The rising fortunes of the industry that helps the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries conduct clinical trials pushed the largest companies headquartered in the Triangle to ramp up hiring in 2015.
And there’s no sign that this year will be any different for these contract research organizations, or CROs.
Raleigh-based INC Research added 800 employees worldwide last year, boosting its total workforce to 6,400. About 100 of the new hires were in the Triangle, where INC now has nearly 1,000 workers.
PRA Health Sciences, which also calls Raleigh home, ended 2015 with about 12,000 employees worldwide after adding about 1,000 new employees during the year. PRA has about 500 workers locally; a company spokeswoman was unable to provide data on how many local employees were added to the payroll last year.
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Durham-based Quintiles added 3,500 workers last year to push its worldwide total to 36,100. The company added about 200 workers across North Carolina in 2015, giving it nearly 3,100 employees statewide. The bulk of those employees – 2,500 – are in the Triangle.
Quintiles CEO Tom Pike recently told analysts during a conference call that the company is “still hiring in all geographies.”
Pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies are increasingly turning to contract research organizations, or CROs, to help then manage clinical trials and analyze the results because they’re convinced it’s more cost-effective than doing the work in-house. Quintiles projects that the demand for CRO services industry-wide will enjoy a compound annual growth rate of 6 percent to 8 percent through 2018.
The Triangle is the epicenter of the CRO industry, boasting more companies and more employees than anywhere else. Quintiles is by far the world’s largest CRO, and PRA and INC rank among the industry’s largest players.
Top executives at these companies, all of which are publicly traded, discussed the competition for new employees when they released their fourth-quarter results last month.
PRA CEO Colin Shannon noted that there are “certain job families,” which he didn’t specify, that are in such demand that the company is offering “sign-on bonuses” and other incentives to attract and retain talent.
INC CEO Jamie Macdonald noted that his company recently began touting its “culture of opportunity” to prospective and current employees.
“Our overall goal is to be the ‘CRO of choice,’ not only for customers but for our employees as well,” Macdonald said.
“The culture of opportunity for us is a focus on employees as individuals,” Chris Gaenzle, INC’s chief administrative officer and general counsel, said in an interview. “We have put in place some best-in-class training programs. ... The idea is, we want to help people grow their credentials and skill sets so they can take themselves to the next level.”