How spon­sors can stay bull­ish in an ever-chang­ing mar­ket

The bio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dus­try is a fas­ci­nat­ing and cycli­cal ecosys­tem. De­spite the stiff eco­nom­ic head­winds cur­rent­ly blow­ing—fund­ing slow­downs, debt, in­fla­tion, etc.—this is a time to feel bull­ish about the in­dus­try.

That’s not to say spon­sor com­pa­nies aren’t feel­ing the ef­fects of an over­all pull­back. Af­ter the ini­tial post-COVID-19 fund­ing boom, there is no ques­tion that wal­lets are be­ing guard­ed more cau­tious­ly these days. How­ev­er, at the J.P. Mor­gan Health­care Con­fer­ence ear­li­er this year, I saw first­hand that good com­pa­nies with good man­age­ment teams and great as­sets are get­ting fund­ed. Some are even get­ting fund­ed at high­er lev­els than they might have in the past. One of our part­ners, for ex­am­ple, raised $800 mil­lion in a sin­gle round.

In an en­vi­ron­ment like this one, it’s crit­i­cal­ly im­por­tant for spon­sors to keep their eyes on long-term trends. In­dus­try dy­nam­ics play a piv­otal role in a spon­sor’s ex­pe­ri­ence, but none more so than the bal­ance be­tween short- and long-term trends.

Keep the long view in sight

The phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dus­try has al­ways gone through ups and downs, ebbs and flows. While fund­ing may not mirac­u­lous­ly im­prove overnight, 2024 will like­ly con­tin­ue to get bet­ter. Spon­sors will pull through, and the cycli­cal fi­nan­cial mar­kets will re­cov­er. Why? Be­cause short-term eco­nom­ic fac­tors must be over­laid on­to one key long-term trend: The grow­ing vol­ume of clin­i­cal re­search be­ing con­duct­ed across the globe.

Al­though down­ward eco­nom­ic in­flu­ences are on every­one’s minds, the mar­ket will flour­ish as:

  • Di­ag­nos­tics and ther­a­pies be­come in­creas­ing­ly per­son­al­ized.
  • Pa­tient pop­u­la­tions age—and, there­fore, re­quire more health­care.
  • Cell and gene ther­a­pies, pro­teomics, and oth­er ad­vances pro­lif­er­ate.

Spon­sors of all types and sizes are need­ed to keep pace with such amaz­ing sci­en­tif­ic in­no­va­tions and the strong de­mand to ex­pand clin­i­cal re­search.

Not so long ago, it seemed like large com­pa­nies dom­i­nat­ed the bio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal land­scape. They didn’t want to sell their as­sets be­cause they didn’t want oth­ers to de­vel­op them; they wor­ried about neg­a­tive con­se­quences to their growth.

To­day, there is a greater re­al­iza­tion that true in­no­va­tion comes from all over. Brand-new star­tups, mid-size biotechs, and ma­ture or­ga­ni­za­tions all play a role. A small­er com­pa­ny might be ac­quired by a larg­er one. Then again, the peo­ple, drugs, and ideas from a large com­pa­ny might spin off in­to a small­er com­pa­ny—and that small­er com­pa­ny might de­pend up­on re­sources trained by large bio­phar­ma.

The bio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal ecosys­tem has be­come health­i­er as peo­ple, knowl­edge, and as­sets have churned through this in­creas­ing­ly flu­id cy­cle. Greater long-term sus­tain­abil­i­ty has re­sult­ed as or­ga­ni­za­tions have start­ed to val­ue sup­port­ive re­la­tion­ships.

In­deed, there seems to be no end in sight for part­ner­ship op­por­tu­ni­ties. Spon­sors ex­cel at guid­ing clin­i­cal in­no­va­tion on its long jour­ney to prac­ti­cal ap­pli­ca­tion. Still, few spon­sors can cap­i­tal­ize on the trend to­ward in­no­va­tion with­out help. In our re­cent in­dus­try sur­vey, for ex­am­ple, spon­sors shared with us that they need sup­port that is in­di­vid­ual enough, flex­i­ble enough, and ex­pe­ri­enced enough to help them weath­er short-term chal­lenges on the way to their long-term goals.

That means con­tract re­search or­ga­ni­za­tions (CROs) must do their part. CROs can con­tribute to a sup­port­ive and pos­i­tive spon­sor ex­pe­ri­ence by con­tin­u­al­ly in­vest­ing in the best peo­ple and ex­per­tise.

Put peo­ple first; re­sults will fol­low

Every day, spon­sors wake up with a burn­ing de­sire to progress their as­sets as quick­ly, safe­ly, and com­pli­ant­ly as pos­si­ble. That’s es­pe­cial­ly true for small, nim­ble bio­phar­ma firms fo­cused on one as­set and on­ly one as­set. It’s un­der­stand­able that they want their CROs to act the same way—to wake up with an equal amount of pas­sion, fire, and en­thu­si­asm for their as­sets.

For­tu­nate­ly, most peo­ple who join this in­dus­try do so be­cause they are pas­sion­ate about some­thing. That en­er­gy is of­ten the “se­cret sauce” that fu­els amaz­ing dis­cov­er­ies and in­no­va­tion. There­fore, stay­ing true to peo­ple’s de­sires is an es­sen­tial in­gre­di­ent for the suc­cess of spon­sors and CROs alike.

To ad­dress this need, CROs should strive as much as pos­si­ble to let team mem­bers choose the ar­eas of re­search they sup­port. For ex­am­ple, al­low­ing peo­ple ex­cit­ed about on­col­o­gy, rare dis­eases, or cell and gene ther­a­py to self-se­lect work in those ar­eas helps en­sure they gen­uine­ly part­ner with spon­sors to achieve clin­i­cal tri­al suc­cess.

In ad­di­tion to im­prov­ing the out­comes for in­di­vid­ual stud­ies, tak­ing that ap­proach al­so has long-term ben­e­fits. CROs com­mit­ted to help­ing emerg­ing and small com­pa­nies by sup­ply­ing pas­sion­ate peo­ple end up at­tract­ing more good peo­ple. Those in­tent­ly fo­cused on de­vel­op­ing core ar­eas of ex­cel­lence—rather than try­ing to be all things to all spon­sors—end up bring­ing more ex­per­tise in­to the fold. In oth­er words, the more smart, car­ing ex­perts CROs have, the more tal­ent they at­tract and the more sup­port they can of­fer.

It sparks a pos­i­tive chain re­ac­tion when CROs con­sis­tent­ly in­vest in en­gaged, knowl­edge­able, and col­lab­o­ra­tive peo­ple. This is some­thing that sets World­wide Clin­i­cal Tri­als apart – our team mem­bers and the cul­ture of cus­tomer ser­vice, at­ten­tive­ness, and part­ner­ship we’ve cre­at­ed to­geth­er. For spon­sors, this trans­lates to easy ac­cess to the in­di­vid­u­al­ized at­ten­tion and fo­cused ex­per­tise need­ed to con­fi­dent­ly nav­i­gate all the twists and turns in­her­ent to clin­i­cal tri­als.

Whether the in­dus­try is in an “up” or “down” cy­cle, CROs that con­tin­u­al­ly in­vest in the best peo­ple and ex­per­tise will im­prove their spon­sors’ ex­pe­ri­ence. No mat­ter the short-term mar­ket con­di­tions, in­vest­ing in top tal­ent al­ways pays off over the long term.

Learn more about World­wide Clin­i­cal Tri­als and our ca­pa­bil­i­ties here, or con­nect with us here.


Peter Benton

President and CEO, Worldwide Clinical Trials