What are CROs and what do they offer?

May 26, 2022
As the biotechnology sector matures, CROs continue to play key roles in the growth and scale of companies. Indeed, with the breadth of CROs that currently exist, it is possible for a biotech company to exist entirely virtually – solely relying on the different services provided by various CROs to advance their research.

CROs, or contract research organizations, are companies that focus on a select number of techniques. By focusing on a dedicated set of approaches, CROs develop highly specialized knowledge around a particular assay or approach. By outsourcing work to CROs, biotechs are able to finish tasks more efficiently and tackle projects outside their own expertise. As the biotechnology sector matures, CROs continue to play key roles in the growth and scale of companies. Indeed, with the breadth of CROs that currently exist, it is possible for a biotech company to exist entirely virtually – solely relying on the different services provided by various CROs to advance their research.  

Cromatic connects biotechs with CROs that can optimize the biotech company’s work towards crucial milestones. But what sort of services do CROs offer? The expertise of CROs is as diverse as the field of biology itself. Below is a list of some of the most commonly utilized CROs:

Drug discovery

Biotechs often develop around new insights into a particular disease. But when it comes time to turn biological insight into clinical benefit, biologists rely on chemists to develop drugs against new targets. Many drug discovery CROs exist to fill this need, ranging from CROs that specialize in the construction of chemical libraries, to those that are able to screen drugs for functionally in a high-throughput assays.

Genetic and biochemical experiments

Depending on the expertise and bandwidth of a biotech, many may opt to outsource specific biological techniques or reagent production. A number of CROs exist that assist with:

  • DNA/RNA sequencing
  • Mass spectrometry
  • Antibody production
  • PCR
  • ELISA

and many other standard biology techniques.

Animal studies

Animal studies are often crucial to proof-of-concept on the path of applying a new intervention for patients. However, animal work may require highly specialized handling techniques, and setting up animal facilities can prove cost prohibitive for many smaller biotechs. A number of animal focused CROs exist to fill this need, enabling researchers to easily outsource tests for efficacy and toxicity in relevant animal models.

Biological assay/medical device design and manufacturing

Biotechs may be interested in standardizing a new biological approach for internal use or for use in a medical diagnostic setting. This standardization often requires the expertise of product and manufacturing CROs. CROs in this category may specialize in the construction of nano-scale devices, microfluidics, or electronics.

Computational biology/machine learning CROs

Modern biology experiments often result in the generation of large datasets. Bioinformatics CROs can help make sense of this data, allowing experimentally-focused biologists to quickly arrive at biological insight. As datasets have grown, machine learning approaches have been used to improve the efficiency of experimental design. For example, a number of CROs are focused on employing machine learning techniques to enhance drug screening, allowing researchers to computationally optimize candidate compounds with desired biological functions.

Clinical trial CROs

Once a biotech has generated sufficient preclinical data for a novel intervention, clinical trials are needed to take the intervention to market. Clinical trials are often outside the expertise of biotech founders, who rely on clinician to guide patient treatment. Clinical trial CROs exist to fill the gap, connecting biotech researchers with the right clinical teams to test their interventions.  

We see that biotech and pharmaceutical companies are choosing to do less in-house. The increase in outsourcing activities of life sciences companies has led to established CROs’ getting extremely booked and also more niche CROs appearing in the market, such as virtual CROs.