Subscribe

Forum

Working for a Contract Research Organization

Welcome to the newly redesigned Science Careers Forum. Please bookmark this site now for future reference. If you've previously posted to the forum, your current username and password will remain the same in the new system. If you've never posted or are new to the forum, you will need to create a new account.

The new forum is designed with some features to improve the user experience. Upgrades include:
- easy-to-read, threaded discussions
- ability to follow discussions and receive notifications of updates
- private messaging to other SC Forum members
- fully searchable database of posts
- ability to quote in your response
- basic HTML formatting available

Moderator: Dave Jensen
Advisors:   Ana, PG, Rich Lemert, Dick Woodward, Dave Walker
Meet the Moderator/Advisors

Working for a Contract Research Organization

Postby Gene » Thu Jul 02, 2015 9:14 pm

There was an article in here once about working for a Contract Research Organization: http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/ca ... t.a1200059 that I would like to keep in perspective while I discuss my case.
I recently started working for a CRO as a first step of transitioning from academia to industry, and wondering if I can get any pointers. The people are nice and the job is secure, so no complaints there. However, it is not creative as we are just doing what the clients need. I feel that I am not using my strongest points and what I trained for in graduate school and postdoc. The projects are very short, so there is almost no possibility for publication. Being an expert in my field, I sometimes have a better grasp of the client's test article than even their own Scientists. I make suggestions but am ignored and we have to do what the client wants in the end. Is this the norm in working in CRO? Do most people eventually move on to Big Pharma or Biotech from CRO?
Gene
 
Posts: 31
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:44 pm

Re: Working for a Contract Research Organization

Postby D.X. » Fri Jul 03, 2015 7:25 am

Hi Gene,

I can only comment based on my experiences from the client side working with many CROs and 3rd party support agencies on a variety of projects.

The article you pasted is fairly clear and does mention the relationship between the client and CRO can vary depending on the project type, phase the project is in, relationship-level, company culture, and level of management, the personalities on the client side, just to name a few. Key influencers can include level of access to data, sensitive materials, and work-responsibilities of the CRO as stipulated in the "Contract" between the CRO and the Client.

In some cases the CRO, depending on activity, has complete management responsibility (say in the case of a pharmacoviligence CRO) where nearly all client aspects are transparent or you are providing help operationalizing the client's strategy where not all aspects are transparent.(i.e. clinical trial, in this case you may not don't know the complete data-generation/commercial strategy).

I don't know how long you've been in the CRO (thus your experience), or your project details, or where you sit in your team, (i.e. your management level) but be careful to say you "have a better grasp on the client's project than the client". In general, By virtue of being a client, they have a lot more access to information you would have - a lot of meetings happen that you are not apart of, with internal stakeholders who are closest to the data and strategy by virtue of being ...well...the client. A lot of what you know as a CRO, within your project team is dependent on how much the client wants to share and how they wish to leverage your services (i.e. partner with you, see my point about personalities).

Your job within a CRO is to provide a service and where applicable your expertise. If you have raised your view/suggestion , then you've done your job. You cannot control if your client implements. How you raise your suggestion is important (i.e your language and how you do it), but ultimately the accountability, final decision-making, is with the client. With respect to publications, it will be rare that you as a CRO employee will be an author on a scientific paper unless you meet certain conditions (see ICJME and GPP3). Basically if you are accountable for data set as a signatory such as a principal investigator of a protocol , sponsor medical director, trial statistician, or supporting medical writer that has given significant contribution to writing the manuscript that one must be an author (per ICJME/GPP).

You do have a lot of responsibility in a CRO and certainly CROs are key partners for clients. You need to deliver as stipulated per your contract and client expectations where defined. There can be a lot of empowerment in a CRO.

But at the end of the day, the key accountability for your projects lies with the client. And this is the norm.

If you feel you want full accountability beyond what you can achieve in a CRO, the go the client side. However, CROs are attractive, certainly many on the client side go over, depending on the project/activity, since a CRO does have to deliver, many of us on the client side can feel our expertise (and career wishes) can best be leveraged there.

Depends on what you want, but why not try to go the client side. At least get that experience and then you can decide later on what you prefer. To be pragmatic about it.

DX
D.X.
 
