Top Five Global CROs


Driven by increased demand from Big Pharma, mid-caps, and biotechs for outsourcing services, the USD 70 billion global contract research organisation (CRO) market is predicted to grow at a CAGR of between 11 and 12 percent over the next five to seven years, with differing estimates placing its total size as USD 115.1 billion by 2027, 139.05 billion by 2028, and 163.48 billion by 2029. Additionally, the industry is in the process of consolidating, with a few big players strengthening their position at the top via mergers and acquisitions. In 2021, Thermo Fisher bought PPD for almost USD 16 billion, ICON made a USD 12 billion deal with PRA Health Sciences, and Parexel was acquired by private equity.


Below are the top five global CROs by revenue or value:


1. Thermo Fisher

Revenue: USD 20.5 billion (only for Laboratory Products and Biopharma Services, including PPD’s reported revenue).

HQ: Massachusetts, US

CEO: Marc Casper

Notable recent development: Acquired PPD for USD 15.99 billion in 2021.

(Link to latest financial results)

In a record year, Thermo Fisher acquired rival PPD for almost USD 16 billion. “The addition of PPD’s clinical research services enhances our offering to biotech and pharma customers by enabling them to accelerate innovation and increase their productivity within the drug development process,” said the company via a press release. In 2021, PPD generated revenues of USD 5.67 billion.

Within its clinical development services business, Thermo Fisher provides early development and clinical research management services, site and patient access services, and peri- and post-approval services.



Revenue: USD 7.55 billion in 2021 (only Research & Development Solutions)

HQ: Connecticut, US

CEO & Chairman: Ari Bousbib

(Link to latest financial results)

The data-oriented company describes itself as a “leading global provider of advanced analytics, technology solutions, and clinical research services to the life sciences industry.” The R&D Solutions business unit, which accounts for over half of total revenue, has an offering which includes: project management and clinical monitoring; clinical trial support services; clinical laboratory services; strategic planning and design; and decentralized clinical trials.

The IQVIA Institute also estimates that approximately 300 new molecular entities are expected to be approved between 2022 and 2026.


3. Labcorp Drug Development

Revenue: USD 5.84 billion (2021)

HQ: North Carolina, US

CEO: Paul Kirchgraber

Notable recent development: Formerly referred to as Covance Drug Development, the organization became Labcorp Drug Development in June 2021.

(Link to latest financial results)

The CRO arm of Labcorp “collaborated on 82 percent of the novel drugs and therapeutic products approved in 2021 by the US FDA, including 63 percent of those specific to oncology and 95 percent of those specific to rare and orphan diseases. Through its industry-leading central laboratory business, it supports clinical trial activity in approximately 100 countries,” according to the company’s latest financial disclosures.



Revenue: USD 5.48 billion (2021)

HQ: Dublin, Ireland

CEO: Dr. Steve Cutler

Notable recent development: ICON acquired rival PRA Health Sciences in a USD 12 billion deal.

(Link to latest financial results)

Founded in 1990, ICON is a global provider of consulting, and outsourced development and commercialisation services to pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical device and government and public health organisations.

According to an official statement, the PRA transaction “brings together two high-quality, innovative and growing organisations with similar cultures and a shared focus on high quality and efficient clinical trial execution from Phase 1 to post-approval studies.”


5. Parexel

Value: USD 8.5 billion

HQ: Massachusetts, United States

CEO: Jamie Macdonald

Notable development: The company was acquired for USD 8.5 billion in 2021by EQT Private Equity and the private equity business of Goldman Sachs Asset Management.

With headquarters in both Massachusetts and North Carolina, Parexel helps pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies by running clinical trials and providing other services that support the testing of experimental drugs and medical devices, the regulatory filings for these products, and their commercialization.

Four years after a private equity acquisition took Parexel private, the CRO was acquired by two private equity firms for USD 8.5 billion.

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