical trials”.