Posts: 1138
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:29 pm

Re: Working for a Contract Research Organization

Postby Gene » Fri Jul 03, 2015 6:27 pm

DX: Thank you for your response, however it seems more tailored for a Clinical CRO job, rather than pre-clinical CRO that I am doing. I have no real interest in the mountains of regulatory paperwork needed for Clinical trial, as that is not what I trained for. I am deeply interested in applying my education and training to produce creative solutions for healthcare and/or disease problems. I do realize that the client dictates and pays for the work at the CRO. The pay and benefits at CRO are not great, and I don't really see a long career progression ladder. My question was: is it usually considered a stepping stone to something better? Do people generally move onto the "client side" after gaining experience, as that is where the action is?

And btw, I understand that my aforementioned suggestion was discussed and eventually picked up by the client.
Gene
 
Posts: 31
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:44 pm

Re: Working for a Contract Research Organization

Postby Dave Jensen » Sun Jul 05, 2015 10:31 pm

Gene wrote:DX: Thank you for your response, however it seems more tailored for a Clinical CRO job, rather than pre-clinical CRO that I am doing. I have no real interest in the mountains of regulatory paperwork needed for Clinical trial, as that is not what I trained for. I am deeply interested in applying my education and training to produce creative solutions for healthcare and/or disease problems. I do realize that the client dictates and pays for the work at the CRO. The pay and benefits at CRO are not great, and I don't really see a long career progression ladder. My question was: is it usually considered a stepping stone to something better? Do people generally move onto the "client side" after gaining experience, as that is where the action is?

And btw, I understand that my aforementioned suggestion was discussed and eventually picked up by the client.


Hi Gene,

I work with a lot of pre-clinical R&D labs doing client work as CRO's. Some of them represent great career choices! Others, they will burn out their people and they have a rather high turnover. It really depends on the company, and it's tough to generalize. These kinds of CRO's, no matter which type you are in, are all great experience and they can be springboards to jobs in client companies. But actually, the future is still kind of rosy for CRO's because the trend remains "Outsourcing, Outsourcing, and Outsourcing." You should have no problem finding a CRO that pays the equivalent of the client company -- perhaps you are with a "cheapie" firm . . . CRO's hire from other CRO's all the time, maybe a move to a better grade of supplier is in order.

Also, you'll find that same attitude -- the customer doubting whether your idea is valid or useable (glad to hear it worked out by the way) no matter where you go as a consultant or service provider. I've been recruiting for 30 years and I know how to do my job -- and yet, I'll work for some 3 -5 year experienced H/R head who will tell me that my idea has no merit. You smile and get by, that's all you can do.

Dave
"One of the most powerful networking practices is to provide immediate value to a new connection. This means the moment you identify a way to help someone, take action." - Lewis Howes
User avatar
Dave Jensen
Site Moderator
 
Posts: 7875
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:28 pm

Re: Working for a Contract Research Organization

Postby D.X. » Mon Jul 06, 2015 2:27 am

Dave Jensen wrote:

Hi Gene,

I work with a lot of pre-clinical R&D labs doing client work as CRO's. Some of them represent great career choices! Others, they will burn out their people and they have a rather high turnover. It really depends on the company, and it's tough to generalize. These kinds of CRO's, no matter which type you are in, are all great experience and they can be springboards to jobs in client companies. But actually, the future is still kind of rosy for CRO's because the trend remains "Outsourcing, Outsourcing, and Outsourcing." You should have no problem finding a CRO that pays the equivalent of the client company -- perhaps you are with a "cheapie" firm . . . CRO's hire from other CRO's all the time, maybe a move to a better grade of supplier is in order.

Also, you'll find that same attitude -- the customer doubting whether your idea is valid or useable (glad to hear it worked out by the way) no matter where you go as a consultant or service provider. I've been recruiting for 30 years and I know how to do my job -- and yet, I'll work for some 3 -5 year experienced H/R head who will tell me that my idea has no merit. You smile and get by, that's all you can do.

Dave


A lot of folks from the CRO side (those who enter industry via CRO) do aspire to go to the client side. There are nice parts about being on the client side, but not to negate, there are upsides on the CRO side as Dave mentioned.

