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International Clinical Trials

Thinking Allowed


ICT finds out what motivates Steve Cutler of ICON Clinical Research Services, and where he sees the industry heading

ICT: How did you get into the clinical trials industry?

Steve Cutler: I started my career as a CRA in pharma in Australia, and progressed to various project management positions. After a couple of years I got the opportunity to work in Europe and realised that the industry was trully a global one, and there were great opportunities if you were prepared to get out of your comfort zone and work in different countries. What followed was a tour of four continents and various functional and executive roles over 25 years in the pharma and CRO industry. Great fun and quite a ride!

Which part of your current job do you most enjoy?

Meeting and working with a wide variety of people – scientists, sponsors, colleagues, competitors – all of whom exhibit a great sense of purpose and resolve in helping to get new medicines to market. There is a great camaraderie in our industry and I really enjoy the creativity and innovative spirit of our business.

How would you describe your business philosophy?

Determination and persistence... the old Calvin Coolidge quote says it all for me: “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence...”

What have been your proudest moments?

I was proud to represent my country at rugby union in the 80s and 90s, and I’m very proud of my family and their achievements. I was pleased to be a part of Quintiles’ growth phase after going private in 2003, but I honestly believe my best moments in business are yet to come. I’m part of a growing team here at ICON; one that will be a major part of the continuing CRO success story over the next few years.

 And your greatest disappointments?

Apart from a few losses on the rugby field, I haven’t had too many disappointments. On the working front, I was disappointed that Kendle did not continue as a business entity, although I do believe the merger with INC via their private equity partners was in the best interests of shareholders and employees.

What keeps you awake at night?

Not much – I tend to sleep well! Seriously, I do worry that we are doing everything possible to support our CRAs and make sure that they are ensuring the safety of every patient in every trial we’re managing. The trials we run are complex and we have great people managing them, providing comprehensive training and putting quality control mechanisms and safety nets in place, but we need to stay vigilant and focused.

What do you think the clinical trials sector needs to focus on in 2012?

I think we need to focus on utilising technology to complete trials more cost-effectively and in more innovative ways so that the spiral of increasing development costs can be curtailed. We need to start challenging some of the ‘norms’ and do things differently. We have great experts in all areas of drug development and we need to get these people more involved in changing the way we develop new treatments.

 How do you think the industry will change over the next 10 years?

We have already made some great progress in adapting technology and tools to improve efficiencies in clinical development and I believe this will go from strength to strength in the next few years. We need to continue to harness the efficiencies that technology can bring to provide intelligent information to the study teams that will support better and faster decision making and make clinical development more cost effective for clients. We also see the promise of personalised medicine moving forward over the next 10 years, which may lead to a reduction in the size of studies but a compensating increase in the number of compounds being pursued. These studies will be conducted on a global basis and will require the sort of scale, depth of therapeutic experience and global footprint that ICON possesses.

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Steve Cutler is Group President, ICON Clinical Research Services, having joined the company in 2011 from Kendle where he held the position of Chief Executive Officer.
Steve Cutler
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