Phase Forward’s recent multi-million-dollar agreement with Swiss contract research organization (CRO) SGS Life Science Services not only provides the stability of a long-term contract to Phase Forward but also helps the eClinical provider advance its core strategy.
“We have a direct strategy, and it’s all around an integrated clinical research suite. This is what we feel is the direction of the industry, and it’s where we as an organization are headed to support. We also have a distinct and separate CRO strategy, and this kind of bridges that gap as well,” said Mike Davies, Phase Forward’s vice president of global CRO partnerships.
The deal with SGS is a multi-year extension of the companies’ existing partnership. Neither company would provide specific information around the dollar amount nor exact timeframe of the partnership, but Davies said the new agreement expands the services that Phase Forward provides to SGS.
Phase Forward began its relationship with SGS in 2002 by providing an electronic solution for managing SGS’ paper-based trials. That relationship eventually expanded to include electronic data capture (EDC) services. Under the latest agreement, Phase Forward will provide an integrated suite of services to SGS, including an IRT and EDC services specific to late-stage research. Phase Forward’s July acquisition of Maaguzi, a technology company, sweetens the deal by allowing Phase Forward to offer ePRO capabilities.
A CRO-eClinical provider contract of this scale is rare, Davies said.
“CROs are often loath to [enter into] long-term contracts—they don’t want to commit dollars because they need to always have the work to back it up. What you see here is an announcement that [SGS] brought in the technology, scaled up rapidly, and I think now they’re at the point where they can leverage pricing. That’s why you see this multi-year, multi-million-dollar agreement,” he said.
As clinical trials become more complicated and data-heavy, the eClinical market is evolving from a one-off solution type of business to one that requires a fully integrated clinical research suite, Davies said. Customers like SGS need an end-to-end solution to manage their data management.
“This [deal] reaffirms that this is what the industry is asking for. Here we have a leading CRO coming out and saying, ‘Yep, absolutely, we agree, and we’re coming out and doing the same thing,’” Davies said. “Unlike some of the other players out there, we allow our customers to add [an integrated clinical research suite] on a modular basis. So here you have a large, complex data management CRO being able to offer all their customers multiple different components of the suite, which essentially brings extra volume to them and to us.”
In addition to advancing Phase Forward’s reputation as an integrated eClinical provider, the partnership with SGS helps the company expand its network of strategic CRO partners.
Twenty-one percent of Phase Forward’s revenues come through CROs, Davies said, and partnerships like the one with SGS enable the company to serve a portion of the market that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to access.
Although Phase Forward works with many CROs, Davies estimates that the company only has strategic relationships with about a half dozen.
“It’s very critical to us as an organization to be close to [the CRO network] and to be very much aligned with some of the key players. This just reinforces that with a large, regional CRO—it very much reinforces our CRO partnership strategy,” Davies said.