Dave mentioned outsourcing as a trend - I can't emphasize how much this is true. Nearly function can be outsourced from Regulatory Affairs, Drug Saftey, Medical Affairs, Manufacturing, Clinical, Marketing, to even Sales Reps. What this means, is that on the client side, teams are becoming more nimble and smaller. That's the trend. A lot of time spent in internal client jobs becomes managing the CRO or 3rd party vendor, i.e. using them to execute the strategy (sometimes even develop). I spend about 60% of my time managing a 3rd party vendor. In fact in a lot of job descriptions will have a line requesting prior CRO/Vendor management or CRO/Vendor side experience. When I was medical lead, I had one CRO who was driving my phase IV study, another that was my Drug Safety, yet another that was my Regulatory Affairs - in this particular sense we were managing a portfolio of about 100 products, just between say 5 to 6 people on the client side that was brining in about 60% of the company's EBIT.

This is an extreme example, but point is not bad to grow in the CRO world and learn those skills.

As pharma consolidate more, a lot of folks to end up on the CRO or 3rd party side.

Also, in reference to the article, the CRO title may be misleading because a lot of these companies such as Quintiles provide a lot of services beyond CRO. So I don't know what it means to work in such CRO, but I can imagine there may be opportunities on that side to get more broader experiences that perhaps the client side? not sure.

But its about what you want. Let that guide you. The use opportunities on the CRO or client side to take your where you want.

Good luck - DX
D.X.
 
Posts: 1138
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:29 pm

Re: Working for a Contract Research Organization

Postby Dave Jensen » Mon Jul 06, 2015 8:59 pm

Great comments, DX, we're lucky you are a frequent visitor!

Dave Jensen, Moderator
"One of the most powerful networking practices is to provide immediate value to a new connection. This means the moment you identify a way to help someone, take action." - Lewis Howes
User avatar
Dave Jensen
Site Moderator
 
Posts: 7875
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:28 pm

Re: Working for a Contract Research Organization

Postby Dick Woodward » Tue Jul 07, 2015 1:54 pm

Gene:

From your comments about a "test article" I would venture to guess that you are working in the sort of CRO that performs analyses on samples (The "test article") provided by the client. These can be organizations that perform analytical chemistry, biosafety testing, or any of the myriad of other types of tests that are needed in the preclinical space. From personal experience in one of these groups doing biosafety testing, I can tell you that having a better grasp of the test article than the client can often be risky. I was recruited into this company to head up sales and marketing; at the time, sales were flat and there were no profits. When I looked at the testing that we were offering, and compared it to the testing required by the FDA, there was a big disconnect - our testing did not meet the FDA requirements! When I questioned the study directors about this, they responded that "our testing is better than that required by the FDA - it picks up more important viruses." This was probably true, and totally irrelevant - the clients needed FDA-compliant testing. When we started offering the correct testing, sales went through the roof.

The moral of this story is that the clients need what the clients need - especially if it is required by regulatory agencies. On the other hand, it is generally welcome if you make suggestions that can advance the client's case - just don't be upset if they are not accepted.

Don't be afraid to ask questions, though. I once had a client submit a hamster cell line for an extensive (and expensive) suite of testing - all for human viruses. I called him up and asked him if this was an error, since to the best of my knowledge hamsters did not get AIDS. He chuckled, said "that's why I work with you guys - you ask questions like that instead of blindly doing the testing" and proceeded to explain the strategy behind his request. It turned out that he was growing multiple cell lines in the same reactor, and felt that this was a good baseline to fend off FDA questions about cross-contamination between cells. I found that asking clients to explain things that seem unusual is a great way to understand the client's strategies and an even better way to demonstrate that you and your company have the client's best interests at heart.

When you do ask questions of the client, make certain that they are not asked in a threatening manner. The goal here is to do the best for the client, not to prove that you know more than the client. If you're not comfortable with how to ask questions in a non-threatening manner, buy lunch for one of the more senior salespeople and ask for some pointers - they do this all the time, and are generally happy to help - especially because a good relationship between the client and the Study Director can lead to additional sales.

Hope this is useful. Best of luck.

Dick
User avatar
Dick Woodward
 
Posts: 420
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:29 pm

Re: Working for a Contract Research Organization

Postby Gene » Fri Jul 10, 2015 8:37 pm

Thank you all so much for your replies: DX, Dave and Dick. You are excellent resources. My eventual goal is to be in Management and do things that are innovative rather than routine. But it is probably really good to have the CRO experience before going to the client side so I know how to manage the projects.
Gene
 
Posts: 31
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:44 pm


Return to Science Careers Forum

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Hemant Khanna and 14 guests