Josef von Rickenbach: The Enterprising CRO

Oct 01, 2011

Josef von Rickenbach
Parexel, an international contract research organization founded by Josef von Rickenbach, will mark its own 30th anniversary next year, a testament to the importance of contract research as a way for industry to streamline R&D costs.

Von Rickenbach, chairman and CEO, continues to lead the company, which has morphed from functional service provider (in today's jargon) to full-service global organization. Parexel's guiding principle for three decades has been to create new efficiencies in R&D. "Eventually, the most efficient way forward for biopharmaceutical development will prevail," says von Rickenbach.

When von Rickenbach worked for Schering-Plough in its Switzerland offices, the word global didn't exist in the way it's used today. Schering-Plough had offices in the Middle East and Africa, but the organizational structure of the large pharmaceutical companies "was nationally based, meaning each nation had its own, full-fledged pharmaceutical business," says von Rickenbach. "If you think about drug development, this is obviously not efficient, because each of these countries had its own pockets of R&D ... it didn't take a lot of foresight to think about the eventual ability to pool data from these geographies." The problem was that pharmaceutical companies weren't good at thinking horizontally in terms of drug development; each country had its own interests, and commercial strategies focused on countries as separate verticals, according to von Rickenbach. Pooling data was difficult early on, since databases were not robust, and neither was management. "Almost from the beginning, the conduct of big, multinational, intercontinental and eventually global [clinical] studies resided with the leading CROs," says Rickenbach.