Guest Column | August 17, 2020

Trends In Bioprocessing CDMO Selection

By Kate Hammeke, VP of Market Research, Industry Standard Research (ISR) @ISRreports


The process of CDMO selection can be intimidating, even for large companies with big budgets and dedicated staff. New and longtime outsourcers can build more successful relationships with insights from experienced outsourcers about their CDMO selection process, who is involved in the decision, and which CDMO characteristics they look for in a manufacturing partner. When it comes to choosing a CDMO for bioprocessing, data from ISR’s Bioprocessing Market Trends and Outsourcing Dynamics report shows the top selection metrics remain consistent despite some shifts in ranks over the last five years.

ISR asked biologics drug substance outsourcers which service provider attributes they value the most when selecting a CDMO. In the past iterations of the research, scientific expertise had consistently captured the most votes. The 2020 research shows scientific expertise dropping to fourth place among respondents as far as their most important selection metric, while project fit for facility in terms of capacity and capabilities moved into the top spot. A CDMO’s industry reputation for doing quality work (#2), a track record of on-time and in-full delivery (#3), and regulatory history (#5) account for the other leading attributes most important to CDMO selection.

Since project fit previously held third and fourth place rankings in the 2016 and 2018 studies, respectively, I was curious if the 2020 results were skewed by a particular buyer group. Interestingly, respondents from non-large (less than $1B in R&D) pharmaceutical companies are leading this charge. Twenty-two percent said project fit is the most important CDMO selection attribute as compared to 11 percent of respondents from large ($1B+ in R&D) pharma companies. Scientific expertise came in second among respondents from non-large companies. The 2020 results show large pharma respondents ranked industry reputation for doing quality work as their most important selection metric, securing 16 percent of votes. Project fit and a track record of on-time and in-full delivery tied for second position and received 11 percent of large pharma respondents’ votes.

Has project fit historically been a high-ranking selection metric among outsourcers at non-large pharma companies? Yes. ISR’s 2016 and 2018 Bioprocessing Market Trends and Outsourcing Dynamics reports showed that project fit was in the top five among both buying groups. In 2018, respondents from non-large pharma companies ranked project fit fourth while large pharma respondents ranked project fit second. In that same year, both large and non-large respondents ranked scientific expertise first.


In 2016, respondents from non-large pharma ranked scientific expertise first, followed by project fit for facility in terms of capacity and capabilities. Similar to the 2020 results, the 2016 results showed that large pharma respondents ranked industry reputation for doing quality work as their most important selection metric, followed by scientific expertise. In reviewing the results by company size, the buying groups align on most selection metrics; however, respondents from large pharma tend to put more weight behind industry reputation than non-large pharma respondents, who ranked this metric sixth in 2016. The 2020 results confirm this remains true; industry reputation took first place among large pharma respondents and fifth place among non-large respondents.

It is interesting to see project fit and industry reputation unseat scientific expertise as the leading CDMO selection metric in 2020. Both sponsors and CDMOs can benefit from this information, especially as it relates to outsourcing company size. Additionally, knowing that experienced outsourcers have picked the same five attributes (out of 25 options) as their most important to bioprocessing CDMO selection over the past five years can give you confidence that focusing on these attributes is a good place to start in your CDMO selection process too.

KATE HAMMEKE is VP of market research at Industry Standard Research.