Choosing A Global Or Local CRO: A Comparative Analysis

how to choose between a local or global cro

The clinical research market is an intricate landscape brimming with diverse players – from prominent global organizations to local and boutique Contract Research Organizations (CROs). These companies play a vital role in assisting pharmaceutical and biotech sponsors in ushering their compounds into the market. Here at Biomapas, we often engage in enlightening discussions with our sponsors, revealing their diverse considerations when choosing CRO partners. Understanding that different companies have varying stereotypes and perspectives, we’ve deemed it necessary to address the crucial question: How to choose between a global or local CRO?

Common Concerns: Local versus Global CROs

From our interactions, we’ve observed recurring concerns among sponsors working with their chosen partners. These include communication, speed of decision-making, and cost, especially when partnering with global CROs. Interestingly, the same concerns crop up among sponsors working with local CROs, indicating a universal struggle regardless of the CRO’s scale.

But, it’s not all bleak. Both global and local CROs offer unique benefits. For global CROs, these advantages include global reach, brand recognition, access to in-house services, technological innovations, and superior quality. Local CROs, on the other hand, shine in their knowledge of local regulations, cultural expertise, competitive pricing, speedy decision-making, flexibility, and a tailored, individual approach to each project.

Key Performance Indicators

The three critical criteria for assessing a CRO’s performance are quality, timelines, and budget. Quality, the paramount factor, should remain unaffected by the CRO’s budget, technology, or scale. Maintaining data quality and integrity should be a non-negotiable, preserving the study’s credibility.

Local CROs, grappling with the industry’s challenges, have had to tread the path paved by global organizations to remain competitive and compliant with industry standards. This requires well-written Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), adoption of advanced technologies like Clinical Trial Management Systems, and more. Losing even a single sponsor could be detrimental for these smaller CROs, making them more sponsor-centric, albeit inflexible.

Global CROs, however, offer a unique blend of well-structured SOPs, mature quality assurance systems, modern technology, and a personalized approach. This environment is conducive to conducting trials, but local CROs’ deep understanding of local culture, patient pathways, healthcare systems, and treatment standards gives them an edge, resulting in faster enrollment and better data quality.

Important Considerations

In addition to the previously discussed aspects, various other considerations play a vital role in choosing a CRO. These include:

Standard Operating Procedures

The absence of or gaps in SOPs and processes is a common concern. It’s crucial to review SOPs and conduct interviews with key CRO personnel to ensure the procedures are not just on paper but are well-implemented.

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are an integral part of the functioning of any organization, especially in industries like pharmaceuticals and biotech, where regulatory compliance is crucial. Companies create systematic, step-by-step instructions to help their teams carry out complex routine operations. They aim to achieve efficiency, enhance performance, ensure safety, and improve communication and compliance with industry regulations.

In the context of Contract Research Organizations (CROs), both global and local, SOPs are pivotal in maintaining the integrity of research, ensuring the protection of human subjects, guaranteeing quality and consistency of data, and adhering to the rigorous regulations set forth by governing bodies.


When it comes to the world of clinical research, experience isn’t just a luxury—it’s a must-have. Both local and global CROs bring their unique perspectives to the table.

Local CROs, though smaller, are often treasure troves of invaluable regional insights. Yet, their reach may sometimes not extend beyond their comfort zones. When they exhibit potential gaps in experience, don’t hesitate to ask how they plan to navigate those waters.

Conversely, global CROs are seasoned navigators of diverse clinical research landscapes. But remember, a wide net doesn’t always mean a catch in every water. Carefully assess their experiences relevant to your project, and determine their strategy to fill any evident experience gaps.

Ultimately, the wealth of a CRO’s experience can be a deciding factor for your project’s success.

Vendor Management

Vendor management is a key risk in clinical research and varies between local and global CROs.

Local CROs operating within a specific region usually have a streamlined vendor management process, benefiting from a strong understanding of local standards and regulations. Their vendor networks are typically regional, offering better control but potentially limiting diversity.

Global CROs, in contrast, deal with a complex, dispersed vendor network. Despite management challenges, they gain from diversity and broader skills. Their vendor selection process is comprehensive, considering the global reputation and cross-border regulatory compliance. They often employ advanced systems for regular audits and vendor performance reassessment.

In essence, the choice between local and global CROs for vendor management depends on the specific needs of the study and its geographical scope.


Due to their large size and diversified client base, global CROs generally offer more financial stability and have readily accessible financial information. They handle the complexities of multi-country operations, but this could result in a more dynamic budget proposal and higher overhead costs. They may also have more potential areas for hidden costs like international travel or managing global teams, yet, they often have robust financial risk management systems in place.

Local CROs, although smaller, can still be financially stable but may require more diligence to assess their financial health. Their operations are typically more straightforward, with less budget variation due to currency fluctuations or differences in local costs and potentially lower overhead costs. Hidden costs may be fewer but still need to be scrutinized. Their experience in managing financial risks may be less tested, primarily if they have handled fewer large-scale studies.

In essence, both local and global CROs have unique financial aspects. A thorough examination of their financial stability and budget proposal is essential to choose the right CRO for your study.


Understand the factors that influence study timelines. Choose a CRO with proven expertise in study startup, patient recruitment and enrollment, and study conduct.

In clinical research, timelines are crucial. Any delay can lead to increased costs and potentially lost profits. Understanding what influences study timelines and partnering with a CRO with proven expertise in these critical areas can significantly impact the overall success of a clinical trial. Below, we delve into these factors and how they interact with the various phases of clinical research.

  1. Study Startup Phase: A proficient CRO expedites site identification, feasibility studies, and regulatory submissions, setting a solid foundation for successful clinical trials.
  2. Patient Recruitment and Enrollment Phase: During this phase, an experienced CRO applies strategic identification, swift site activation, and effective strategies, overcoming the hurdles of specific criteria and patient participation.
  3. Study Conduct Phase: In the study conduct phase, a skilled CRO ensures smooth trial operations, quality data management, and regulatory compliance, leveraging effective project management and experienced CRAs to avoid costly delays.

When choosing a CRO, look into their expertise in study conduct. Assess their proficiency in data management, the caliber of their CRAs, their system for maintaining regulatory compliance, and their ability to resolve issues quickly and effectively.

In-house Capabilities

In-house capabilities form a crucial aspect of the CRO selection process. To ensure timely study completion and risk mitigation, a meticulous assessment of a CRO’s capabilities in critical areas of study management is vital.

A key milestone is the First Patient In (FPI) to Last Patient In (LPI) period, ending with finalizing the clinical study report. This period can highlight a CRO’s efficiency and ability to handle the project’s complexities.

In some instances, especially for large-scale studies across numerous countries, a global CRO might be an essential choice purely because of the project’s vast scope. Conversely, with their in-depth understanding of local regulations and informal approach to crucial study documents, local CROs can significantly reduce approval timelines. This local expertise becomes invaluable during the study approval process, dramatically influencing the overall startup time.

While global CROs may be necessary for large-scale, multi-continent studies, local CROs can often compete successfully in smaller projects due to their local expertise and personalized approach. In conclusion, one size does not fit all in choosing a CRO. A collaborative partnership between global and local CROs can sometimes yield the best results for sponsors by combining the unique strengths of both.

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