From The Editor | July 9, 2024

A Look At 5 Years Of CRO Leadership Awards


By Dan Schell, Chief Editor, Clinical Leader

CRO Leadership Awards Bucket image

In June we announced the winners of our annual CRO Leadership Awards, and it got me thinking. I was curious how often some CROs were chosen over the years. So, I grabbed the last five years of our print supplements dedicated to the awards and started making the Excel chart seen below.

What I was looking at was simply if a company won any level of these awards in a particular year. This is important to note since our research partner, Industry Standard Research, goes to great lengths to analyze and segment the winners according to size and category. I’m really not doing them justice with that very basic explanation, so click here to understand all the details of the research.

A few disclaimers about this chart:

  1. The order of the names in the chart and in the sections does not mean anything. Each section is alphabetized to avoid any perception that one company’s position is better/worse than its competitors.
  2. I know there has been a lot of consolidation during the past five years, and consequently, some names may have changed, and some companies may not exist in name anymore. I realize that may affect how this chart looks. See the parentheticals next to the company’s name for the ones I did identify as having changed

One data point not represented here is the fact that during that five-year period, the number of CROs included in ISR’s research has declined year over year. Rebecca McAvoy, chief research officer at ISR, explained to me that consolidation definitely effected how many CROs were considered, but there’s another factor to be considered.  “We remove CROs that consistently receive only a couple of performance ratings for several years in a row,” McAvoy said. “We need to keep the number of CROs in the list manageable, so the respondents aren’t dealing with giant lists and getting survey fatigue which then leads to bad data. There are definitely many more CROs in the market than are on our lists, but we do our best to include the CROs that are most widely known and are most likely to have users among our survey respondents. We add CROs to our lists using a decision process, as well.”


There were 45 CROs that won at least one award over the past five years (some have since been acquired, merged with another company, or changed their name). I initially wondered if the same companies were winning every year, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. As you would expect, most of the biggest CROs did win every year, although the category of five-year winners ranked third behind one- and two-year winners. See the breakdown of percentages in the pic chart below.

It will be interesting to see how things shake out in this space in the coming years, especially with the rise of FSPs (functional service providers). In my interview with Samir Shah, who has 24 years of CRO experience, he expects more sponsors are going to be switching to FSPs rather than the large one-size-fits-all model. Although, he does say that smaller pharmas and biotechs will continue to rely on the full-service outsourcing model.