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European Pharmaceutical Contractor

Letter from the Editor

Dr Lucien Steru, erstwhile founder of ITEM and Chief Executive Officer of Phoenix Europe, used to say that the business of clinical research is all about people – and nowhere is this more apparent than in the CRO industry. After reading this issue of EPC, I expect you might have a great deal of sympathy for this view.

At one time, CROs were regarded as the poor relations in the clinical research family; I recall a senior Vice President from a major pharmaceutical company saying at a conference that if anybody was any good, they would not work for a CRO. This is no longer the case, thank goodness. CROs are proving to be willing and able in recruiting the top talent wherever it comes from – pharma companies, other CROs and academia, among others. They are also very active in investing in their staff, enabling them to become high performers – as discussed by Nikki Harrison at Clinical Professionals (page 38).

Nikki points out that clinical research is one of the most difficult career paths to undertake, and is one that is repeatedly subjected to harsh criticism and negative press. It is also a world where a single mistake can have far-reaching consequences. She maps the path of a new graduate in this challenging world, but notes that where businesses would have previously invested in training programmes to develop fresh talent, many have now closed their doors.

Fortunately, some companies have begun to recognise that the lack of entry-level support is an unmet need within the Editor’s letter industry, and have started to formulate more robust training programmes to encourage the progression of new candidates. This will be of huge benefit, not only to those companies directly involved, but to pharma in general, as well as the candidates themselves. New recruits are essential, and the continuation of the talent pool can only be considered an asset.

Jan Schreur at INC Research looks at the theme of recruitment into CROs (page 14). He acknowledges that as CROs gain an ever-increasing proportion of the research market through strategic alliances, the competition for clinical research professionals is becoming tougher. As a result, the challenge of attracting, developing and retaining best-in-class staff – across key functions such as clinical directors, project managers, trial leaders, clinical research associates and clinical monitoring associates – has never been greater. But one thing appears certain: with the growth of clinical outsourcing projected to continue, career opportunities in the clinical research space are many. For CROs, their ability to hold on to quality team members will be a clear differentiating factor in their success.

Pharma companies are very aware of the regulatory requirements governing the CROs they employ, but Matthew Beedle at NonStop Recruitment asks how mindful are they of the requirements for the staffing providers they use (page 54)? Thinking about recruitment quality from a supply chain perspective – with regard to long-term benefits and legal compliance – can save a company money, improve its market and brand image, and give it employees who are less likely to get into trouble over GxP.

The people aspect of the industry is also developed by Mark Garritt at ByBox, who talks about sales forces (page 20), and Susan Macdonald at RSA, who discusses the specific demands of recruiting to fill senior roles in Asia (page 26).

And finally, on a different but very important tack, I would highlight the article by Dawn Firmin at MGB Biopharma, which draws attention to the pressing problem of resistant bacterial strains, and how urgent action is needed from drug development companies (page 16).

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Graham Hughes, EPC Editor
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