What is a Research Consulting Organization (RCO)?

The Ultimate Guide To Research Consulting Organizations (RCOs): What, Why And How They Work

The importance of conducting research for any business endeavour is never underestimated. But some researchers may need additional help, which is where research consulting organizations (RCOs) come into the picture. In this article, you’ll discover what a RCO is, why it’s useful and how to go about working with one. Read on to find out more!

Introduction: What is an RCO?

A research consulting organization (RCO) in drug development is a company that provides expert guidance and support to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies during the drug development process. This can include a wide range of services such as conducting market research, identifying potential partners and funding sources, developing clinical trial protocols, and assisting with regulatory affairs.

Research consulting companies often have a team of experts with diverse backgrounds in the pharmaceutical industry, including scientific, clinical, regulatory, and business development professionals. As a result, they can help clients navigate the complex and time-consuming process of bringing a new drug to market and provide valuable insights and strategies for improving their chances of success.

These research consulting organizations work with clients to help them design and conduct research studies and analyze and interpret the data collected. In many cases, RCOs support project management, administration, and technical assistance.

Is an RCO really different than a CRO?

We think it kind of depends of which company you but, theoretically, yes, research consulting organizations (RCOs) and contract research organizations (CROs) are two different types of companies that operate in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry. While both types of companies offer services that support the drug development process. So, what are the differences between RCOs and CROs?

RCOs typically provide a wider range of services that go beyond the traditional scope of CROs. In addition to the services typically offered by CROs, such as clinical trial management and data analysis, RCOs may also offer market research, business development support, and scientific consulting services. RCOs are often more focused on providing strategic guidance and support to their clients, whereas CROs tend to focus more on the operational aspects of drug development.

Another key difference between RCOs and CROs is the type of clients they typically serve. RCOs may work with a wider range of clients, including small and emerging biotech companies, as well as larger pharmaceutical companies. CROs, on the other hand, are often more focused on working with pharmaceutical and biotech companies on specific projects, such as conducting clinical trials or providing data management services.

Overall, RCOs and CROs are both valuable resources for companies in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry, but they offer different types of services and tend to serve different types of clients.

Examples of Research Consulting Organizations in drug development

Many companies in the life sciences industry offer research consulting services, also known as RCOs (research consulting organizations). Some examples of companies that provide research consulting services in the pharmaceutical and biotech sectors include:

  • BioXcel Corporation
  • Biologics Consulting Group
  • Charles River Associates
  • Clinical Development Partners
  • Propharma Group
  • ERT Clinical
  • GCT Healthcare Partners
  • ICON plc
  • Parexel International
  • PPD

This is just a tiny sampling of the many companies that offer research consulting services in the life sciences industry. These companies typically have a team of experts with various backgrounds, including scientists, clinicians, regulatory affairs specialists, and business development professionals, who can provide a range of services to help clients navigate the drug development process.

Why work with a Research Consulting Organization (RCO)?

There are many reasons why clients may choose to work with an RCO. First, these organizations can provide expertise and experience that clients may not have internally. Additionally, RCOs can save clients time and money by managing all aspects of the research process. Finally, RCOs often have access to a network of other professionals that can be tapped for advice or assistance as needed.

Benefits of Working With an RCO

There are many benefits of working with an RCO, including:

1. Access to experienced research consultants who can provide guidance and advice on all aspects of your research project.

2. A comprehensive range of services that can save you time and money.

3. Flexibility in how you use their services, allowing you to tailor their assistance to your specific needs.

4. The peace of mind that comes from knowing you have expert help on hand when you need it most.

How Do Research Consulting Organizations Operate?

There are many different research consulting organizations (RCOs), but they all share a common goal: to help their clients succeed in their research endeavours.

To do this, RCOs typically offer a range of services, including project management, data analysis, and writing support. In addition, depending on the needs of their clients, RCOs may also provide advice on study design, grant writing, and publishing papers.

Typically, RCOs work with clients on a contractual basis. This means that the client pays the RCO for their services hourly or through a retainer agreement. In some cases, RCOs may also receive a commission from their clients if they can help them secure funding for their research projects.

Key Areas Covered by RCO

There are a number of key areas that research consulting organizations (RCOs) in drug development can help with. These include:

  • Research consulting organizations (RCOs) in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry often offer a wide range of services to support the drug development process. These services can include:
    Market research: RCOs can conduct market research to help clients understand the potential demand for their drug and identify potential target markets.
  • Partner identification and funding support: RCOs can help clients identify potential partners and funding sources to support the development and commercialization of their drug.
  • Clinical trial design and management: RCOs can assist with the design and management of clinical trials, including protocol development, site selection, and data management.
  • Regulatory affairs: RCOs can provide guidance and support with regulatory affairs, including preparing and submitting regulatory submissions, interacting with regulatory agencies, and obtaining approvals for new drugs.
  • Business development: RCOs can help clients identify and pursue business development opportunities, such as licensing agreements or partnerships with other companies.
  • Scientific consulting: RCOs can provide scientific expertise and guidance to help clients develop and advance their drug candidates.

These are just a few examples of the types of services that RCOs may offer. The specific services provided can vary widely depending on the company and the client’s needs.

Potential Challenges in Working With RCOs

There are a few potential challenges you may face when working with research consulting organizations (RCOs):
Because RCOs are often contracted by pharmaceutical and other companies to help with research projects, they may be hesitant to share information or data with you if they feel it could jeopardize their relationship with the client.
RCOs may have different working styles than your organization, which could make communication and collaboration difficult. Because RCOs are often focused on making a profit, they may be less likely to take risks or experiment with new ideas, which could limit your ability to innovate.

Tips for Selecting the Right RCO for You

There are a few key considerations to keep in mind when selecting the right research consulting organization (RCO) for your needs. Here are some tips to help you get started:

Define your goals and objectives. What do you hope to achieve by working with an RCO? For example, do you want help designing and conducting research studies, data analysis, grant writing, or all of the above? Knowing what you want to accomplish will help you narrow down your options.
Consider your budget. How much can you afford to spend on RCO services? Be realistic about what you can realistically afford before beginning your search.
Review the RCO’s credentials and experience. Ensure the organization has the qualifications and experience to meet your needs. Ask for references from previous clients and check out online reviews.
Ask about their approach to research consulting. What methods do they use? How do they work with clients? Make sure their methods align with your own research goals and philosophies.
Discuss your project in detail. Once you’ve narrowed your choices, contact each RCO and discuss your project in detail. This is an excellent opportunity to get a feel for their personality and communication style before making a final decision.


We hope this guide to Research Consulting Organizations (RCOs) has given you an understanding of how they operate and what role they can play in your research project. Essentially, RCOs provide a bridge between researchers, bringing together the data, knowledge and skill sets needed to get the best results on any research endeavour. If you are unsure where to look for help when it comes to carrying out your research project, then contact one of these organizations – their expertise has been proven time and again as a valuable asset that could be instrumental in boosting your work profile.

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