Although pharmaceutical companies and contract research organizations operate in the same preclinical drug discovery space, working for the two types of companies can be very different. Comparing the larger, vertically integrated CROs, such as WuXi AppTec, to pharma companies there are fewer differences, but the smaller the contract research organization gets, such as Reveal Biosciences, the greater the differences can be.

A scientist at a CRO can have broad experiences with the projects their company takes on. They may work on only one project for a few weeks to a few months, or many projects at a time. Looking back at my own time spent working as a research assistant for a small CRO, I was exposed to  a wide range of techniques in the industry, such as cell culture (up to BSL3), custom ELISA development, and in vivo work like 18 hour PK studies. I can’t imagine having a similar experience working in a large pharmaceutical company. That breadth of experience isn’t for everyone, of course, and some scientists may prefer to specialize, but fortunately the diversity amongst organizations in the drug discovery industry lends itself to people of both camps and those in between.[1]

Assay Depot has seen a number of new contract research organizations growing out of the recent economic turmoil, where ex-pharmaceutical scientists create their own CROs, and as often as not start working with their previous employers. Many of these new companies specialize in specific areas, offering a small set of services, and can quickly become industry standards for outsourcing their respective fields of work.

Global Location of Contract Research Organizations

The growth of contract research organizations is a global phenomenon – March 2012[2]

The rising number of contract research organizations doesn’t seem to be a passing trend, Assay Depot currently has almost 7500 CROs cataloged in our database – a number that has been steadily growing year over year, and though eventually an equilibrium point will be reached based on the good, old economic principles of supply and demand, there will always be room for improvement in quality and methods of drug discovery. Assay Depot is undertaking the task of that improvement through its Research Exchange platform. Not only do we offer to the public, free of charge, but we also have enterprise versions of our platform up and running at Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and pilot systems at a handful of other major pharmaceutical companies. Both the Public and Private Research Exchanges not only give researchers access to thousands of CROs, but they provide a resource that brings standardization and transparency to an industry that has historically been difficult to navigate.


  1. Working for a Contract Research Organization
  2. Drug Discovery Goes Global: Location of CROs Around the World