What's Next In: Outsourcing

Dec 02, 2007

Contract service providers exist to help clients meet their strategic and financial business objectives. So any prognostication on what the pharmaceutical outsourcing industry will look like in 30 years is really a forecast of the nature and speed of changes in pharmaceutical technologies and business models.

We expect that globalization, new technologies, and efforts to control the costs of healthcare will create new market leaders among the pharmaceutical companies and the contract research and manufacturing organizations (CROs and CMOs) that service them. Globalization will be characterized not just by interregional sourcing activities, but also by the blossoming of huge new pharmaceutical markets, especially in Asia and Latin America. That means that much of the pharmaceutical industry's value-added (manufacturing as well as research and development expenditures) and decision-making will shift from the West to Asia and Latin America. The new leaders in contract services will be those companies best positioned to serve those expanding markets.

Technological change and cost control efforts represent threats to the current players in the CRO and CMO arenas. Consider the implications for research and development services of the ability to model biological and physiological process on computers. As computing power gets ever cheaper and databases become more complete and sophisticated, in silico testing of new compounds will replace much of the in vivo preclinical and clinical testing that is done today. Already, toxicogenomic databases are helping to weed out harmful compounds during discovery and software that models physiological processes is being used to design and refine clinical trial designs. These developments could actually shrink the size of the preclinical and clinical research sectors, and displace established CROs with the new companies developing these technologies.

CROs and CMOs will need to be enablers in the global efforts to cut the cost of healthcare, including drugs. It will no longer be sufficient to stick data processing centers in India or source early intermediates from the interior of China. Just as in silico testing will change preclinical and clinical research, new manufacturing technologies will lower the capital and operating costs incurred in making drugs. Just look at the biomanufacturing field, where rapidly rising cell culture yields combined with disposable technologies will rapidly drop production costs, and where some of the biggest selling drugs might be grown on farms rather than made in tanks. New delivery technologies are also likely to play a bigger role. Here again, today's market leaders are likely to be displaced by new companies.

New players, new technologies, new geographies-in 30 years, it won't be your parent's contract services industry.

Jim Miller, president, PharmSource Information Services

Industry experts give their predictions for the next 30 years. Read Editor-in-Chief Michelle Hoffman's introduction here. See what's next in:

Strategy and Regulation
Solid-Dosage Formulation
Drug Delivery
Analytical Testing
Information Technology