Top 10 Global CROs in 2016

Top 10 Global CROs 2017 is now available

Top 10 CROs (1)

Global Contract Research Organizations Market

Declining R&D productivity and increasing costs of new product development has lead to an increase in the outsourcing of research processes by pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. Contract Research Organizations (CROs) offer a wide portfolio of services that include drug discovery, pre- and post-clinical trial, and post-market surveillance services. The global CRO market was valued at an estimated USD 25 billion in 2015. The market has witnessed a strong, double-digit growth rate over the past decade. It is expected to grow at an annual rate of between 7% to 11% till 2020.

The CRO market is highly consolidated. According IMAP’s Global Pharma & Biotech M&A Report – 2014, the combined market share of the top-10 companies in this market was estimated to be over 75% in 2011. The highly regulated nature of the market and the requirements of high capital investment are important entry barriers for new entrants. They also act as important operational challenges for mid- and small-sized CROs. Between 2007 and 2012, close to 45% of small- and mid-sized CROs were acquired by larger market players or had suspended operations.


Financial Data for Top-10 CROs



CRO Service Portfolio

The leaders in this market include a mix of public-listed and privately held organizations from U.S., Europe, and Asia. These organizations offer services across the entire pharmaceutical research spectrum. However, clinical research services had the largest share of the revenues of CRO market in 2014. The revenues for contract services related to phases I, II, and III had a share of close to 60% of the market in 2014.


Clinical Research Service Portfolio for Top-10 CROs


Partnership Models

Strategic partnerships between pharmaceutical companies and CROs are an important emerging trend in the market. More than half of all biopharmaceutical companies have reported to have entered into strategic partnerships with a small number of preferred service providers – between 1 to 5 CROs. This trend is expected to drive the merger and acquisition activity in this market, increase market consolidation, and strengthen the positions and competitive advantages of market leaders.


A ranking system was developed for the top-10 global clinical research organizations. A score statistic was developed to determine the rank of each organization. Revenues and clinical research services portfolios were the most important input criteria for the score statistic of each organization. Total expenses and net incomes were used to refine the statistic. Of the top-10 players in this market, 9 were public organizations that reported their revenues in the public domain. Except for WuXi PharmaTech (Cayman) Inc. and Covance, Inc., financial data for all other organizations was determined for the year 2015. Financial data for the year 2014 was used as a proxy for WuXi PharmaTech, while that for the year 2013 was used as a proxy for Covance.

Ranking of Global CROs


Revenues, number of clinical trials, range and scope of service portfolio, net income, and total expenses were the five key input criteria were used to calculate the score statistic for each organization. Every organization was assigned a score for each of these key input criteria. Different weights were assigned to each rank. A weighted sum of the five scores was used to arrive at the final score statistic for each organization. The final score statistic represents the financial health, competitive advantage, and activity status of each organization in the clinical trials domain.

Quintiles Transnational Holdings, Inc.

Quintiles is the largest player in this market. It had revenues of USD 5,738 million in 2015. The company is headquartered in Durham, North Carolina and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). The company’s net income stood at USD 387 million while its total expenses stood at USD 5,091 million in 2015. The company operates in all domains of clinical research and post-clinical research. However, its portfolio pre-clinical research and drug discovery services in limited.

Covance Inc.

Covance Inc. was acquired by Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings in February 2015. It is headquartered at Princeton, New Jersey. This company has a strong portfolio of clinical and post-clinical services. It also offers a strong suite of pre-clinical services including research models, drug discovery, bioanalysis, and toxicology services.

PAREXEL International Corporation

PAREXEL is headquartered at Waltham, Massachusetts and is listed on the NASDAQ. It had revenues of USD 2,330 million in 2015 and total expenses and net income of USD 2,130 million and USD 148 million respectively. This company too has a strong focus on clinical, post-clinical, and consulting services. However, it does not have a strong presence in pre-clinical services domain.

ICON Public Limited Company

ICON is headquartered at Dublin, Ireland. It is listed on the NASDAQ in the U.S. It had revenues of USD 2,162 million in 2015 and total expenses of USD 1,293 million. This company has a strong portfolio of post-clinical services. It also offers bioanalysis, consulting, and commercialization services.

Pharmaceutical Product Development, LLC

PPD is a privately held organization that is headquartered at Wilmington, North Carolina. This company has a strong portfolio of clinical, pre-clinical, post-clinical, and commercialisation services. It’s portfolio of pre-clinical services includes drug discovery, bioanalysis, and toxicology services.




Top 10 Global CROs in 2016 last edit: 2016-04-14T23:15:52+00:00 da Luca
  • Angelo
    Posted 11 May 2016 3:07 0Likes

    Dear Sir, Could you please clarify why you issued a 2016 ranking based on 214 and 2015 data? Should “Top 10 Global CROs in 2015” a most appropriate title for this post? Thanks, Angelo

    • Luca Dezzani
      Posted 11 May 2016 7:35 0Likes

      Maybe you are right Angelo. What is important is that the article is based on the most recent data available.

  • Mathieu
    Posted 11 May 2016 15:31 0Likes

    The numbers used here are a bit odd… What strikes me the most is that you would be comparing financial numbers from 2015, 2014 and 2013. Furthermore, what is the relevance of the “Number of clinical trials” column in the Ranking of Gobal CROs” table?

    • Luca Dezzani
      Posted 11 May 2016 16:08 0Likes

      Mathieu, I agree with you that these kind of analyses have indeed limitations. Evaluating CROs on the basis of limited number of parameters is not easy and many different approaches could be used. However I believe the most important thing is to be transparent with the criteria applied to develop the ranking. Anyway…open to accept advices to further improve..

  • Marcela Otero
    Posted 17 June 2016 9:28 0Likes

    I agree, but who can report 2016 data if we are in the middle of 2016 (Is there data 2016 yet?).
    best regards, Marcela

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