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contract research organization (CRO) is a company that provides support to the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device industries in the form of research services outsourced on a contract basis. A CRO may provide such services as biopharmaceutical development, biologic assay development, commercialization, preclinical research, clinical research, clinical trials management, and pharmacovigilance.

CROs are designed to reduce costs for companies developing new medicines and drugs in niche markets. They aim to simplify entry into drug markets, and simplify development, as the need for large pharmaceutical companies to do everything ‘in house’ is now redundant.[citation needed] CROs also support foundations, research institutions, and universities, in addition to governmental organizations (such as the NIH, EMA, etc.).

Many CROs specifically provide clinical-study and clinical-trial support for drugs and/or medical devices. CROs range from large, international full-service organizations to small, niche specialty groups.

CROs that specialize in clinical-trials services can offer their clients the expertise of moving a new drug or device from its conception to FDA/EMA marketing approval, without the drug sponsor having to maintain a staff for these services.