These days, many biotechnology and pharmaceutical firms facing the daunting road to market with a new drug are opting to get help from contract research organizations, or CROs. These service companies specialize in providing all or part of the necessary clinical trials; they also manage regulatory reviews. And their participation in the drug- development process is growing dramatically as the number of candidate compounds coming through the so-called research pipeline climbs.

"Many biotech companies don't have the capabilities to do this kind of drug development," says Sara Creagh, an executive vice president with Quintiles Transnational Corp., the parent company of Quintiles Inc., a fast-growing CRO. Both are headquartered in Research Triangle Park, N.C. "Many times, even pharmaceutical companies don't have those capabilities, but little biotech companies--the new ones, the emerging ones--certainly don't."

As the growing use of CROs enhances the commercial prospects for organizations, it is improving the career outlook...

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