Veterinarians and veterinary pathologists play a vital role in the health and welfare of both animals and humans. Much of their work contributes to medical research, especially in the areas of new drug and medical device testing. An increasing number of pharmaceutical and medical manufacturing firms lack the background, budget, or resources to perform essential services in-house. Instead, they often outsource these and other required activities to contract research organizations, also called clinical research organizations, or CROs.
Veterinary professionals are critical to safeguarding our food supply, as well as the health and welfare of a wide variety of animal species and ultimately humans. These animal science experts assist in essential activities, such as the formulation of feed, the humane treatment and disposal of meat animals, and the medical devices used in veterinary surgeries. Veterinary scientists are often at the forefront of disease detection, according to the American College of Veterinary Pathologists. West Nile virus, SARS, and AIDS are notable examples. Experts in veterinary research also respond to emergency and catastrophic events that threaten animal and human health and safety, such as oil spills, nuclear accidents, and natural disasters. Many of these experts work for governmental agencies, but an increasing number are providing their consulting, research, or clinical services through contract research organizations.
The work veterinarians and veterinary pathologists perform as contracted services include testing new medical devices in surgeries and other medical procedures, as well as disease detection, treatment options, and animal health and welfare consulting. Veterinary CROs typically provide project services from beginning to end, including project management and risk assessment, pre-clinical and clinical trials, data analysis, quality assurance, and pre and post-marketing strategies and assessment.
Pharmaceutical houses and medical device engineers and manufacturers serving the farm animal, wildlife, and pet health industries often hire CROs to ease budgetary burdens and insure quality and regulatory compliance. Because of their specialized knowledge of and experience with the technical and medical aspects of animal science, veterinary CROs typically cultivate a rapport with governmental departments, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A positive and professional relationship between CROs and these regulatory agencies often helps to expedite the typically lengthy process of drug or medical device testing, inspection, and approval.
One example of how a CRO specializing in veterinary research, testing, and marketing can assist a client company is the professional relationship of the CRO with the Center for Veterinary Medicine. CVM regulates medications, surgical treatments, medical devices, and food supplements designed for and delivered to food-producing animals, wildlife and zoo animals, and pets. Drugs and food supplements given to animals must be effective and safe for both the food-producing animal and the human who consumes it or its products. Veterinarians in contract research organizations typically design procedures for pre-clinical trials that comply with CVM protocols and regulations, insuring that the products and services they are testing will meet official standards.
The popularity of CROs continues to increase. From 2007 to 2008, the world-wide valuation of the CRO industry rose 14%, a total of $18 billion. Industry experts project a similar 14% per year growth rate through 2013. In a field of more than 1100 companies, the top 10 CROs served about 50% of available clients, with smaller, upcoming firms sharing the other 50%. These figures are expected to change dramatically as companies in this industry merge, form mutually-beneficial partnerships, and acquire smaller CROs as they strive to position themselves more prominently in this burgeoning market.