CEO Paul Bishop and President Lyle Camblos on "Are There Too Many CROs?"

Each quarter, ARG CEO Paul Bishop and President Lyle Camblos will share their thoughts and responses concerning relevant company and industry issues. This segment’s topic is centered around a LinkedIn article from 4/16 called “Are There Too Many Clinical Research Organizations?” Paul and Lyle respond to several questions and prompts raised by Debjit Biswas in the piece.

We are a niche player with specialized capabilities. If you are the fifth CRO claiming to specialize in DSMB support, or the sixth CRO pitching capabilities to do trials in Eastern Europe, how niche are you?

Paul: “ARG has a rare disease specialty yet our niche is two-fold: we have thrived in several therapeutic areas, and we continue to expand therapeutic expertise because we are comfortable working in areas with no clear blueprints.”

Lyle: “We have consistently shown that we have the people, ideas, and technology to flexibly overlay our processes into any therapeutic area.”

We are more cost effective than big players. If cost arbitrage is your only game, what prevents other companies from undercutting you on prices?

Paul: “Although we are in fact more cost-effective, ARG chooses to stress value.”

Lyle: “For example, we are able to furnish both big company big data capability with the same attentiveness we offered way back in 2004.”

We are a local CRO; we can help you navigate local requirements. But global CROs claim local presence too, backed by global leadership, resources and processes.

Lyle: “Rather than focus on local or global — and indeed we have been successful in each — we stress our capacity to be nimble.”

Paul: “We like to describe to prospective partners diverse examples of how we created tailor-made partnerships and processes.”

We are a global CRO dedicated to small and midsized pharma. Do offices in a couple of countries, partnerships in a few others, and contract monitoring support qualify as global presence?

Lyle: “We have no debt for a reason. We have carefully considered every expansion choice, always keeping in mind the needs of our Sponsors. The result is an ever-expanding global reach that makes sense for us, and that yields increasing annual revenues.”

Paul: “We don’t do anything just to do it. We are deliberate.”

We are not new; this is a re-branding of a 15-year-old company. If the previous avatar was not too successful, does a reincarnation under a new brand and management help, in the absence of a reevaluation of the business model?

Paul: “Of course we are rebranding our company. We have evolved considerably since day one, and now we lead the CRO in many areas- like automation, for example.”

Lyle: “We will never rebrand the fact that we are rare for a reason and that everyone deserves to be well.”

Having worked in large CROs, I saw deficiencies in how they serve customers. Fair enough, but if we go to a restaurant and have an unsatisfactory meal, the typical solution is not to start our own restaurant.

Paul: “We reject the construct there, which breaks down on analysis. Eating at a restaurant is not working at one.”

Lyle: “Exactly Paul. But working at a restaurant that is focused on itself rather than the people eating there is indeed a problem, and the exact reason we set off on our own 14 years ago.”

We are a partner of choice, and repeat business validates the quality of our services. I have NEVER met a CRO who claimed less than 80% repeat business. That says something about the usefulness of that metric.

Lyle: “Or it says that there is a lot of vital clinical research going on out there, and that the space as a whole continues to expand.”

Paul: “Like any sector, there will always be a need for repeating high-quality, proven industry players and partnerships.”

Rather than be stuck in middle management all my life, I wanted to call myself Founder/CEO, so I started/joined this CRO. For the record, no one has said this to me, but I suspect this is a reason why many businesses get started. Nothing wrong with this either, as long as you are able to convince investors to take the ride with you.

Lyle: “We have never attempted to ‘convince’ anyone of anything. That is a short-term manipulative backfiring solution.”

Paul: “We have always been in this for the long haul, and all of our relationships are built on trust and consistency–or else they would have disappeared.”

We are a Statistics CRO started by statisticians. That is good to know! But I have heard this before, a few too many times.

Lyle: “We are a CRO started by two guys who believe in customer service and trust.”

Paul: “Those ideals are our foundation, and upon that we have built top-notch functional areas, including a team of industry-leading statisticians.”

(Photo by Patrick Hendry)