Below is a list of seven publicly traded contract research organizations or CROs, ranked by their amount of market capitalization—their number of shares outstanding multiplied by the share price.
The top public CRO ranked on this list is based outside the U.S., reflecting the industry’s desire to cut research costs by outsourcing the work overseas. Yet arguably, a more significant finding from this list is the fact it’s much shorter than those GEN has run for biopharma drug developers and tools/technology companies, thanks to a spate of acquisitions and privatizations in recent years. The idiom “you can’t tell the players without a scorecard” applies best to CROs of any biopharma segment.
While the largest drug discovery and tools/tech companies are mostly public, the same is not true of CROs, where several of the largest players are privately held. One CRO giant not on this list, Pharmaceutical Product Development (PPD), went private last year in a $3.9 billion deal following its acquisition by Carlyle Group and Hellman & Friedman.
In 2011 alone, privately held INC Research bought publicly traded Kendle for $232 million and also-private Trident Clinical Research for an undisclosed price, while inVentiv Health snapped up Pharmanet/i3 for an undisclosed price, and private equity firm Nautic Partners bought Omnicare Clinical Research for a price also not disclosed, then rebranded the CRO Theorem Clinical Research. A year earlier, inVentiv went private after being bought by private equity firm Thomas H. Lee Partners, while in 2009 Averion International (now Aptiv Solutions) went from public to private following acquisition by Comvest Partners. Other large CROs appearing in top-CRO lists but not ranked here include Cato Research, MPI Research, and the aforementioned INC Research.
However, Quintiles returned to the public markets in May, raising about $950 million in an initial public offering (and acquiring another CRO biggie, privately held Novella Clinical, for an undisclosed price in a deal completed on September 16). Also in May, PRA International, also known by its original name of Pharmaceutical Research Associates, told the SEC of plans to go public—only to reverse itself a month later when publicly traded Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR) acquired that company from Genstar and ReSearch Pharmaceutical Services (RPS) from Warburg Pincus and merged the two CROs in a deal completed September 24; RPS now operates as PRA's Strategic Solutions Division. PRA was founded as a private company, taken public in 2005, and taken private again in 2007.
One public CRO, Catalent, could not be ranked because it does not trade its shares publicly, though it does release quarterly and annual results.