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The terms CRO and CMO are abbreviations for Contract Research Organisations and Contract Manufacturing Organisations. These two company types support the Pharmaceutical and / or Biotechnology sectors in the form of outsourced services. The difference between a CRO and a CMO is that contract research organisations provide Research & Development services, while contract manufacturing organisations focus on Manufacturing.
You may also come across a third abbreviation: CDMO. This stands for Contract Development & Manufacturing Organisation, meaning a company that provides a complete comprehensive service from research to commercial manufacture.

Contract Research Organisation (CRO)

These types of companies can provide a broad range of services, including:
  • Drug Discovery and Development
  • Biopharmaceutical Development
  • Assay Development
  • Clinical Research
  • Preclinical Research
  • Pharmacovigiliance
CRO companies can vary tremendously in size depending on what kind of services they offer and which markets they support. Contract research organisations can range from large full-service international providers to smaller more niche organisations.

Contract Manufacturing Organisations (CMO)

These types of companies can split their services into two main activities:
  • Primary manufacturing and / or
  • Secondary manufacturing
Primary manufacturing involves the synthesis of a drug substance (active ingredients) and secondary manufacturing is the formulation of the drug substance into the final drug product. CMO companies can specialise in a range of dosage forms including solid dose (tablets & capsules), injectables, topical formulations, steriles, etc.

In recent times the demand for outsourced services has steadily increased year on year. This has resulted in a key focus on talent across CROs and CMOs. By outsourcing certain functions to a service provider, clients have been able to manage their internal resources and costs more efficiently, making the CRO / CMO relationship more of a strategic partnership.

What is a contract research organisation?

A contract research organisation (CRO) provides research services – such as assay development or drug discovery – on a contractual basis. Pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies may outsource work to a CRO in order to reduce costs and complete tasks that they wouldn’t be able to do ‘in house’.

What is the difference between a CRO and a pharmaceutical company?

Whereas a pharmaceutical company is usually focused on innovation, working for a CRO means doing the work that your clients ask of you. A contract research organisation tends to make for a faster-paced and potentially more stressful working environment, but this is usually reflected in the salaries – you may be able to earn more working for a CRO than at a similar level in a pharma company.

Working for a CRO is great if you want to take on a wide variety of different projects, whereas a pharmaceutical company job will generally give you more opportunities to specialise in a particular area of interest.

How does contract manufacturing work?

A pharmaceutical company will often outsource the work of manufacturing drugs to a contract manufacturing organisation (CMO). This may involve synthesising the drug’s active ingredients (primary manufacturing) or producing the final product (secondary manufacturing), which may take the form of a tablet, capsule, ointment, injectable, etc.
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Cell & Gene Therapy / ATMP
Hyper Recruitment Solutions (HRS) is an experienced recruitment company specialising in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors. We work with a number of contract research and contract manufacturing organisations, so if you’re exploring career options in these fields, please get in touch to find out how we can help you.

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