China Contract Research Organization (CRO) Industry Report, 2019-2025
The steadily growing global pharmaceutical industry where more and more new drugs have been approved, and the soaring spending on drug research and development in recent years, are a boon for global contract research organization (CRO) market. Global CRO industry size sustained growth of around 8% over the years, reaching roughly $37.1 billion in 2018.
There are more than 1,100 CRO companies around the globe, led by IQVIA, Covance, LabCorp, Syneos, Charles River, Parexel, ICON, PRA, PPD and Wuxi AppTec. The world’s top ten CRO players hold a combined over 50% market share for now.
China’s great competitive edge over the developed countries in pharmaceutical R&D cost has allured several large international pharmaceutical companies to build dozens of R&D centers here, boosting the country’s CRO industry which was worth RMB68.7 billion in 2018. The world-renowned players will continue R&D budget tilt toward CRO services and Chinese firms with more expenses on research and development will still be beneficiaries as more new drugs are approved and favorable policies are implemented. It is expected that Chinese CRO industry scale will reach a staggering RMB242.5 billion in 2025.
Large multinational and local companies play the key role in the Chinese CRO market. Thereof, global big-names or their branches in China, for instance, IQVIA, LabCorp and Parexel remain strong in research and development and capital, offering preclinical and clinical trial services.
Chinese CRO leaders include Wuxi AppTec, Pharmaron, Meidicilon, Shanghai ChemPartner, Tigermed and Joinn Laboratories. As one of the most comprehensive service platforms integrating discovery, research and development of small-molecule chemical drugs, WuXi AppTec with the strongest R&D strength not only runs the China’s largest small-molecule pharmaceutical R&D service business but leads the way in global market. It seized about 10.1% of the world’s CRO market in 2018.
The CRO industry in China will show three trends below:
1. CRO firms are likely to expand by way of mergers and acquisitions.
Seen from the development course of multinational CRO companies, giants expanded their business through mergers and acquisitions for better performance and greater profitability. Among them, IQVIA, Charles River, Parexel, ICON and PPD each made over 20 acquisitions over the past two decades. Also, Chinese CRO competitors follow suit to sharpen their competitiveness in recent year.
2. Favorable policies and capital promote the development of local Chinese companies.
Propelled by favorable policies and capital, Chinese CRO companies have landed in the capital market and raised funds to enhance their competitive strength.
3. The industry heads toward vertical integration
Given the importance of data cohesion between new drug R&D phases and the trustworthiness of experimental results, companies that only provide single-stage pharmaceutical R&D services cannot meet the R&D requirements of large pharmaceutical companies on the entire industry chain. Therefore, future entrants need to not only provide quality R&D and production services in their advantageous fields, but also offer comprehensive and integrated new drug research, development and production services through establishment, cooperation or M&A in the upstream and downstream of the industry chain upon customers’ demand.
At present, Wuxi AppTec, taking up nearly 10% share of Chinese CRO market, is able to provide customers with integrated new drug R&D and production services as the industry’s absolute leader. In the future, CRO companies will try to expand their service scope, like extending to CMO/CDMO services, and they will establish a comprehensive service platform covering the entire drug development value chain by enriching their product portfolio constantly through investment in new technologies and new facilities.
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