Now is the time to consider Clinical Research ContractingBy Lauren McQuade, Business Manager, Clinical Research and Development UK-EU
For anyone experienced in clinical operations or clinical research that has ever considered a move into contracting, now is the time to give it a try. A year into the Covid pandemic, and after widespread pausing of clinical trials of all kinds for significant periods last year, we are now seeing extraordinary demand for contingent staff to work on the startup, monitoring, project management and clinical support for Covid trials.
The vast majority of this demand is coming via CROs, with minimal direct pharma and sponsor recruitment in clinical operations currently. Instead, we are seeing mass project hires of clinical teams to work on a wide range of early to late phase vaccine trials.
There are something like 1,000 potential vaccines currently in development, with as many as half already in clinical trials. Then there are trials of Covid treatments, or looking at the impact of Covid on specific vulnerable groups. At the same time, priority trials are continuing in areas such as oncology, where solutions have been found to manage these processes within the current Covid restrictions.
This leaves many CROs desperate to bring on strong, experienced clinical research talent that is available to hit the ground running. Those with pharma, biotech or CRO experience are in high demand, creating a lot of opportunities for those considering a switch into contracting. There is an extraordinary appetite for CRAs, CTAs, Start Up Specialists, Trial Managers and support staff, with the number of vacancies up ten-fold on anything we have seen previously. Companies are looking to bring on large teams of highly skilled clinicians for short periods of time – throwing huge resource at a wide number of trials, many of which will not make it past Phase II, and working at an unprecedented pace. Most contracts are around six months in duration, though project managers can walk into year-long assignments.
"A stint in contracting is both lucrative and good for the CV, often allowing candidates to expand their skills into project or process improvement, as well as offering the chance to be involved in historic drug development."
This demand for contractors comes at a time when a swathe of other clinical trials remain on hold, leaving many experienced clinicians in limbo who might see real benefits from spending a year or two as a contractor on a critical trial. A stint in contracting is both lucrative and good for the CV, often allowing candidates to expand their skills into project or process improvement, as well as offering the chance to be involved in historic drug development.
Moving into contracting for the first time is often daunting, but if your current employment is not especially secure and projects are on hold, now may be a good time to take the leap. Equally, for those that have contracted before and maybe moved into permanent employment for IR35 reasons at the start of last year, the current landscape could represent a compelling argument for a return.
As we move through 2021, we expect to see a continuation of the current demand, along with a few management roles coming in, as the volume of outsourced contract staff coming in from agencies creates demand for interim leadership and monitoring. But the great opportunities currently in the market will not be around for ever; in two years’ time it is likely the market will have settled into a new normal. As such, if a period of lucrative contract work engaged on groundbreaking vaccine trials appeals, there has never been a better time to make the move.