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Big Increase in CRO Companies in the Nordics – Together Towards a Common Goal!

More and more pharmaceutical companies are executing their clinical trials with the help of CRO companies (Contract Research Organisations). - We are all competitors, but cooperation is the key to success in this complex environment, says Annsofie Holmborn from Thermo Fisher's own CRO company PDD.

Published 3/15/2024
Last updated 3/20/2024
A person giving a presentation to an audience
Marianne van der Wel from the Ministry for Health and Care Services gives her presentation

She was one of several speakers when NorTrials and Inven2 invited to a four-hour long CRO meeting on Thursday 14 March.

- We have seen an increasing number of CROs with activity in Norway. The aim of today's meeting is to strengthen the cooperation between these contract organizations and Norwegian hospitals, and to discuss how we can best work together to increase the number of clinical trials in Norway, said Signe Fretland, head of NorTrials coordinating unit.

Great Interest

The meeting was primarily targeted at CRO employees, so the agenda comprised an orientation about the Norwegian health services, expectations from the medical authorities and clinicians, information from both Norwegian and foreign CRO companies, and wishes and expectations from biotech companies that make use of CRO services. However, there was also great interest in the meeting from others, so among the 165 registered participants, in addition to more than 20 CRO companies, there were also representatives from pharmaceutical and medtech companies, hospitals, health clusters and universities. Some of the participants were from abroad.

Annsofie Holmborn represented Sweden's CRO organization ASCRO (Association of CROs active in Sweden), where 22 CRO companies have joined forces. They also work closely with the pharmaceutical industry's trade organization LIF (corresponding to LMI in Norway).

152 CRO companies are present in the Nordic countries, according to Holmborn. Many represent companies that do not have offices in the area. Thus, often the CRO employees are the contact persons for hospitals and study personnel when it comes to entering into collaboration agreements as well as when conducting clinical trials. Four regional organisational units administer agreements on behalf of the Norwegian hospitals and one of their main tasks is to ensure a professional negotiation.

- In order for the process to run as smoothly as possible, we must work closely with companies and CROs. We are already doing that, and I hope we can continue the same way, said Siri Kolle, responsible for clinical trials in Inven2. She spoke on behalf of the four units that administer industry-sponsored trials in Norwegian hospitals.

Continuing the Investment despite Declining Number of Clinical Trials

One challenge is that the number of clinical trials is decreasing, despite the many initiatives to achieve the opposite. Marianne van der Wel, senior adviser in the Ministry of Health and Care Services, said that the ministry has a long-term investment in clinical research and will continue to follow up the goals set in the national action plan for clinical trials.

She pointed to all the good initiatives that have been launched, such as infrastructures for personalized medicine, the Health Data Service, NorCRIN (national infrastructure for clinical trials), the establishment of four research centers for clinical treatment, and not least the establishment of NorTrials and its associated centres as one central initiative in the National action plan for clinical trials.

The Nordic Countries Learn From Each Other

The beauty of the Nordic countries is that even though we compete for the same trials, we also like to collaborate – and to learn from each other. NorTrials was created with inspiration from the Danish organisationTrial Nation, and now Sweden is inspired by Norway, revealed Annsofie Holmborn.

- We are almost copying NorTrials and establishing SweTrial. In SweTrial, the CROs will become a third partner in addition to the healthcare and industry partners, and we look forward to seeing it materialize, said Holmborn.

- That is How You Win

Chris Ball from IQVIA was happy to hear about the desire for cooperation both across companies and national borders, and about the Norwegian political commitment.

- At IQVIA, we want to increase the number of studies we run in Norway, and our employees ask nicely to work more here. In competition with the rest of the world, you are high up there - you do complicated studies with cell and gene therapy, among other things. On the other hand, you have very strict ethics committees. It is good to be tough, but it is equally important to be proportionately pragmatic, was the advice from Ball.

He reminded us that in the battle to attract clinical trials, we are competing against countries such as China, where a "small" city can have 10 million inhabitants. In other words, far more potential trial participants.

- The competition for clinical trials is not a competition between Bergen and Oslo, or between Sweden and Norway. It is a global competition. It is therefore good to hear that the Norwegian authorities are not giving up their investment in clinical trials. That is how you win, Ball said.

The event committee
Content event committee from Inven2, Helse Bergen HF, St. Olavs hospital HF, IQVIA, PPD, LINK Medical and NorTrials