The global drug discovery and development market is on a tear. In 2017, the market was worth $38,356 million, growing at 9.0% CAGR annually. Come 2024, the upturn will continue, as the market is forecasted to touch $70,097 million. The small molecule drug discovery will continue to outpace all other sub-niches to rake in $48 billion in revenue by 2025.

The growth drivers for the industry include the growing prevalence of health disorders, rapid technological headways, and an upsurge in demand for specialty medicines. As the industry evolves in capacity and capability, we see trends favoring two approaches to drug discovery and development, namely Contract Research Organization (CRO) and Bioanalytical laboratory.

Both have a lot of overlap in function to the point that people use these terms interchangeably. But each has distinctive features that make them valuable to clinical research and development outcomes. These approaches have much in common yet they couldn’t be more different. Let’s draw an analogy with gadgets and Smartphones to help identify the difference between CRO and Biolab.

All Smartphones are gadgets, but all gadgets need not be Smartphones. A gadget is an umbrella term, denoting an array of electronic items, including Smartphones. Contrarily, Smartphone is a specific term referring to mobile phones with PC like capabilities. Here, CRO is the “gadget,” while the Biolab is the “Smartphone.” Let’s discuss each in detail for better understanding.


Contract Research Organization (CRO) performs trials, duties, and functions for pharma, biotech, and related sectors. CRO is an outsource-driven approach, helping sponsors usher procedural expertise and regulatory compliance in trials minus investments on in-house departments, staff, and paraphernalia. Here, the time lag between trials is brought down significantly. That translates to quicker, highly streamlined, well-targeted, and cost-effective clinical research.

CROs ensure end-to-end solutions, from the conception of a new drug to bioanalysis to FDA/EMA approvals. The overarching objective is to simplify and expedite drug discovery, development, and commercialization. Specifications may vary but a reliable CRO is capable of:

Quantification of drug and metabolites
Analytical testing for chemicals and biologics
Target identification and validation
Assay development
PoC demonstration assistance
DMPK and dosage range inferences
Central Lab Services
Safety and efficacy summaries
Management of clinical trial data
Clinical trial kitting
Handling and storage of bio-samples

Bioanalytical lab:

True to the name, bioanalytical services is all about Bioanalytics. A typical Biolab quantifies Biotics and Xenobiotics in across biological systems. The former include proteins, DNA, metabolites, and more, while the latter features medications and related metabolites, along with the anomalously located biological molecules. Modern-day Biolabs are well-equipped to investigate and test all types of molecules, small or large. Earlier they only handled small molecules.

A Biolab employs multiple techniques to deliver the full scale of bioanalysis services.

Hyphenated techniques
Chromatographic methods
Ligand binding assays
Mass spectrometry
Nuclear magnetic resonance

As evident, a CRO has a wider scope, responsibilities, and functions vis-à-vis a Biolab. A Contract Research Organization (CRO) does all that a Biolab does but the same is not true the other way round.

Author's Bio: 

I am Eliza Berry freelance blogger and writer who loves to share content and create value for readers.