Top 10 CROs in 2023

Over the last few years, there have been significant shifts in the clinical trial landscape, especially regarding the increasing prevalence of contract research organizations (CROs). In this article we will share 10 industry leading CRO companies. Although they are numbered in this list, they are not ranked. At the end of the list of top CROs, you can also find information about what CROs are, what they can offer to pharmaceutical companies and drug developers, and some guidance on how to choose a CRO.

  1. IQVIA
  2. PPD
  3. Worldwide Clinical Trials
  4. Labcorp
  5. ICON
  6. Parexel
  7. Charles River Laboratories
  8. Medpace
  9. Syneos Health
  10. CTI

What are the top contract research organizations (CROs) in 2023?


IQVIA is a leading global provider of advanced analytics, technology solutions, and clinical research services, and is dedicated to creating innovations and insights that are based on a solid understanding of the connections underlying healthcare today, improving the lives of patients around the world in the process.

IQVIA partners with various clients to help them find innovative ways to streamline the development, testing, approval, and distribution of pharmaceuticals so that patients can access high-quality treatments quickly.

IQVIA Connected Intelligence™ makes extraordinary discoveries possible by connecting data, advanced analytics, and innovative technologies—combining extensive healthcare and scientific expertise with unique insights. IQVIA’s advanced technological tools may be attractive to clients looking for cutting-edge yet tried and trusted research and data capabilities.

2. PPD

PPD is a global contract research organization (CRO) that provides drug development, laboratory, and lifecycle management services to the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device industries.

PPD has a network of offices and laboratories in more than 50 countries around the world. Some of the services offered by PPD include pre-clinical and clinical development, biopharmaceutical manufacturing, and regulatory affairs consulting. The company has a strong focus on quality and has been recognized for its commitment to ethical practices in the conduct of clinical trials, which are strong selling points for clients prioritizing these aspects.

3. Worldwide Clinical Trials

Worldwide Clinical Trials provides a range of services to the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device industries. The company offers a wide range of services related to drug development, including pre-clinical studies, clinical trials, regulatory affairs consulting, and post-marketing studies. Worldwide Clinical Trials has a strong focus on patient-centered research and has a reputation for conducting high-quality clinical trials that adhere to the highest ethical standards.

One of the key areas of focus for Worldwide Clinical Trials is patient recruitment, and the company claims to provide unmatched expertise in this area, which may be attractive to clients specifically looking for recruitment services. Another selling point is the range of technology and support services Worldwide Clinical Trials offers to help clients manage and analyze clinical study data.

4. Labcorp

Labcorp, headquartered in Burlington, North Carolina, is a globally present life sciences and healthcare company that is dedicated to mobilizing science to improve peoples’ lives. Labcorp's skilled team of over 75,000 experts and healthcare professionals worldwide merge and leverage science, technology, and innovation to find solutions for the major questions facing health research. Labcorp utilizes cutting-edge diagnostics to improve patient care, and is constantly working to make new medical advances more accessible to patients.

Labcorp partners with communities, drug developers, biopharmaceutical companies, and other healthcare providers to provide numerous services, including clinical trials. Its global presence and thorough expertise across all aspects of clinical research may be attractive factors for clients looking for a comprehensive partner for international studies.

5. ICON plc

ICON helps their clients develop life-saving and quality-of-life-improving drugs. ICON offers consulting, outsourcing, and commercialization services to pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device companies. The company prides itself on offering “the most comprehensive suite of integrated clinical development and commercialisation services in the industry” enabled by Healthcare Intelligence - the name it uses to refer to its unique synthesis of deep expertise, technology, data, insights, and human experience.

ICON focuses on what matters most to its clients – reducing the time it takes to get new products and services into the hands of consumers, and at accessible prices. The company applies its expertise to a wide range of therapeutic areas, and is one of the world’s leading CROs, having won several prestigious industry awards. ICON’s singular focus on excellence in clinical research makes it a solid partner for a broad range of clients seeking assistance in just one aspect of their trials or throughout the entire process.

6. Parexel

Parexel is a global contract research organization (CRO) that provides a range of services to support the development and testing of pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device products. The company has a team of over 21,000 professionals who collaborate with clients to design and conduct clinical trials that are focused on patients and designed to make clinical research accessible to anyone, anywhere.

Parexel has a strong focus on quality and a track record of success in the industry, and its services cover the full range of phases of clinical development, from Phase I through Phase IV trials. The company is committed to quality, respect, empowerment and accountability, and above all to patients, aiming to make a difference in the lives of patients through its work.

7. Charles River Laboratories

Charles River offers a wide range of services including research models & services, discovery services, safety assessments, laboratory sciences, biologics solutions and QC microbial solutions. The company operates 110+ facilities in 20+ countries and supported 86% of the novel FDA-approved drugs in 2021.

