Dublin, Ireland-based contract research organization (CRO) ICON expanded its outsourcing relationship with Eli Lilly and Company last week, as the two companies teamed up in an exclusive strategic partnership in Europe.
Under the terms of the deal, ICON will manage Lilly's clinical trial site setup and monitoring in all European countries where Lilly works, with the exception of Greece. Lilly's clinical trial activity in Greece is managed by a joint venture agreement between Lilly and Pharmaserve.
Neither company would release specific details about the amount of the deal or the number of trials involved.
ICON already handles Lilly's clinical data management business outside of the U.S., under a strategic partnership formed in November.
"This latest partnership marks another milestone in the successful relationship between ICON and Lilly," said ICON CEO Peter Gray. "Over the past 18 months, as Lilly has been going through a transformation period, we have worked very closely with them to help them reach their goal of becoming a more flexible and productive organization. Throughout this process, we have demonstrated our flexibility to work within a variety of outsourcing models. In addition, our strong European capabilities, our 'fit' with the Lilly culture and our expertise in site setup and monitoring were all key criteria in awarding the contract to ICON."
This isn't the first strategic partnership with a CRO for Lilly, which signed a groundbreaking $1.6-billion research and development deal with Covance last year, as well as smaller deals with Quintiles and i3 Statprobe. North Carolina-based Quintiles handles all of Lilly's in-house monitoring for clinical trials in the United States and Puerto Rico, and i3, headquartered in New Jersey, oversees the majority of Lilly's U.S. data management work.
Lilly's decision to outsource clinical trial setup and monitoring in Europe is the latest development in a trend toward large pharmaceutical companies redefining their core competencies, focusing internal resources on those areas, and then outsourcing the other activities to providers that can do it faster, more efficiently and cheaper.
"The partnership is another example of how large pharmaceutical companies are looking to develop more strategic relationships with CROs to find ways to better align resources, reduce costs and increase flexibility and productivity," Gray said.
Lilly told CenterWatch in October that its outsourcing agreements are part of the company's overall mission of discovering and delivering innovative medicines to patients. This latest deal with ICON helps the drug company achieve that mission.
"We are constantly evaluating how we can do things better to increase our flexibility and focus our internal efforts on our core capabilities," said Lilly vice president and CEO of Global Clinical Development Jeff Kasher in a company statement. "This strategic agreement enables us to leverage ICON's significant expertise in clinical trial monitoring and site management in Europe and will increase our ability to speed innovative medicines to patients."
This type of CRO-sponsor partnership may not be the last for ICON, Gray said. "We will continue to work in partnership with sponsors as they seek to drive productivity, gain speed to market and lower drug development costs," he said.