In terms of clinical development, Charles River ensures that the testing methods used in the nonclinical lab transition smoothly to the clinical trials phase. The company has a broad portfolio of laboratory support services and expertise, and their team is often a part of the clients’ drug development process from the earliest stages of nonclinical work.

8. Medpace

Medpace has a global network of offices and research sites in over 40 countries, which can be beneficial for clients seeking a CRO with a global reach. It operates under a full-service model, which means it offers a range of services including clinical trial management, data management, and regulatory consulting.

Medpace adapts a therapeutically focused approach, which means it has expertise in a range of therapeutic areas and can provide specialized support to clients working in these areas. It has a unique global partnering philosophy that emphasizes an uncompromising commitment to clinical research and to the highest levels of ethical standards and performance. This can be an important factor for clients seeking a CRO with a strong commitment to these values.

9. Syneos Health

Syneos Health was founded in 2013 through the merger of two established CROs, inVentiv Health and INC Research, and has a strong track record in the industry. Syneos Health has a global network of offices and research sites in more than 60 countries - ideal for clients seeking a CRO with a global reach.

Syneos Health offers a range of services related to drug development, including clinical trial management, data management, and regulatory affairs consulting. The company also provides a range of technology and support services, including eClinical solutions, to help clients manage clinical studies together with a single partner offering multiple services.

The company has a focus on improving the efficiency of the drug development process and has a reputation for providing high-quality, efficient services to clients. This may be particularly attractive to clients seeking to streamline the drug development process and reduce costs.

10. CTI

CTI Clinical Trial and Consulting Services is a global CRO seeking to support the development of new medical treatments and devices.

CTI Clinical Trial and Consulting Services offers a variety of clinical research services, including clinical trial management, data management and analysis, and regulatory affairs support. The company also has expertise in areas such as medical writing, quality assurance, and pharmacovigilance (monitoring the safety of medications after they are approved and available on the market). It has a number of specialized capabilities, including expertise in oncology, rare diseases, and pediatric clinical research. Thus, CTI may offer specific benefits to clients seeking a partner for research in highly specialized areas, but its comprehensive range of services also positions it as a solid partner for all-around support.

What is a CRO?

Contract research organizations (CROs) are third-party organizations contracted to conduct clinical trials, in part or in their entirety, for pharmaceutical companies or other clinical trial sponsors.

They can generally handle everything from patient recruitment to data analysis, and a big part of their role in clinical trials is to ensure that the study is conducted in accordance with regulatory guidelines. Contract research organizations are sometimes also referred to as clinical research organizations.

The CRO will typically be hired by a pharmaceutical company when it's time to start a new clinical trial. CROs offer a wide range of clinical research services and can be tasked with performing all of the necessary steps of the trial, such as:

  • Screening and recruiting patients
  • Trial design
  • Site management
  • Logistics
  • Data analysis
  • Regulatory affairs
  • Reporting

Why are CROs important in clinical trials?

With the multifaceted and complex nature of clinical research, finding an appropriate partner to support the trial’s execution can lead to significant savings and smoother and faster trials, especially for sponsors who are new to the clinical trial scene or don’t have their own networks of sites.

CROs are experts in clinical trials, and this experience translates into improved efficiency and results. They often have access to cutting-edge technology, well-equipped facilities, experts, and networks of clinical sites. The staff of a given CRO can include specialists in a variety of fields, including pharmacology, biochemistry, data analysis, project management, statistics, regulations and legal frameworks, and patient recruitment and engagement.

How do you choose CROs for clinical trials?

There are several factors to consider in order to find and select an appropriate CRO partner. Here are 5 things you might want to consider when choosing a CRO:

  1. Services offered and capabilities: Most CROs offer services to support the full clinical research process, but some may offer only specific services or solutions. Some CROs specialize in smaller, simpler studies, while others handle complex trials that require more time and capital investment. Some work locally, while others have global networks spanning all continents. Familiarize yourself with the options available and make sure that the CROs capabilities match the needs of your specific trial.
  2. Specialized expertise: Especially for trials in highly specialized fields, it is important to find a CRO with experience in that specific area that will be able to provide you with proven, quality results.
  3. Partnership and communication: The partnership with a CRO is a two-way relationship; sponsors and CROs work together closely, so it is important that there is mutual trust and clear communication.
  4. Accreditation and regulatory compliance: All clinical trials follow the regulations set by the FDA or other relevant regulatory authorities, even when the entirety of the process is outsourced to a CRO. Thus it is important to choose a CRO with a proven track record in regulatory compliance and that has accreditations proving their adherence to safety and good practice protocols.
  5. Pre-trial assistance in study and protocol design: While CROs can be contracted to execute a trial after it has been designed, many CROs offer their expertise in trial design as well. A CRO can help ensure that the protocol supports efficiency in trial operations and management, the collection of robust and valid data, optimizes patient experience and satisfaction, and that the trial will adhere to ethical and regulatory standards.